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The Smeezingtons

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The Smeezingtons
OriginLos Angeles, California, United States
InstrumentsVocals, drums, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, piano, electric piano, organ
Years active2009–2015
Associated actsThe Stereotypes
Past members

The Smeezingtons were an American songwriting and record production team, consisting of Bruno Mars (born 1985), Philip Lawrence (born 1979), and Ari Levine (born May 5, 1984).[1][2] The Smeezingtons were established in Los Angeles, California. Their production and writing services had been increasingly in demand since 2009.[3] Eventually, the trio split, and Mars and Lawrence formed a new production trio called "Shampoo Press & Curl", which includes Christopher Brody Brown.

The Smeezingtons first gained attention by the music industry after Coca-Cola used K'naan's "Wavin' Flag", with a different composition, arranged by them, as the theme for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Following, they broke into the American recording industry, crafting songs for a diverse roster of talent, with the December 2009 release of the Billboard Hot 100 number one single, "Nothin' on You", produced and co-written by the team and performed by rapper B.o.B and the team's own Mars. They also produced and co-wrote with singer CeeLo Green his single "Fuck You", which topped the UK singles chart and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Throughout their career they have been noted for their extensive work with Mars (one of the elements), writing and producing two consecutive Billboard Hot 100 number one singles with the singer in 2010 and in 2013.



Before Philip Lawrence and Bruno Mars first met, Lawrence, after finishing college, did some theater and also worked in Disney World in Florida for seven years.[4] He said that upon moving to Los Angeles he was "holding down these random telemarketing jobs to keep the lights on".[4] After Mars graduated in Hawaii he moved to L.A., and there he found that he could only pay rent by DJing.[5] Before they met each other, "a lot of time was wasted working with random producers bouncing around from studio to studio but never getting anything done."[6] Though Lawrence was initially reluctant to meet Mars, their collaboration clicked from the start.

I got a call from [ Keith Harris,] a producer we were both working within late 2006, and he said, "I got this kid who's phenomenally talented ... but he needs a writer to help get his ideas out." At the time I was flat broke car, and it was going to cost me everything I had to get to that studio session. Plus, I was leery...because everyone in LA says they have the next big thing. He said, "Whatever it costs you to get out here, I’ll reimburse you." So I said, "Just give me five dollars back for the bus." I get to the studio, and it was Bruno, and that session was the first time either of us had written and recorded an entire song.[4]

Mars and Lawrence started working together on writing songs for Mars to perform, but they received many rejections from labels. The duo considered moving back to their home cities. However, in that week, they got a call from Brandon Creed (Mars' former manager) who was A&Ring a reunited Menudo who needed songs. Creed liked their song "Lost", which was written for Mars. At first Mars and Lawrence didn't want to give it up, so Creed offered $20,000 for it. They were so surprised that they said "You can have that one and whatever else you need!" It was that call that saved them, allowing them to stay in L.A. a little bit longer.[4][7] After that, in late 2008, they were asked by Aaron-Bay Schuck (Mars' A&R) to help write Flo Rida's number one single "Right Round".[4][5] From then on, Lawrence and Mars decided to call their duo The Smeezingtons. Levine joined the team later.[8]

In 2008, Mars was a struggling singer-songwriter, and Levine was a producer looking to work with new songwriters. Lawrence was the first guest at Levine's studio (Levcon Studios); they had previously worked together after being introduced by a mutual friend. Lawrence was responsible for connecting Mars and Levine.[9][6][10][11] One day Mars and Lawrence were sitting in the car with no money in their pockets when they decided to try producing for themselves and enlisted the help of Levine who contributed his equipment and expertise in drum programming, sampling and other electronic sounds that dominate.[12][13] In 2009, The Smeezingtons settled in Hollywood. After creating the team, they worked over 10 hours every day for two years.[6]


They ventured into the U.S. market, mostly writing songs for R&B-pop performers.[14] They were given the chance of working with less successful acts such as Mike Posner, Cobra Starship, Chad Hugo, and Lupe Fiasco.[5][14][15] On the other hand, they were able to create songs for the likes of Flo Rida, Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa and Cee-Lo Green.[4]

"We used to always say in the studio, "Yo, this is going to be a smash!" And then it turned into, "This is a smeeze!" Then, "This is a Smeezington." We were just like, "We should just base our whole situation upon this word. How great would it be if record labels were like, ‘We have to get The Smeezingtons involved?’"

