Song: ‘Bang Bang’
Artist: Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj
US chart peak: 3
Release date: July 29, 2014
Writers: Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, Rickard Göransson, Onika Maraj
Producers: Max Martin, Rickard Göransson, Ilya
Quintessential Max moment: The call and response chorus feels very Max
Video synopsis: Jessie J mugging for the camera near some real pop stars
One of the greatest mysteries in pop over the last few years is how Jessie J – an artist with diminishing commercial appeal in the UK and who didn’t even bother releasing her second album in the US – got her hands on ‘Bang Bang’. We know that Max had been working with Ariana Grande on her second album ‘My Everything’ (which this song ended up appearing on, albeit on the ‘deluxe’), so the reasonable conclusion is that this was originally meant for her and her alone (she does the full thing live). But then why would she give a stone-cold banger away if that were the case? Surely Jessie J doesn’t hold the sort of sway where she can demand a song, a la Rihanna in her prime? One theory (that I’m just coming up with right now) is that ‘Bang Bang’ was a little too close to Grande’s ‘Problem’, which had been released just three months prior. Perhaps her label felt that getting Jessie J on it would mean she would still be part of a massive hit but wouldn’t be overshadowed. It also helped that Jessie J is signed to Republic Records in America, aka the same label as Ariana.
This is Jessie J’s version of events (AND WHO KNOWS MAYBE SHE’S RIGHT AND THIS IS EXACTLY HOW IT ALL HAPPENED): “I got played the song, loved the song, recorded the song. And then [my producer] was like, Ariana wants to do a verse. And obviously she’s amazing. And then Nicki heard it and was like, ‘Let me jump on it!’.”
Okay cool. Now the “[my producer]” bit was obviously added in by Capital FM because she said Max Martin and they assumed no one would know who that was, but it would be amazing, and quite Jessie J, for her to say “my producer” about Max.
Anyway, she had some more to say: “It was like a real females, come together, empowering, supportive [vibe], and then Nicki jumping on it was like the icing on the cake.”
And it is quite the cake. Jessie and Ariana duke it out vocally over some retro horns and big clobbering drum claps, while Nicki shows up a third of the way through to breathlessly rap over a mesh of hand-claps and soulful “ahhhs”. Brilliantly, there are some extra vocalists chucked into the mix for the choruses, as if having Jessie and Ariana seeing who could burst a vein first wasn’t enough emoting for one 3:19 song.
The key to making a song like ‘Bang Bang’ work is creating at least the idea of space, otherwise it’s just lots of people shouting. To be honest, Max, Carolina Liar’s Rickard Göransson and Ilya don’t really try that hard to enforce that, chucking everything and the kitchen sink at the song and forcing it all to stick. I remember the first time I heard it not really being able to breath, like it’s constantly kneeing you in the stomach while shouting at you really loudly. Once you get over the initial shock, however, it starts to fall into place.
Needless to say it was the last Jessie J song to make any sort of impact in America, but, and the existence of ‘Bang Bang’ proves this, you never know with Miss J when the next surprise may come. There is, after all, a pretty good pop star lurking underneath all that other stuff #tucbiscuits.