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I Feel Sorry For Rob Fusari

Songwriter/producer Rob Fusari has had a pretty nice career. He’s written memorable hits for a variety of artists and had a couple of #1 records.

He got his big break penning Destiny’s Child’s debut single, then went on to produce one of Will Smith’s biggest and most obnoxious hits.

He’s the mastermind behind “Bootylicious,” one of the greatest guilty-pleasure singles of all time.

Recently, he had his biggest professional success yet, when he helped a young musician named Stefani Germanotta become the worldwide superstar Lady Gaga. Apparently, he smashed her as well.

Unfortunately, the entertainment biz is a tough world, especially when you start stirring the company ink with your peen. Lady Gaga kicked Fusari to the curb and now he’s on the outside looking in.

So Rob Fusari decided to sue Lady Gaga for $30 million in what looks like a pretty frivolous lawsuit.

It’s hardly a smart move for a dude looking for talented young musicians to trust him with their careers. A bit of research on his track record shows that while Fusari is undoubtedly a talented hitmaker, he just can’t get out of his own way sometimes.

Frankly, you gotta feel a little bad for the guy. He helps artists become superstars, but he needs to wrap his mind around the fact that he is always going to be a behind-the-scenes bit player.

That’s just the way the game works, dig?

Rob Fusari’s music career began as a sideline to his main gig in information technology. He’d work as an office drone during the day, then hit the studio at night. While he’d grown up with the melodious rock of Boston and Journey, he began creating the R&B grooves that all the kids were listening to. Then he got laid off from his IT job, and he decided to give music a full-time try.

In a very informative interview with Billboard, Fusari described his first success in the music biz.

The decision was kind of made for me – they fired me. It seemed devastating, but it was like a weight had been lifted. I woke up the next morning and said to my mom, “I’m going to give music one year.” So I worked down in my mom’s basement in a studio the size of a closet. And sure enough, it didn’t happen in a year. I was doing co-writes, calling people, sitting by the phone . . . Barry White’s son was supposed to call for something, another guy was going to give one of my songs to Elton John. Nothing ever happened.

A buddy of mine knew this guy, Vince Herbert. Vince is a producer and an entrepreneur. A hustler with a capital H. Back then he was producing on Destiny’s Child’s first album. One day he came to my mom’s basement and I was working on the hook to “No, No, No.” When I played it for him, he said, “You’ve got to give me a copy of that. I’m working with this group who might be able to do that.” I gave him a cassette, and he calls me that night and says, “We’re cutting the record. And I’ve got a guarantee it will be their first single.”

Fusari had just come up with his first hit hook, and it was a tasty one.

He gave the 16-year-old Beyonce and her fellow Destiny’s Children their first hit — this is so old school that not only are there 4 ladies in the group, Michelle Williams was not yet among them. I personally prefer the Wyclef remix of this song, so let’s go with that:

With the success of “No, No, No,” Fusari had entree into the music business. He began working steadily with a variety of R&B artists, putting together decent if forgettable tracks. His new friend Vince Herbert brought him out to LA, where he worked with Bone Thugs, K-Ci and Jojo, and other folks of that ilk. But eventually, Fusari decided to return to New Jersey and start his own outfit.

That’s when he created a huge hit record — but it was also, creatively, a total piece of poo.

I’m talking about “Wild Wild West,” by Will Smith.

On the list of songs I despise, this one ranks pretty high. Fusari merely lifted the entire rhythm track from Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” — a ridiculously sweet bassline if there ever was one, but interpolated here without an ounce of originality — and grafted on a sound effect from a classic Whodini hip hop song, “Wild Wild West.”

Then Dru Hill (translation: Sisqo) was recruited to sing the hook, which was merely the melody to Stevie Wonder’s chorus, but with the brilliant lyrics, “We’re going straight to the Wild Wild West,” repeated over and over again.

Basically, this was a page from the Puff Daddy School of Songwriting — an uncreative mashup of elements from other, better songs.

Moreover, it provided a stage for Will Smith to plug his latest idiotic summer blockbuster, with a lyrical style that hasn’t been in vogue since the 1980s:

Now, now, now, now once upon a time in the west
Mad man lost his damn mind in the west
Loveless, givin up a dime, nothin’ less
Now I must put his behind to the test
Then through the shadows, in the saddle, ready for battle
Bring all your boys in, here come the poison
Behind my back, all the riffin’ ya did,
Front and center, now when you look back kid?
Who dat is? A mean brotha, bad for your health
Lookin damn good though, if I could say it myself

That is absolute tripe. I can’t use strong enough terms to describe how stupid those lyrics are. You can watch the video if you want, but I’m not going to embed that musical skidmark.

