If there’s been one consistent in popular music across the first 20-plus years of the 21st century, it’s been the prominence of the producer, leading pop’s vanguard as much as any of its biggest recording artists. While super-producers have certainly existed since the days of Phil Spector and Joe Meek over half a century ago, in past decades, such behind-the-scenes hitmakers might’ve just as often slunk into the culture’s background — simply a name in the credits on the back cover. But in the ’00s and beyond, producers have consistently become household names in their own right, defining entire eras of popular music, and frequently becoming recording stars themselves.
As part of our digital cover package this week celebrating the producer, we’re counting down our staff’s picks for the 50 greatest studio mavens of this century: the most innovative, impactful and important knob-twiddlers since 2000. To keep the focus mostly behind the scenes, we tried not to include artists largely known just for producing their own work, and we tried not to weigh any superproducers’ work as a lead artist too heavily in anyone’s ranking. We also gave priority to producers whose peak falls squarely in the 21st century over recognizing the legends whose dominance simply continued through Y2K — though a couple 20th century icons have remained a little too towering to leave off entirely — and to those who’ve been working for most of this century over those who we’ve only recently been introduced to.