—Mars, explaining how they came up with the team's name.[5]

One of their first successful productions, released in August 2009, was the single "Get Sexy", performed by Sugababes, which peaked at No. 2 in the United Kingdom in 2010.[16] This success was followed with Matisyahu's song "One Day", which was chosen as NBC's 2010 Winter Olympics theme song.[5] The team has also collaborated with Somali-Canadian artist K'naan. Three songs from his fourth album, Troubadour, were produced at Levcon studios.[17] This album's most successful song, "Wavin' Flag", was released throughout Europe and the US. Coca-Cola used the song, with different compostion arranged by The Smeezingtons, as the theme for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The single gave the trio attention from the worldwide music industry.[18] At this time, they formed the trio, by adding Levine to The Smeezingtons.[8][19]

The Smeezingtons quickly landed the singles "Nothin' on You" (2009) for American rapper B.o.B's 2010 album B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 and featured Mars.[20] In 2010, the crew was responsible for the single "Billionaire", recorded by American rapper Travie McCoy and featuring Mars.[20][4]

"Fuck You" (2010), a single by American singer Cee-Lo Green, became another successful single for The Smeezingtons, reaching No. 1 in the United Kingdom, the Dutch charts and No. 2 in the United States, in 2011.[21][22]

In 2011, the single "Lighters", a duet between Bad Meets Evil and singer Mars, became a top 5 in U.S. and reached the top ten in the United Kingdom.[20][23] The Smeezingtons produced the single "It Will Rain" for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1. The song peaked at No. 4 at Billboard Hot 100,[20] becoming a success worldwide. They also worked with Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa on the lead single "Young, Wild & Free" for the movie Mac & Devin Go to High School. That song was included in the soundtrack and featured Mars' vocals. The single peaked at number seven in US.[20]

Productions for Bruno Mars[edit]

By May 2010, the Smeezingtons had produced a four-song Mars EP, It's Better If You Don't Understand,[24] to make good use of the attention they'd gained by the success of Nothin' on You and Billionaire. All of the songs on the EP were later included on Mars' debut solo album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans. The Smeezingtons produced and co-wrote all the songs on that album,[25] funneling lessons learned through label meetings and early hits, into Mars' solo work.[26] Among those songs are the singles "Just the Way You Are" and "Grenade", both of which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and in another coutries.[20][23] Another single from this album, "The Lazy Song", became a successful song for The Smeezingtons, reaching No. 1 in the United Kingdom and a top 10 in other countries in 2011.[20][23]

In 2011, The Smeezingtons received nominations in more than 5 categories for the 2011 Grammy Awards, including Producer of the Year, Non-Classical.[27] They won their first Grammy in the same show in the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance category for "Just The Way You Are", performed by Mars.[28] With the team's contributions to music, Ari Levine (from The Smeezingtons) received one award at the ASCAP Pop Music Awards for Songwriters for the singles for "Billionaire," "Just the Way You Are" and "Nothin' On You".[29] The team also earned the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Awards for the song "Nothin' on You" as Top Rap Song.[30]

At the 2012 Grammy Awards they were nominated in five categories, including Producer of the Year, Non-Classical,[31] due to the team involvement in Mars' second album, Unorthodox Jukebox. Regarding these nominations at the Grammy's, Levine is still surprised: "To be nominated for a Grammy before you’re 30—you don’t expect that, ever".[21] They were responsible for the chart-topping singles "Locked Out of Heaven" and "When I Was Your Man".[20]

In 2013, "Young, Wild & Free" was nominated for Best Rap Song at the 2013 Grammy Awards.[32] They will continue provide the springboard for Mars' international-chart-topping solo success as an artist.[19] They are responsible for producing, writing and recording songs for him.[25][33]

In 2014, Mars said that he was no longer interested in churning out songs for other artists, he explained "There's a piece of me that's no longer there, which was basically let me write a song and then sell it. That was back in the day when I was struggling and hustling to pay rent. I was selling songs for 250 bucks."[34] Despite this, they have produced a song for Adele's third studio album 25 (2015), entitled "All I Ask".[35] This marked their last production as a team.[36]

The Smeezingtons were not part of the credits in Mars third studio album, 24K Magic (2016), which led one to believe the team had split. Shampoo Press & Curl took their place, with Mars, Lawrence and Christopher Brody Brown being their members.[36][37]

Other ventures[edit]

The composing team says they hope to eventually move from for-hire work to development of new artists. Meanwhile, their Levcon Studios is open to all, from country musicians to rappers. "I don't think you can name an artist that we don't want to work with," Mars said.[13]

