Rami Yacoub and Carl Falk are, to say the least, surprised.
“I have never seen this kind of hysteria,” said Yacoub.
“Who knew, when we wondered what the f___ do we do with a boy band in 2012” recalled Falk.
The two Swedish songwriters and producers are speaking about the world-wide phenomenon One Direction, who seemingly came out of nowhere this summer to become the biggest boy band in the world.
It’s not as if Yacoub and Falk are newcomers to the breathless palpitations surrounding stars tailor-made for the tween audiences. After all, Yacoub co-produced Britney Spears’ ground-breaking hit “... Baby One More Time” that launched her career, and has written and produced many more chart-toppers for not just Spears but also the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC. Falk Akon has written hits for Nick Carter, Lindsay Lohan, Taio Cruz, Nicole Scherzinger, Clay Aiken, Vanessa Hudgens and another nascent boy-band comet, The Wanted.
But Yacoub and Falk have been in the eye of the hurricane since linking up with One Direction with fellow co-writing and producing partner Savan Kotecha, and they are reaping spectacular success.
Earlier this month, songs the trio have written and produced together won an incredible MTV Video Music Awards: three with One Direction’s debut video “What Makes You Beautiful,” and one with future “American Idol” judge Nicki Minaj’s “Starships.
And the accolades — and not mention money, considering that writing songs is where the money is — should continue. One Direction’s new single “Live While We’re Young,” written by Kotecha, Falk and Yacoub and produced by Falk and Yacoub, has already broken Sony’s pre-order single sales record. “Live While We’re Young” will be the first single off the band’s sophomore album “Take Me Home,” to be released in November just in time for Christmas stockings.
During a rare break for the most in-demand songwriters in the world, Falk and Yacoub told The Tribune that they remembered when they were first approached by Simon Cowell to write songs for One Direction, five young men from the United Kingdom who finished third in the seventh series of British version of “The X Factor,” after originally auditioning as solo artists.
Yacoub hadn’t worked with boy bands since he worked with Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, and he and Falk were initially skeptical if the world was ready for another boy band. But Cowell’s vision was different, He wanted approachability, but with an edge.
“Simon’s wish [for a sound] was more organic, more guitars, big drums,” Yacoub said.
Falk also understood what his task was. “We wanted to bring those 90s sounds back,” he said, while still making One Direction sound current.
Writing songs can more math and science than art, Yacoub said. When the three began formulating material for One Direction, Kotecha would come up with creative song titles and then started singing melodies, with Falk and Yacoub then assisting with words and arrangements, ultimately crafting the sound that surrounded the lyrics, sometimes even playing the instruments themselves.
That seemingly simple technique yielded the two songs that put One Direction on the map, the guitar-propelled “What Makes You Beautiful” and then the anthemic “One Thing.”
The former debuted at No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart, after setting a Sony pre-order record. it then topped the Irish and Scottish singles charts, and in the U.S., the single became the highest Billboard debut for a U.K. act since 1998, It has sold over five million copies worldwide, making it among the best-selling singles of all time.
“I don’t think we were prepared for the impact,” Yacoub said.
As for Minaj’ Cobrs smash “Starships,” it wasn’t even written with her in mind. The hip-hop song was written for the pop-rock band Cobra Starship, who passed on the song. Minaj and her management swooped in to grab the song, and it became the first single from her second studio album, “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.” “Starships” debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard singles chart, and was certified triple platinum in the U.S. in August. The song eventually made Billboard history by spending a total of 21 consecutive weeks in the U.S. Top Ten, surpassing the Black Eyed Peas’ single “I Gotta Feeling.”
Although Yacoub and Falk once dreamed of being rock stars themselves, they say they wouldn’t change their current lives one bit. “It’s a fun time to be writing songs,” Falk said. “Writing songs is the ultimate job for me. It allows me to one day write for One Direction, the next day Nicki Minaj, and then Russell Crowe.” (Falk produced Crowe’s 2011 album “The Crowe/Doyle Songbook Vol. III.”)
“I really believe we have the best jobs in the world,” Yacoub said. “I am a very shy person. I was a bassist [in a band], and I was in the back.”
Expect to see Falk and Yacoub’s names on the credits of many more songs in the months and years to come. And don’t think that these two can only craft tween-pop.
Falk is now in the studio writing songs with U2’ Bono and The Edge, members of a very different boy band.
When • Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.
Where • Maverik Center, 3200 South Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City
Tickets • $46.50 to $86.50 at Ticketmaster outlets