The grand irony here is that even though Rob Fusari had a legit #1 hit record, he really didn’t see much in the way of profit on it. That’s because he didn’t really do anything, except glue some Will Smith rapping to a Stevie Wonder song. They got all the money and he got a shiny platter and a pat on the head.

So when he went to work on his next big hit, he learned from his mistakes. Don’t use an entire backing track and declare yourself finished — get creative and sample an element from a song, and create an original hook that’s yours alone.

He started out with the idea of using the guitar rhythm riff that opens “Eye of the Tiger,” but while he flipped through his CD case, his eyes alit on the Stevie Nicks classic “Edge of Seventeen.” Fusari grabbed the disc and built a kickass track around the filthy 16th-note guitar riff by Waddy Wachtel.

Unlike “Wild Wild West,” Fusari also came up with an amazing chorus (“I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly,”) and used the nascent lingo of “bootylicious” to devastating effect.

In the hands of Beyonce and friends, this became one of the most massive hip-hop jams of the aughts.

Unfortunately, this turned out to be more of a frustration than a triumph for Rob Fusari.

He’d been eager to record his own guitar track, so that he’d merely have to share a songwriter credit with Stevie Nicks and his collaborators, instead of yielding fees for sampling the original performance. But Mathew Knowles, Beyonce’s dadzers and controlling manager, didn’t give a damn about Fusari’s cut of the track and forbade it.

But what was worse, the Knowles clan didn’t even care to acknowledge Fusari’s role in creating the classic hit. Instead, Beyonce went around claiming that SHE was the one with the creative inspiration to pen “Bootylicious.” Honey Bee alleged in an interview with Barbara Walters that the guitar part in Stevie Nicks’ song reminded her of a voluptuous woman and thus, inspiration was born.

When word of this fraud got back to Rob Fusari, he was incredulous. He called up Mathew Knowles demanding answers.

Knowles put him in his place with a strongly worded retort. “People don’t want to hear about Rob Fusari, producer from Livingston, NJ. That’s not what sells records. What sells records is people believing the artist is everything.”

Kind of a dick thing to say, but also, totally and completely true.

But Fusari had an emotional outburst, by his own admission, and hasn’t worked for Beyonce since.

So after cranking out a string of hits, Rob Fusari found himself starting over again.

His new idea was to create a female version of The Strokes, a hard-rocking, hard-partying New York City act that would blow people away with their style and Television-esque retro rock. He put the word out to his associates to keep an eye open for rock chicks who might fit the mold.

A friend of his named Wendy Starland saw the young Stefani Germanotta performing at a club and gave Fusari the tip. He talked to Stefani on the phone and invited her out to his suburban studio. Their first encounter came as something of a surprise to Fusari:

Next week comes and I figure there’s no way this girl is going to show up. She was supposedly taking a bus from New York that would put her in Livingston at 8:40. Eighty-thirty rolls around, and I drive down to the pizzeria near the bus stop to grab a slice, and sure enough, I see this girl who does not belong in this pizzeria or in this town, and she’s asking for directions. I’m thinking to myself, “Please tell me this is not her,” because this is not the Strokes girl I’d envisioned.

[She looked] like a guidette. Totally “Jersey Shore.”

Anyway, we ride back to the studio, and I’m plotting how to cut this short. I can’t picture going to a label with this girl. We arrive, and she sits down at the piano and starts playing a song about Hollywood she’d written. And I tell you, in 20 seconds, I’m like, “Oh, my God. If I can handle my business, this girl is going to change my life.” I said, “You’ve got to come up here next week, and we have to start working.” And she did. She took the bus to my studio every day for a year straight, no exaggeration.

Fusari helped Stefani Germanotta in a few important ways.

First, he helped coin her name thanks to a T9 blunder. While attempting to express his passion for the song “Radio Gaga,” a classic they both enjoyed, he instead texted her “Lady Gaga.” She declared that from now on, that was her new moniker.

Second, he persuaded Gaga to ditch the rocking songs and become a dance-pop act. She didn’t like the idea at first — “She was anti all that. She would go to festivals like Bonnaroo.” — but eventually came around to the musical stee-lo that would make her a gigantic star.

Finally, he squired her around to labels, using all his connections to help his protege (and new boo). This was an arduous process that saw Gaga picked up by LA Reid, then dropped; ignored by Jimmy Iovine, then signed.

In the meantime, he encouraged her to work with other producers, like Akon and RedOne, who collaborated on the great track “Just Dance.”

Fusari also made musical magic with Gaga, co-writing and producing the weird and wonderful #1 hit “Paparazzi”:

Unfortch, as Gaga blew up, Fusari was left in the dust. By the time her debut album, “The Fame,” exploded, he was relegated to the sidelines.

As he sadly explains in the Billboard interview, he isn’t even sure why she dissed him:

Are you and Stefani still friends?

