Skyler Grey: Road to Global Dommination
Against all odds, a young, relatively unknown artist is chosen to sing the hook she penned for a track by a high-profile rapper. Not only that, she's also asked to perform the single on the industry's biggest music stage: the Grammy Awards. And the singer nails the performance. So much so that she becomes a top trending topic on Twitter, and her phone starts ringing off the hook with more collaboration requests. In the meantime, the clock shows no signs of striking midnight as the singer/songwriter is also busy finally fulfilling a longtime dream: writing and recording her own solo album. That scenario is just what happened to Skylar Grey, who, along with Eminem, is featured on Dr. Dre's second single from his long-awaited "Detox" album, "I Need a Doctor." Bowing at No. 5 and simultaneously nabbing Hot Shot Debut honors on the Billboard Hot 100 after the Grammys, the single -- co-written by Grey -- is No. 10 on the chart following the video's Feb. 24 premiere on MTV and Vevo. Grey also anchors two more slots on the Hot 100: as a featured vocalist/co-writer on Diddy-Dirty Money's "Coming Home," which peaked at No. 12, and Lupe Fiasco's "Words I Never Said," another Grey co-write that debuted at No. 89. She also wrote T.I.'s "Castle Walls," featuring Christina Aguilera. An artist being featured on a hook isn't an original concept. But it's a concept that has claimed more added value as a career launching pad in the past year, thanks to the solid chart and sales emergence of such newcomers as Nicki Minaj (Usher's "Lil Freak"), Bruno Mars (B.o.B's "Nothin' on You") and Ke$ha (Flo Rida's "Right Round"). And galloping headlong into 2011, Grey isn't the only featured guest eyeing a promising solo career. There's fellow singer/songwriter Dev, slated to release her first album this summer after guesting on Far*East Movement's No. 1 song "Like a G6." Also in the wings: singers Wynter Gordon, Bridget Kelly and Eva Simons. "It's the trend of 2010 and beyond of major artists giving opportunities to lesser artists to be featured," says Universal Music Publishing Group senior VP of creative affairs Jennifer Blakeman, who signed Grey about five years ago. "We've seen artists like Nicki Minaj and Bruno Mars seemingly coming out of nowhere into public focus based on features. And now it's Skylar going from zero to 90 playing on the Grammys within six months of her nominated song being released." That nominated song was Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie," featuring Rihanna; it was up for both song and record of the year, as well as best rap song. It was her first collaboration with producer Alex Da Kid, a pairing propelled by Blakeman's gut instinct last July when Grey visited her in New York with a bunch of new songs penned during a cabin sojourn in the Oregon woods. "I had all this new music and didn't know what I was going to do with it," says Grey, who was born and raised in Wisconsin. "I was getting disillusioned [after a previous deal with Warner Bros.] but at the same time I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do -- I had no plan B. Then I was introduced to Alex Da Kid via e-mail and a week later we were sending music back and forth." Writing since she was 14 and singing since age 6, Grey is no stranger to the Billboard charts. Under the moniker Holly Brook, she guested on Fort Minor's No. 4 2006 hit, "Where'd You Go." Though sung by Rihanna, it was Grey's penned hook on "Love the Way You Lie" that opened the door to more high-profile collaborations and her buzzed-about guest features through Alex Da Kid-who produced "I Need a Doctor," "Coming Home" and "Words I Never Said." She has since become the only artist signed to a production deal with the producer. The pair is currently working together on songs for her upcoming solo album. "People wanting to cover choruses I've written is awesome and has created a platform for me to be an artist," Grey says. And she hasn't altered her technique in any way in the wake of her success. "The choruses are very alternative-sounding, which is my natural style. I always write with my emotions in mind."