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Hitmaker of the Month: Justin Tranter on Discovering Self-Love With Selena Gomez

Presented by BMI

Songwriter Justin Tranter and Selena Gomez have been making music together since 2015, but “Lose You to Love Me” represents their biggest success to date, landing at No. 1 in its second week on the BuzzAngle/Rolling Stone consumption chart (ahead of four new songs by Kanye West that dominated the rest of the top 5). Five weeks later, the song is still in the top 10 with nearly 110 million total streams and 800,000 song units. Its official video, meanwhile, will soon cross 160 million views on YouTube.

“It feels unbelievable — and so beautiful,” says Tranter, who was nominated for both a Grammy and Golden Globe last year. “My dream was to just make music that people hear and care about. The charts can be a fun way to mark something, but for me that means people responding to the song in a positive way and continuing to listen to it.”

These days Tranter, who identifies as gender non-conforming, prefers to be behind-the-scenes while empowering others to shine in the spotlight. “Ever since I stopped being an artist, I’m here to help other people tell their stories,” says the former frontman of Semi-Precious Weapons and frequent songwriting partner of Julia Michaels.  “To know that I did the best that I could and it worked? That always feels f–ing great!”

But Tranter refuses to take all the credit of Gomez’s latest hit: “So many people were involved aside from me and Selena — Julia, Mattman and Robin.” The co-songwriters otherwise known as Mattias Larsson and Robin Fredriksson also produced the track with Finneas. “He brought ambiance and ear candy to the final steps of production,” Tranter says of Billie Eilish’s big brother. “That gave it this last little breath of life.”

“It had been a minute since we’d all been together,” Tranter recalls of the reunion that inspired the song, which took place at Max Martin’s compound in West Hollywood. “So we were just talking and catching up and the idea came out of our conversation. There’s a beautiful upright piano in the studio that you can hear on the track. Robin started playing the chord on the piano and it just all started to flow.”

Just as the single didn’t take long to blast off, the writing process was also quick. “The meat of it — meaning like the chords and lyric and melody — took an hour at most,” Tranter says. “It sounds crazy but it’s true: The second the first chorus was done, I knew we had something special. We were all hugging each other and crying. When Selena and Julia and I get together, something magical happens with the level of vulnerability and honesty — really cutting to the truth while still making something that people could relate to.”

Tranter doesn’t want to give too much away when it comes to Gomez’s personal life, and for him, it’s all about a universal idea rather than intimate details. “We wanted to dig into the message that loving yourself has to always be the priority,” Tranter explains. “Acknowledge the pain [of loss] that everybody goes through, but focus on the positive: If you deal with your pain correctly, you’re going to come out the other side loving yourself even more. That was the unspoken goal of the song.”

While Gomez has done plenty of research for her past hits about heartbreak — her relationship with Justin Bieber was the definition of on-again, off-again — Tranter encouraged her to flip the script this time around. “Self-love is my favorite subject — I’m married to myself and put a big, fat ring on my finger,” they says, noting that it’s an unpopular opinion. “The media is obsessed with the idea that a difficult relationship is the most valuable. You know, movies about a guy who treats you like s–t and then chases after you in an airport to apologize — that’s real love? Of course relationships and romance are important to humanity and have created unbelievable legendary art. But it’s exciting to talk about loving yourself for a change and that’s very inspiring to me.”

There’s no doubt that “Lose You to Love Me” has struck a chord on an international level — and like Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next,” it could also earn Gomez the critical respect that has somewhat eluded her. “This song lends a credibility to her as an artist that she has always deserved,” says Tranter. “I think the whole world sees the artist and musician and storyteller in Selena I have seen since the first day we met. And it makes me super-proud to be a part of that process.”

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