The 50 Greatest Producers of the 21st Century: Staff List


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.

It was tough enough to to keep the list down to 50, and some names responsible for incredible bodies of 21st century work didn’t make the cut — including (but certainly not limited to) Bangladesh, T-Bone Burnett, Scott Storch, Jeff Bhasker, Patrick Berger, Mike Elizondo, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Dave Sitek, Markus Dravs, Jon Brion, Jake Sinclair, Danger Mouse, Calvin Harris, Butch Walker, Hit-Boy, No I.D., Skrillex, Lex Luger, Will Yip, J Dilla, Salaam Remi, Catherine Marks, Ryan Tedder, Finneas, David Guetta, Polow da Don and Omer Fedi. And while we tried to make our list as inclusive and wide-ranging as possible, we have to acknowledge that women in particular are still woefully underrepresented — while men who’ve been accused of abusing their power are unfortunately overrepresented — a sad reflection of a corner of the industry that, despite some great strides in recent years, remains overwhelmingly male-dominated, particularly at its highest levels.

Still, the producers who have made the cut all have bodies of work that speak for themselves, shaping the sound of popular music domestically and abroad. Many of them continue to push the envelope every time their fingers grace their studio consoles — and a special few of them have been doing so consistently since the ball dropped on 2000. Here are our choices for the 50 greatest.

49. Joey Moi

Associated Artists: Florida Georgia Line, Morgan Wallen, Nickelback

Signature SoundMoi’s unpretentious productions are often big and loud and wide open, unafraid to combine rock, hip-hop and country styles in a way that has redefined country music over the last decade and invites all listeners.

Defining Work: Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” introduced the world to Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard, and is considered ground zero for the Bro-Country sub-genre that celebrates simple pleasures set to an uplifting, easy-going sound that blends country, rock and hip-hop rhythms.

Hidden Gem: “Drinkin’ Songs” from MacKenzie Porter was a hit in Canada, but hasn’t resonated yet in the lower 48. The country-pop sparkler blends heartache with an irresistibly catchy chorus that demands you sing along. — MELINDA NEWMAN