Random J playlist: Written by The Clutch

Random J playlist: Written by The Clutch | Random J Pop

The Clutch. We're not talking purses and handbags. We're talking pen games. And The Clutch's was one of the strongest at a point in time.

The Clutch was a collective of songwriters which consisted of Keri Hilson, Ezekiel Lewis, Balewa Muhammad, Candice Nelson & Patrick "J. Que" Smith. All of whom were songwriters prior to forming The Clutch. But as fate, mutual circles and chemistry would have it, they decided to form an umbrella and a brand for themselves and refer to themselves as The Clutch.

The Clutch were responsible for some of the biggest and most noteworthy songs in Pop, R&B and Pop leaning R&B between 2005 and 2015. The Clutch emerged at what was an exciting time for Pop and R&B; where the two were beginning to co-exist and there was less judgement about artists hopping between the two. This was in large part due to the worldwide success of Nelly Furtado's Loose, followed by Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds: two artists who always straddled Pop and R&B. Both albums were produced by Timbaland and Danja, and were significant for pushing the boundaries of R&B so far that they overlapped the boarders of not only Pop, but also Dance and EDM - something which would go on to be a trend with many artists considered to be R&B.

The midst of this is when The Clutch started to rack up their songwriting credits, many of which happened to be produced by Danja and, or Timbaland. The Clutch's roster of songs and artists was reflective of the co-habitation of Pop and R&B that was happening during this time. They were penning songs for Ciara, Fantasia and Amerie, but also Britney Spears, Jesse McCartney and Menudo. Their diversity and lack of judgement toward genre was a massive contributing factor to them amassing such a long list of songwriting credits in such a short time. Their goals were simple. To just write good music for whoever wanted them to help create it.

The Clutch were representative of a shift that was happening in music with the artists releasing it. Just as we started to see Pop artists dabbling in R&B, and R&B artists leaning far as hell into Pop, the same was happening behind the boards in the studio too. R&B producers were producing Pop records, which was giving Pop producers a bit of R&B credibility by proxy. And genre distinction and affiliation with certain songwriters became less clear. Songwriters in the midst of this cared less and were just in it to write great songs, regardless of genre, and The Clutch were at the heart of that.

I was a massive fan of The Clutch. Not only did I admire their setup and the movement they were a part of, but I genuinely loved the songs that they wrote. I'd latch onto songs just because The Clutch wrote them. I'd check out albums, just because The Clutch were involved with it. Even if it was only one song.

The Clutch brought fun back to R&B music, in a way that we'd only ever really seen in Pop. Anything went with The Clutch, which is what made their songs fun to listen to. They told stories that transcended genre and sometimes gender, but also challenged them too. Britney Spears' "Radar" was a song about a female aggressively pursuing a man and making it clear she wants that dick. A form of pursuit in a song that's usually reserved for men. Nikki Flores' "Beautiful boy" was about having a friendship with a guy who seems so perfect for you that he should be your boyfriend, but loving that he isn't and cherishing that friendship regardless of what people think. Ciara's "Like a boy" was about the double standards of a relationship and the desire to do all of the things that men are known to often do in relationships. Timbaland's "The way I are" being a song about the anxiety of being a broke n***a, but still wanting to remain desirable. Tiffany Evans' "Girl gone wild" being about a girl in school who is doing to much to act grown, because her parents be acting up, with lines like 'Cos yo' momma 34 and she still be up in the club'.

No matter what The Clutch wrote about, their songs were always relateable. And if they weren't, they painted such vivid pictures lyrically that you could somehow relate. I've never worn a damn open toe shoe in my life, but they wrote such a great song about open toe shoes for Katharine McPhee, that it made me wanna go and buy me a pair. The Clutch revelled in their versatility as a collective and the types of songs this allowed them to write, because of the number of life experiences that they'd had between them, and the fact that 2 of the writers in The Clutch were women. They could go in with Timbaland and write a song for Mary J. Blige. But could then into the studio with Bloodshy & Avant and write for Britney. But Keri and Candace could also go in with Danja and write for Usher.

The Clutch were mad inspirational to me. To see a collective of black songwriters just kill it was amazing. Unfortunately they didn't stay together long, but a couple of the members of the collective still write and therefore, cash cheques.

This playlist features most of what The Clutch had written. As is always the case with my playlists, the songs are selective as opposed to a balls to the wall dump of everything. Some of my favourite songs written by The Clutch unfortunately are unreleased. Specifically, Nikki Flores' "Suffocate" and "Beautiful boy. And oddly enough, Nikki Flores, who was due to debut as an artist is doing her thing as a songwriter; having written for Christina Aguilera, JoJo and Namie Amuro just to name a few.

🎧 Listen on Spotify: Written by The Clutch

I took some liberties with this playlist as far as Clutch songwrites go. The rule of thumb with The Clutch was that if at least 2 member of the collective contributed to a song, it would be credited as The Clutch, as they didn't always write as a five-some. But there are numerous songs that members of The Clutch had written individually that I felt were worthy of being included, such as J. Que contributing his pen to Exo, Ariana Grande and Beyoncé, Bawlea Muhammad contributing his to Christina Aguilera and Keri contributing hers to Britney Spears for "Gimme more".