Sam Hollander could never be accused of being an overnight sensation. As the author/producer explains with humor and clarity in his memoirs 21-Hit Wonder: Fly My Way to the Top of the Chartspublishing December 6 via BenBella/Matt Holt Books, his road to the top has been as difficult and filled with as many setbacks as success.
Despite his modesty, Hollander has become a prolific songwriter, penning songs for Panic! at the Disco, One Direction, Katy Perry, Train, Fitz and the Tantrums, blink-182 and Ringo Starr, among others. In this edited article, Hollander writes about his biggest hit to date, Panic! at the Disco “Great Hope”. He had co-written four songs for the band’s previous album, 2016 Death of a Bachelorand after not hearing back the songs he sent for follow-up, 2018 Pray for the wicked (the words Hollander came up with) got the word to go and write in person with Panic lead singer Brendon Urie. 21-Hit Wonder is available for pre-order through Amazon.
Over the next few weeks, me, Brendon and [producer] Jack [Sinclair] he sang eight songs. I don’t remember being called creatively. I was under the impression that we were on the next level s–t. When the songs went to label and management, everyone seemed happy throughout. I could feel a real buzz on the record, but there was still one big piece of the puzzle missing. [Crush Management’s] JD and Evan [who managed the band] they had a hook and an amazing song that was written in a hot tub – yes, a hot tub – at a “writing camp” in Colorado a few years ago with the über-talented Ilsey Juber, Jonas Jeberg, Cook Classics. , and Tayla Parx. I can’t stress how great this reaction was. The first time I heard it, I got goose bumps. I believe everyone involved originally thought of it as the best hip-hop thing that could be, but every rap A&R had passed it on.
It was called “High Hopes.”
A writing camp is a small gathering of top artists and producers who spend a week collaborating in an exotic location while trying to produce songs for a specific artist. Publishers and labels usually sign in for these things.
So as the clock ticked down on the record, and still feeling that it was in desperate need of a bigger sound for the song, the team expertly extracted the pre-chorus/bridge from Brendon’s fleeting idea, and mixed it with hot vocals. tub hook, and the foundation of “High Hopes” began to form. These days, this kind of Frankenstein cut/paste thing happens quite often, but in most cases, it just doesn’t ring true for me. However, on this one, they completely nailed it.
It just needed lines. There were no lyrics or lyrics. Just a long, long instrumental part. I couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t let me enjoy it. I was pretty sure I could produce, as I was now going to write eight songs in a row with these cats for recording, but it was always radio silence when I asked, so I gave it up.
It was the day before [my son] It was Joey’s twelfth birthday, and I was sleeping on my back porch when I finally got permission to write the poems. The album was set to top within a week! I put on my headphones, closed my eyes, and blasted the song on loop. I knew my work was very important in this link. Beyond the time sensitivity, I had to be the glue to bring this thing home. There was zero room for error.
I decided to make it narrative. This meant threading a more delicate needle – to make it aspirational, but not preachy or contrived. Words came flooding from head to hands at once. In general, the lines took a solid thirty minutes to write, tops. The first was a conversation with my late mother. The second was a conversation with my soon-to-be-twelve-year-old. I think in my head, the sum of the parts was the passing of the generational torch. I hoped that the optimism of the ’70s sound that I loved as a child would diminish. Most importantly, I could see Brendon completely explode on a whole other level, as he did his thing on the track. It felt like fire.
An hour later, I drove to Jake’s house on Silver Lake Park and sang to the cats. Evan answered truthfully, which was a surprising indicator. That night, Brendon dug deeper into the song and lifted it completely. Shit was a wrap.
Two months later, “Say Amen (Saturday Night)” was released as a special single. Unexpectedly for me, at least, it did damage and eventually escalated [Billboard‘s Alternative Airplay] chart. The Pray for the wicked The album dropped later that spring and, like Death of a Bachelor, was also discussed in the top position. Brendon threw a party at his house to celebrate. To be honest, I was so glad that I made the guest list. Brendon was/is an absolutely adorable kid, but I’d be lying if I ever claimed to be part of his inner circle. No matter how much time I’ve spent with this story, I still feel like a doormat.
I’m not sure anyone in the room that night knew what was in store, but Pray for the wicked just explode. More importantly, though, the buzz grew for “High Hopes.” People appeared love this song. TV shows, movies, commercials. The song was even the campaign song of Democratic Party 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who played it continuously at his rallies and speeches. Her staff and campaign volunteers created a funny dance to the song and it went viral (really, this wasn’t Debbie Allen Popularity– shit style). It was also claimed by Democratic candidates Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, and Julian Castro. Even then-president Donald Trump deleted it, blasting it at a June 2020 campaign rally. Like “HandClap,” it entered the zeitgeist, but on a much higher scale.
After a while, the song would come [No. 1 on the Pop, Alternative and Adult Contemporary Airplay charts] breaking a decade-plus record with his reign at the top Notice boardAdult Pop Songs radio chart, and topped the Hot Rock Songs chart for seventy-six weeks. Now, over a billion streams later, it’s the biggest hit of my career. It’s hard to explain how much I owe Brendon Urie and Crush. They really gave me the best year of my musical life. At the height of the “Matumaini Makuu” hype, the aforementioned blink-182’s “Blame It on My Youth” hit Mbadala as well. That was immediately followed by the release of “Hey Look Ma, I Made It,” which caught the momentum of “High Hopes” and broke all formats as well. That song ended up being my 21st Top 40 hit. I should have enjoyed that moment more, but deep down, I couldn’t help but feel like this period of success was just another fleeting cycle. Like any other neuroscientist, I have always looked at the glass as half full and bursting quickly. In that way, I think I’m kind of my own self-fulfilling prophecy. It doesn’t matter what you achieve in this business; you can never avoid dragging yourself.