I don’t know. I feel like I may have been demoted to . . . what would be one level beneath friend?

Professional acquaintance?

Yeah, there you go. That’s it.

What do you think happened?

I don’t know. I can’t figure it out and I won’t ask. I don’t know if I said something or did something. I don’t know.

Will you be involved in her next record?

I don’t believe so.

So — anyway. Shit happens. Lil’ Stefani Germanotta the guidette took advantage of Fusari, picked his musical mindbrain clean, bounced on his peen a few times, and moved on to bigger and better things.

Life sucks like that sometimes, especially in the entertainment biz.

Unfortunately, Rob Fusari has not broken his cycle of getting extraordinarily butt-hurt every time someone in the biz screws him over. And this time, he’s decided to do something about it…

He dropped a $30 million lawsuit on Gaga, claiming that he essentially created the Lady Gaga brand and thus deserves a whopping cut of all present and future revenues. That kind of sounds like BS to me, given that he acknowledges Gaga’s whopping musical talent was already there before she met him, and the fact that her second album is a huge hit no thanks to him.

According to MTV, this is how the lawsuit begins its case:

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned/ Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.

All business is personal. When those personal relationships evolve into romantic entanglements, any corresponding business relationship usually follows the same trajectory so that when one crashes they all burn. That is what happened here.

Gag me! Paging Marc Randazza — a pithy, well-written legal brief, this is not.

Most likely the work of some shady lawyer, possibly this guy with a crappy website, the suit may well have merit, but it lost me right off the bat with its grandiose bluster and mixed metaphors.

As the presiding judge in this court of public opinion, I’m not sure I buy Fusari’s claims. He’s made half a million off of Gaga’s glory, but feels like he should have profited so much more.

I’m much more inclined to side with Gaga given the smackdown her high-powered lawyers unleashed in the countersuit:

Reached for comment, Lady Gaga said only: “RAH-RAH-AH-AH-AH-AH! ROMA-ROMA-MAMAA! GA-GA-OOH-LA-LA!”

Whoops, that was actually Adrien Chen from Gawker. Now on the real:

Fusari made Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Germanotta, “enter into an unlawful arrangement” when he made her sign a contract giving him rights to her future earnings, the suit says, calling his actions “predatory and financially abusive.” “The … arrangement was structured in such a way as to mask its true purpose – to provide the defendant unlawful compensation for their services as unlicensed employment agents,” the suit says.

Dri-zow! I love legal saber-rattling almost as much as I DON’T love the grueling detail work of analyzing legal briefs. So we’ll leave it at that for now and see how this plays out.

The point is this: Rob Fusari needs to climb out of the pool of bitterness that he drowns in every time one of these divas dicks him over. You want to work in pop music, or the entertainment business for that matter? Grow yourself a thicker hide.

If Fusari could have just dealt with the fact that Gaga dumped him by the side of the highway, put on a brave face for the world, and used the cache earned from creating another number one hit to move on to his next huge success, he would have been a lot better off.

Instead he’s just “the bitter producer/ex boyfriend who’s suing Gaga.”

If you were a young artist, would you be eager to work with this dude? He’ll sue you if you don’t stay best friends forever, and bitch to Billboard if he feels like you didn’t give him enough credit.

I feel bad for him though. As a white boy who enjoys the hip hop beats, I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I devoted all my talents to creating dance floor magic. I can imagine how frustrating it must be to churn out classic jams and get no credit and little in the way of riches. But the sad fact is, nobody cares about the white boy behind the curtain. In the world of pop music, it’s all about the superstars doing what they do.

Meanwhile, what’s Gaga up to? Only making the best single of her career with a little help from Rob Fusari’s old nemesis — Beyonce!

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About Alpine McGregor
Just like you, man. I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. All in the game, though, right?

20 Responses to I Feel Sorry For Rob Fusari

  1. bill dobbs says:

    did you even read the law suit claim that rob fusari filed. obviously not, it said that he started a compny with her that entitled him to 20% of everything she made. your not the best at this thing…huh?

    • Wrong, I am the best at this thing. That’s why I am entitled to 20% of the earnings you make from any internet blog comment, FOREVER. Pay up.

      Anyway, Gaga’s lawyers claim that this “company” was actually an illegal contract. As I pointed out in the post, I don’t have the chops to say which legal team is right, but one reader/attorney responded to give his opinion that Fusari is a jackass. If you were an emerging artist looking for a producer to work with, why would you choose one with a track record of fighting with his collaborators?

  2. josh truner says:

    id switch places with him any day..hes about to get millions of dollars for his work…i wont make that and you probably wont either writing these lame ass blogs

  3. josh truner says:

    you believe everything you read in the papers huh? what are you four years old.

