The Next Chapter

Why singer-songwriter Louise Burns can't stop reading this book about the pop music machine

The musician explores the world of pop through John Seabrook's book The Song Machine.
Louise Burns is a singer-songwriter from Vancouver. (Jennilee Marigomen/W. W. Norton & Company)

Louise Burns is a singer-songwriter from Cranbrook, B.C. She released her third album, Young Mopes, in 2017. But when she isn't playing guitar, Burns likes to read about music and she's currently reading The Song Machine by John Seabrook. This segment originally aired on Oct. 16, 2018.

"Technically this is a business book, but it's actually about pop music and the creation of pop music. Not just any ol' pop music. I'm talking about Top 40 — really predictable formulaic music. Brittany Spears, Backstreet Boys, that kind of pop. What I find fascinating about it is that it's just a bunch of algorithms. The book itself talks about how these songs are composed, the producers that made them and the lineage that starts all the way back in the early 1990s in Sweden, when a man named Denniz Pop started making beats and songs for other artists.

"For me, it's this fascinating, weird, hilarious world about pop music and how simple and basic it really is. Yet there have been so many books written about it. My first music experience was in the pop industry. My old band, Lillix, was signed to Maverick Records, which was Madonna's label. We were put through this machine and we worked with a lot of songwriters that are listed in this book. So it feels personal to me. It helps me reason with my childhood. It helped me understand that [pop music] is part of a big machine and I got a chance to be a part of it. It's funny to look back and see how it works — and that it's still working."

Louise Burns's comments have been edited and condensed.