The Levcon studios are located in Los Angeles, and are co-owned by Levine and his brother and manager, Josh Levine.[38] They are used by The Smeezingtons and have been described as a "tiny Hollywood studio" with a "whiteboard hanging on the wall". It is adorned with many "doodles", including a picture of Alf and a joking note that Levine "hangs out with Jamaican drug lords on the reg."[13] Lawrence says "we always find that we still do our best work in our little shack of a studio... That's where we find our magic."[9]

Influences and style[edit]

Lawrence and Mars came from musical families. Lawrence grew up listening to "everything"[4] while Mars was exposed to a diverse mix of reggae, rock, hip hop and R&B.[39][40] Their interest in music started in a very young age; Lawrence started to perform when he was four years old,[4] and Mars started to perform when he was three years old and performed on a more regular basis with his family band by the age of four.[41][42] In an article by American Songwriter, Lawrence cites acts such as Billy Joel, Elton John and Seal as his biggest influences and inspirations. He was raised listening to acts as Isley Brothers, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder and Billy Joel. Mars, at an early stage of his life, was influenced by R&B artists such as Keith Sweat, Jodeci and R. Kelly, as well as 1950s rock 'n' roll and Motown.[43] Later, in high school, he began listening to classic rock groups such as The Police, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles.[43] His influences include Billy Joel, Elton John, Prince, The Police, Michael Jackson, Little Richard, and Bob Marley.[4][44][45] Mars has stated "Ari turned out to be the secret ingredient to what me and Phil were doing," explaining, "I'm used to live stuff. So you give me a studio with a bunch of live instruments, I can do it. But radio's not playing that stuff."[13] The three also share a love for producers The Neptunes and Timbaland, the hip-hop song makers of their youth, who influenced them in their throwback sounds.[13] The three admitted their musical influences also comes from The Beatles, Police, Motown, Earth Wind & Fire, Michael Jackson and Disco.[46]

In their usual production style, The Smeezingtons start their songs as a cathartic freestyle jams.[9] Lawrence has said, "We'll go into the studio, and [Mars will] start playing the piano and I'll start freestyling or vice versa. We're heavily influenced by the '80s [sound].[3] Lawrence sees himself and Mars as "melody guys"; he completed the idea by stating "That's kind of our main focus, to have really good, memorable melodies."[3] They can also start their songs' production with a "Levine beat, a Mars guitar melody or a lyric snippet from Lawrence. They shoot down each other's bad ideas and encourage the good ones in "a melting pot of trial and error"", according to Lawrence.[13] This production formula allowed the team to work with an assortment of artists from various genres.

The team explained their songwriting creation at an "I Create Music Expo" by suggesting that every song should be like a "three-minute movie" and that every song needs to have a conflict to make it interesting. Mars criticised "hit songwriters" by saying: "I liked hearing that from these hit songwriters, because it seems like many times songwriters are more interested in just finishing a song than really taking the time to make a good song a hit song".[6]

The team utilizes the talents of each of its members. Lawrence is usually the primary worker on the lyrics and melodies, Levine benefits the team with his skill and knowledge as a recording-engineer, and Mars fulfils various roles and also provides much of the group's energy. "Nine times out of 10, Bruno will be on the piano, singing something," Levine says. "I’ll have a beat going, and Philip will be figuring out lyrics and melody. Whatever sparks something, we just try not to mess it up."[21]

Philip Lawrence notes "we all have a little bit of OCD" and Mars acknowledges he sometimes has trouble letting his songs go. Mars is an obsessively detail-oriented musician. "Every day we hear a song that we produced on the radio, me and Ari call each other up at 2 o'clock in the morning: 'We should have left that snare in.' 'We should've took that snare out,'" Mars said. "It's just a sickness that we have."[13]

It has been noticed that "Anyone could see that they are really great friends and their genuine connection is what translates into the music they create together."[6] After working with The Smeezingtons on Unorthodox Jukebox, Jeff Bhasker admitted that "One of their great talents is that they have this fun, light vibe in the studio", something that enables anyone "to be free so that you can let that primal emotion come out without being embarrassed. Then they polish afterward". Mark Ronson concurred adding that the key is on Mars' charisma, which he has had since he began impersonating Elvis. Ronson concluded, "Everything Bruno adds is what takes it into superstardom".[47]

Mars says that the trust that he, Levine and Lawrence have built in seven years of working together is essential. He added "I may say, 'Yo, I like this song,' but if Ari or Phil say it's the corniest shit they've ever heard, I trust them. And the other way around. We all know when we're onto something...We also know when something's not jelling. And that's the thing you pray you will always have. You can't believe that everything you do is hot."[46] Nevertheless, Levine points to the musical influences the three of them share completing his idea "It's about finding ways to mix the classic we all love with modern songs. That's why people connect to the music on multiple levels: It's familiar-sounding but new-classic songwriting and instrumentation with a little twist".[46]