  4. josh truner says:

    uhhm and to answer your question i would absolutely work with this guy he gave carears to two major stars . Beyonce and GaGA. i dont know any other producers who have done that. get real

  5. Livingston NJ in the house! Are you and Bill just two homies sharing a computer, or are you two personalities stuck inside of one Fusari-loving body? Anyway it’s good to see that you Livingstonians stick up for your own.

    “Josh,” off the top of my head I can think of several producers that fit that description. I agree that Fusari has serious talent, that’s not in dispute. I hope you guys make a lot of hit records together.

  6. josh truner says:

    Like a true blogger you cant stick to the facts

  7. josh truner says:

    i dont know him personally , but yes im def a fusari fan. but i read the claim and it sounds like they started a company together and when she didnt want to pay him his share thats when he took action.

    • Dude, a legal claim is not received truth. We have judges for a reason. By the time this works itself out we will know what the legal truth is — or else she will just pay him off to go away.

      Either way, I bet I’ll enjoy his next hit record.

  8. josh truner says:

    im not sure why your hating on the guy. he gave us the best artist in the last 10 years. are you saying he had nothing to do with that. ?

  9. josh truner says:

    I would guess that he doesnt really care about a hit record . I have never met him but the interviews i have read . he doesnt strike me as a typical “hollywood” producer.

  10. josh truner says:

    look im not an attorney either but the fact that gaga is trying to get out of the deal with fusari tells it all to me. She just doesnt want to pay him.

  11. josh truner says:

    And im not saying hes the greatest producer out there. But i am saying that if they had a deal and she did not stick to it . Shes gonna look like an ass

  12. Bill Waters says:

    Hey Dobbs and Truner,

    Next time you decide to chime in, you’d be well served by going back to 6th grade and brushing up on your spelling and grammar. Hard for anyone to take your opinions seriously when you still haven’t figured out contractions, punctuation, and your vs. you’re. Also, the last time I checked, 4-year-olds weren’t reading newspapers. Neither of you certainly weren’t.

  13. Bill Waters says:

    Neither of you certainly were. And thus I have undermined my own dis.

  14. John Frost says:

    Rob Fusari is suing because he is owed money promised him when Germanotta signed a contract with him. Of course she is going to argue that the contract was signed under false pretenses, these women are all divas and personally can’t handle the idea that anyone but themselves is responsible for their success. Have you seen what Germanotta looked like before Fusari picked her up and gave her the name Lady Gaga? She was a run down Amy Winehouse, even now she isn’t much to look at although she does a great job hiding her face and lack of body with all those outrageous outfits the media loves so much. Germonatta doesn’t want to admit that Fusari took her from coffee houses to recording booths. I’m sorry that you perpetuate this idea that Fusari is pitiful, anyone would be lucky to have him produce them.

  15. Jersey Girl says:

    As someone who’s routinely gotten her ideas ripped off and gotten no credit on a much, much lesser scale than this, I can definitely understand his so-called “butthurt.” It’s incredibly frustrating and even more so when people *coughlikeyou* don’t believe it, distort it, or invalidate it.

    …and he’s from New Jersey. That alone gives him awesome-points, although I cannot say I’m not biased in that respect. 😉

  16. Caz says:

    If this is true and Gaga has done him over he should sue for what he may be rightly owed. On another note, does this remind you of another high powered, talented mega rich singer -Madonna. Bet she’s screwed lots of people in her time to get to where she is today. Same with Beyonce and Christina. Just a thought.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    I knew that the truth was on my side and I felt fortunate that the jury was able to see that. Rob and I made our agreement in 2005. We are now entering 2015. The journey has been a long one. My attorneys at Dunnegan & Scileppi did an extraordinary job at helping me reach this milestone. I am so thankful to them for making the Herculean effort that was required to win this case. It would be wonderful if the verdict helped other people to remember that agreements are enforceable. Do business with people who are worthy of your trust. Be the living example that your word is your bond. It’s a tough business and people need to be valued for their work.
    http://themostfascinatingpeople.blogspot.com/2014/12/singersongwriterproducermodelspokespers.html

  18. Elizabeth says:

    I knew that the truth was on my side and I felt fortunate that the jury was able to see that. Rob and I made our agreement in 2005. We are now entering 2015. The journey has been a long one. My attorneys at Dunnegan & Scileppi did an extraordinary job at helping me reach this milestone. I am so thankful to them for making the Herculean effort that was required to win this case. It would be wonderful if the verdict helped other people to remember that agreements are enforceable. Do business with people who are worthy of your trust. Be the living example that your word is your bond. It’s a tough business and people need to be valued for their work.
    http://themostfascinatingpeople.blogspot.com/2014/12/singersongwriterproducermodelspokespers.html

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