It is pop's real talent search but it won't be played out on Saturday night television screens. Simon Cowell has challenged music's most successful backroom songwriters to compete for space on the next album by One Direction, the boy band who have become a surprise global phenomenon.
The X Factor-created group have taken the US by storm, becoming the first British band to enter the Billboard chart at No 1 with their debut album, Up All Night. The hysterical scenes accompanying their North American tour were compared with Beatlemania.
Expectations have been raised at Syco, Cowell's record company, for the follow-up album, which could – if it contains the right combination of precision-tooled, radio-friendly hit songs – establish the clean-cut British quintet as the world's best-selling group. Like many manufactured groups, One Direction rely on stylists, video directors, producers and songwriters to help to create the slick package which has proved so appealing to millions of teenage girls.
Their success in the US, where so many British pop idols have failed, is attributed to wholesome songs, well-drilled dance steps showcased in glossy videos and smart use of YouTube and social media.
Teams of crack songwriters, including the hit-makers behind chart-toppers for Britney Spears, Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Katy Perry, are currently working on a brief to submit potential No 1s only for inclusion on the new record.
The writers behind many of pop's biggest hits remain anonymous. But producers such as Nadir Khayat (RedOne), the Moroccan who co-wrote Lady Gaga's hits "Poker Face" and "Bad Romance", are rewarded with hefty publishing cheques for songs which live on in adverts and soundtracks long after they leave the charts.
The One Direction song search has focused on Scandinavia, which has recently cornered the market in pop-dance writing teams. The group's breakthrough hit, "What Makes You Beautiful", was written by Swedes Carl Falk and Rami Yacoub, with American Savan Kotecha.
They are already working on candidates for the next album with Max Martin and Kristian Lundin, the Stockholm producers behind Britney Spears' and the Backstreet Boys' biggest hits. Falk has also written hits for Nicki Minaj and Nicole Scherzinger. Dee Demirbag, responsible for international artists and repertoire at Falk's music publisher, BMG in Scandinavia, said: "Breaking a boy band in the US is about as big as it gets in the music industry, so you can imagine the competition to get cuts on the next One Direction album is immense."
The band members, including teen idols Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, will be consulted over their next record. "It's important to get their personalities on the music," Falk said.
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A similar song search is under way for the next album by The Wanted, the rival British boy band who have also cracked the US charts.
The UK boasts a number of leading pop songwriters, but Falk believes that Sweden will strengthen its grip over the charts – and win the battle to dominate One Direction's next release.
"Swedes have been making great pop songs since Abba," he argued. "We love melodies and nice chord changes. That fits the market right now. Melody is back, pop is back and young girls want their pop idols again."
British female talent versus...
Miranda Cooper: Member of the Kent-based Xenomania hit factory, Cooper co-wrote Girls Aloud's chart-topping singles including "Sound Of The Underground" and has enjoyed longer on the charts than any other female songwriter in Britain.
Cathy Dennis: Former Top of the Pops regular turned backroom writer. The New Order-quoting "Can't Get You Out Of My Head", Britney's Bollywood-inspired "Toxic" and Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" are among eight number one singles.
Amanda Ghost: Co-composer of James Blunt's Grammy nominated "You're Beautiful", London singer Ghost earned four credits on Beyoncé's Sasha Fierce album and was whisked to LA to be president of Sony's Epic label.
... Scandinavian songwriters
Abba: Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson's compositions for Abba, marrying dancefloor euphoria and Nordic melancholy, make up arguably the greatest pop catalogue outside the Beatles.
Stargate: Late Nineties Norwegian production team of Tor Erik Hermansen, Mikkel Storleer Eriksen, and HallgeirRustan diluted US R&B for European tastes. Hit big with S Club 7 and Blue, and still making hits for Rihanna and Beyoncé.
Max Martin: Stockholm producer with the Midas touch created the Backstreet Boys sound and wrote Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time". Topped the charts with Katy Perry and Celine Dion.
Bloodshy and Avant: Swedes Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg created dancefloor fillers for Kylie, J-Lo and Madonna.
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