Production equipment[edit]

The Smeezingtons use an Akai MPC4000, Roland Fantom S88, V‑Synth GT, a regular V‑Synth, Korg R3, MicroKorg, Novation Ultranova, Dave Smith Mopho, and two Access Virus TI's to produce music. Ari Levine stated that he rarely uses MPC, Storm Drum or Addictive Drums as software.[38] In August 2012, the team purchased a Korg keyboard.[13]

While recording, they use a Yamaha 02R, Pro Tools HD, a Manley Langevin Dual Vocal Combo as pre/compressor/EQ, a Neumann U87, and Event SP8 speakers with an 18‑inch Mackie.[38] Levine explained that the acoustics and vocals are all recorded with the 87 and the Manley, the basses and electric guitars via DI, adding that "the acoustic guitar that we use is a $150 cheap Fender". He runs most of the keyboards and the MPC through the 02R, and uses a Mackie Big Knob as an interface.[38] He often uses Pro Tools. Despite MIDI being already incorporated in Pro Tools, he doesn't use it extensively. "We’re not making dance songs, so we don't need the synths to do all kinds of crazy stuff. And I fairly quickly render MIDI tracks to audio in Pro Tools". In 2011 he was thinking about purchasing a Minimoog.[38]

Levine confessed that he doesn't use any hardware and rarely uses plugins. He says "my favourites are the McDSP FilterBank for my EQ, the Waves Rvox and Renaissance Compressor as my compressors, the [Waves limiter] L2, and my favourite reverb is [Avid's venerable plug‑in] D‑Verb. I also use [Line 6] Echo Farm, Sound Toys Echoboy, and, well that's pretty much it. I have many plug-ins, but I don't really use them." He said "I’ve tried convolution reverbs, but they don't really work. They sound cheap." However, he also stated that the Avid Reverb One sounded substantially better than Altiverb to him.[38]

Critical reception[edit]

From The New York Times, reviewer Jon Caramanica, wrote that The Smeezingtons "[Ha]ve got a firm grip on the full spectrum of black pop, and white pop as well".[48] Randall Roberts of Los Angeles Times wrote that The Smeezingtons "[are] making some of the most cohesive yet expansive pop music today...incredibly well-versed in the language of American music and the ways in which it can still be stretched and molded".[49] In an analepsis, before Mars played at the Super Bowl Half-time show, Idolator critic Kathy Iandoli praised The Smeezingtons' work, in the single by Sugababes "Get Sexy", calling them "a crew of talented fellas".[50] Erik Adams, music critic, of The A.V. Club, criticized the production team by saying "If The Smeezingtons want to keep synthesizing yesterday's favorites into today's hits...I could find it within myself to stomach Mars on more than one night of the year", referring to "their work on Cee-Lo's "Fuck You" as proof.[51]


Awards and nominations[edit]

ASCAP Pop Music Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2011 Ari Levine Songwriter Won [29]

ASCAP's Rhythm and Soul Music Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2011 "Nothin' On You" (with B.o.B) Top Rap Song Won [30]


Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2013 The Smeezingtons Top 10 Producers in Music 3rd [21]
Bruno Mars Hot 100 Songwriters 6th [52]
Philip Lawrence 7th
Ari Levine 8th

Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2011 "Just The Way You Are" Best Male Pop Vocal Performance Won [53]
The Smeezingtons Producer of the Year, Non-Classical Nominated [27]
"Nothin' on You" Best Rap/Sung Collaboration Nominated
Best Rap Song Nominated
Record of the Year Nominated
"Fuck You" Nominated
Song of the Year Nominated
2012 "Grenade" Nominated [31]
Record of the Year Nominated
Best Pop Solo Performance Nominated
Doo-Wops & Hooligans Album of the Year Nominated
Best Pop Vocal Album Nominated
The Smeezingtons Producer of the Year, Non-Classical Nominated
2013 "Young, Wild & Free" Best Rap Song Nominated [54]
2014 "Locked Out of Heaven" Record of the Year Nominated [55]
Song of the Year Nominated
"When I Was Your Man" Best Pop Solo Performance Nominated
Unorthodox Jukebox Best Pop Vocal Album Won
2017 25 Album of the Year Won [56]

Music Week[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2010 The Smeezingtons Biggest Songwriters of the Year Won [57]

The Hollywood Reporter[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2013 The Smeezingtons Top Hitmakers 5th [9]


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External links[edit]