British songwriter-producer Amanda Ghost took her cues directly from superstar Beyonce Knowles — and no one else — when it came to co-writing “Once in a Lifetime” for the “Cadillac Records” movie soundtrack.
“Beyonce felt that the song should reflect where she is at today, as an artist,” says Ghost, known for co-writing James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful.” “Obviously it had to relate to the story of the movie, but it also had to relate to her.”
Rather than chaining themselves to a period-specific blues sound, the kind that would have been embraced by Knowles’ Etta James in the film, the two birthed a distinctly contemporary love song — a silky, polished pop number fits easily in today’s hit parade. “It’s not a token song in a movie, it’s the kind of track that could get airplay on the radio today and be a hit,” says Ghost. “Once in a Lifetime” was the lone original song by Knowles on the soundtrack.
Ghost, who wrote three songs for Knowles’ third solo album “I Am … Sasha Fierce,” met with the singer in New York shortly after the film wrapped, whereupon Knowles gave her a broad story synopsis and described her vision for the song. “She wanted something really personal,” says Ghost.
Ghost and her songwriting partner Ian Dench (guitarist and principal songwriter for ’90s band EMF) recorded a demo with The rural, a U.K. production team comprising James Dring and Jody Street. They enlisted the help of British songwriter Scott McFarnon for additional lyrics. Ghost took the demo to Knowles in New York, and they completed the recording in one day.
While the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which nominated the song for a Golden Globe, lists all six artists as co-writers, the Academy might not be as generous, having limited the category to three songwriters in the past. If it sticks with this rule, the potential honorees will be listed at the discretion of Sony Pictures Entertainment, the studio behind “Cadillac Records.”