In August, Justin Bieber released a dark electropop banger called “Friends” with an under-the-radar collaborator known as BloodPop®. If you were asking who BloodPop® was, you weren’t alone. In some ways the songwriter and producer (whose real name is Michael Tucker) has been hiding in plain sight for the past two years. Co-writing songs for Bieber, Britney Spears, Madonna, Fifth Harmony and most of Lady Gaga’s Joanne, Tucker has been working with some of the most coveted artists in the world.
“Justin would be in the room, cut the song and write, but I didn’t get to know him,” Tucker says. “I loved working with Gaga. She’s a super real artist. I don’t think anyone can argue that. She really knows what she wants and how to get it.” The 27-year-old knows his job as a producer in plaintive terms is to help an artist reach their vision. “It’s different from artist to artist,” he says. “Some artists you get to know really well, and some you don’t.” While working with musicians like Bieber and Gaga, Tucker was bubbling on the edge of production fame.
Up until 2015, the songwriter and producer was known as Blood Diamonds, a name Tucker first claimed for his music on Soundcloud. “I was never planning on having Blood Diamonds be anything other than a Soundcloud handle,” Tucker explains. “I had no intention of having it go somewhere, and I just wanted to make video games.” A serious stint playing World of Warcraft in high school led him to toying around with other kinds of software, like Ableton. Soon Tucker headed off to video game school to learn the art of crafting video games, but the records he had made beforehand were picked up and released through a small label called Transparent.
One of those records fell into the hands of Charli XCX, who sampled “Grins” on her debut LP What I Like. “I got my first production credit, which led to other things, and I stopped making video games or even really caring,” he says. It was the catalyst for Tucker going to LA “I did sessions in LA and learned a bunch of things from a lot of people,” he adds. “That was a rinse and repeat for several years.”
As Blood Diamonds, Tucker released a flurry of singles and an EP, alongside collaborations with Grimes, Tinashe, Kendrick Lamar, Ellie Goulding, Major Lazer and his girlfriend HANA, who he says is working on her debut album. But as his career rose, Tucker’s artist name no longer seemed to suit him. “I felt the name was insensitive to real things going on,” says Tucker. “Secondly when I started Blood Diamonds I was just so young that I didn’t even feel like I was Blood Diamonds at the tail-end. It wasn’t me.”
So, in 2015 Tucker re-branded as BloodPop® re-establishing himself as an artist that was no longer the same kid who began producing in high school. As things began to pick up, Tucker had some decisions to make, so it was time for a change. Collaborating with Skrillex, Julia Michaels, and Justin Tranter on Bieber’s record Purpose proved to be a turning point that would lead Tucker to his debut single two years later as BloodPop®.
“Friends” was a demo Tucker had written with friends and rising songwriters Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter. Tucker liked the song, but nothing really happened to it. So he did what he usually does when songs don’t really move: he tore it apart and put it back together again. “We played it for Justin [Bieber’s] team, and they loved it,” Tucker explained. “It just came together very quickly. That just felt like a whirlwind.” BloodPop®’s first main feature has garnered over 192 million Spotify streams in its two month lifespan.
For Tucker, “Friends” is just the beginning of his career’s new phase. “I’m releasing a few more singles with featured artists and then a record hopefully in the spring of next year,” he says of his upcoming work. “I can’t talk about a lot of the [collaborators], but some I’ve hinted at. Ellie Goulding is one I’ve hinted at.” Tucker adds that “most people would assume” Julia Michaels would be on that list and confirms he has upcoming tracks with RAYE and Lady Leshurr.
Following in the footsteps of Calvin Harris and Diplo, Tucker is keen on balancing newer artists with more established ones. But his main goal is to disrupt the music industry with optimism. “That’s a goal I set out when I changed my name to BloodPop®, was to present songs with a more positive light and trying to shed pettiness and anger,” he says. “There’s a deficiency of positivity that people are craving. It’s mostly because of the context of American life right now.”
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