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Dr. Luke earns first No. 1 hit since Kesha allegations with Doja Cat’s ‘Say So’

Doja Cat
Doja Cat’s “Say So” featuring Nicki Minaj is No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

When Billboard announced the latest song to hit No. 1 on its Hot 100 chart on Monday, the trade magazine provided a wealth of statistical detail to frame the achievement.

Doja Cat’s “Say So” — a frothy neo-disco jam from the Los Angeles-based pop-rap artist — is the first chart-topper for both Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj, who contributes a lively guest verse. It’s the first track credited to two women to reach No. 1 since Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX’s “Fancy” in 2014.

“Say So” is also Minaj’s 109th song to enter the closely watched chart — far more appearances than any other artist has put in before finally claiming the top spot. (Minaj’s debut on the Hot 100, as Billboard’s Gary Trust writes, came in 2010 with her cameo on “Knockout” by Lil Wayne.)

What Trust didn’t point out is that “Say So” also marks the return to No. 1 by Dr. Luke, the songwriter and producer who was an almost constant presence on the Hot 100 in the late 2000s and early 2010s but who largely disappeared from view following an allegation of rape by Kesha in late 2014.

Before “Say So,” released through Kemosabe Records, the label founded by Dr. Luke, the producer’s last No. 1 on the Hot 100 was Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” which he co-wrote and co-produced. It topped the chart of Feb. 8, 2014, having supplanted another of Dr. Luke’s songs, “Timber,” by the duo of Pitbull and Kesha.

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Since then, amid a protracted legal battle over Kesha’s accusation of sexual abuse and the producer’s claim that Kesha had defamed him, Dr. Luke, 46 (real name Lukasz Gottwald) has worked quietly behind the scenes on songs by Kim Petras, Ne-Yo and Trey Songz, among others. In February, a judge in New York sided with Dr. Luke in the defamation case, essentially saying that the producer isn’t famous enough to be defamation-proof (and can therefore claim that Kesha’s words harmed his reputation).

Yet “Say So,” which has racked up more than a half-billion streams on YouTube and Spotify, would seem to put him back in the rarefied air he inhabited when he was regularly producing smash hits for the likes of Perry, Pink and Miley Cyrus.

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Dr. Luke, though, appears less than eager to be seen reclaiming that position. Though Gottwald is credited by name in ASCAP’s public database as a co-writer of “Say So,” the song is listed on Spotify as having been produced by Tyson Trax.
Asked Tuesday if that’s an alias of Dr. Luke’s, as is widely assumed by many in the music industry, the producer’s representative said, “We don’t know who Tyson is.” (Doja Cat’s rep at RCA Records, which distributes Kemosabe Records, didn’t respond to a question about who produced “Say So.”)

If Tyson Trax is indeed a working name for Dr. Luke, it’s not the only one he’s used recently. Last year, Petras released an album, “Clarity,” which credited Gottwald as a songwriter but attributed the music’s production to an entity called Made in China.


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