Damon Elliott has earned his production stripes writing clever modern pop songs for artists like Pink. So it may seem strange that these days he's reshaping a 1958 song by Peggy Lee and penning intentionally lame raps.
The studio hotshot has been working with Beyoncé Knowles on a remake of Lee's song "Fever" (which Madonna covered in 1992) that will be featured in "The Fighting Temptations," a flick about a New York advertising executive who has to form a gospel choir in order to collect an inheritance. The film stars Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyoncé, and features Faith Evans and Angie Stone, among others (see "Beyonce Transforms Into Bohemian, Motherly Nightclub Singer").
"We did 'Fever' because that was one of my favorite songs," said Elliott, who has also been juggling work on new albums by Mya (see "Mya Gets Real With Missy, Timbaland And Damon Elliott"), Solange Knowles and Jessica Simpson, as well as a duets LP for his mom, singer Dionne Warwick (see "Destiny's Child, Pink, Mya Join Damon Elliott's Dionne Warwick Duet Project").
"We actually did the song before [Beyoncé] even got this movie. We did it when she was working on 'Goldmember.' She happened to be at the studio one day, and I just came up with the idea. And she just went in the booth and started singing. Then she got this movie, and it seemed perfect."
Far more time-consuming for Elliott is the soundtrack for "Malibu's Most Wanted," for which he's writing all of the raps. The film stars Jamie Kennedy as a white kid from Malibu who thinks he's down with the hip-hop scene, and who continually embarrasses his father, a candidate for governor. The movie co-stars Ryan O'Neal and Bo Derek as Kennedy's parents.
"I've got Jamie rapping all over the place like a musical, man," Elliott said. "It's funny because he acts like a rock star when he's in the studio. He's got to have his special tea and sh--. But he's good."
When Elliott and Kennedy worked on the songs, they discovered that sometimes Kennedy was actually too good.
"I had to take him aside and say, 'Hold on. You're playing a kid that's not good.' It's hard to ask somebody to suck, but I told him, 'You gotta get worse, man,' and he did, and it's some funny sh--."
In addition to writing the music for "Malibu's Most Wanted," Elliott plays a DJ in one of the film's club scenes.
"It's in the 'hood," Elliott said. "Basically, they take Jamie down to this club there to try to scare him back into being a white boy, and here I am playing this DJ ... and they try to pay me off to get him to perform."
Elliott has also written two songs for "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," and will put together music for "S.W.A.T."
"I want to rock out with maybe Linkin Park and P.O.D.," Elliott said. "I want to do something different with [the 'S.W.A.T.' soundtrack]."
So how does Elliott find the time to produce, write, coordinate and act?
"I used to say, 'I got too much time on my hands — why can't I be working?' " he said. "And now I am and it's cool. It's not like I'm running track. I'm just sitting around all day organizing and creating music. It's not like being an accountant. They got a hard job."