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May 11, 2007

The Love Song Writer Who Has Never Loved

Diane Warren has written every sappy song you've ever sung in the shower, yet she's never been in love. What gives?

woman at piano with cupid

Photo Credit: Peter Yang

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The day before my interview with Diane Warren, I call her assistant, but Warren herself picks up: "Yes, this is Diane because there's no one in my fucking office to pick up the fucking phone. Twelve people work here, and no one is here. This is fucking insane. Shouldn't they be here?" She laughs.

Meet Diane Warren, the world's premier writer of chart-topping love songs. You know her well: She helped you through your first breakup (Exposé's "I'll Never Get Over You Getting Over Me"). You car-sang her lyrics (Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time"), slow-danced to her melodies (Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me"), and perfected your karaoke skills to her catchy hits (Ace of Base's "Don't Turn Around"). Those with a penchant for shower-singing love her — as do the Grammys, Oscars, and Golden Globes. She's been nominated for at least 20 major awards in her career and has had more than 100 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 (more than 50 of them were Top 10 hits).

You might assume that the writer of lyrics like "for every kiss, I'll kiss you back a hundred times" would be a sentimental fool. You'd be wrong. Warren owns a parrot named Buttwings, wears a necklace that says "Fuck You" in tiny letters, croaks out snarky one-liners, and decorates her couch with a pillow that says, "Your Worst Nightmare: White Trash with Money."
"All the things in here that say something tacky come from Diane," says Julie Horton, executive vice president of Warren's publishing company, Realsongs, which commands $20 million annually in royalties. "She's got this really cute sense of humor. It's warped, but it's cute."
Just then, Warren hops down a hallway lined with framed platinum records, her black pixie haircut bobbing, and ushers me into a room where a kid in a "Homies: I'm Down with Them" T-shirt sits at a piano. "Check this shit out," Warren instructs. The kid launches into a soulful R&B-influenced song. Horton, who has followed us in, whispers in my ear that the kid is not a kid, but 24-year-old Ferras, a newly signed Virgin Records artist.
"I love singers," Warren says. "And, shit, I never hear anyone this good," despite working with people like Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, Eric Clapton, and Gloria Estefan. The kid looks thrilled. He mentions a '90s song by Xscape that he'd like to emulate. He hums a bit. "You know it?" "That's my song!" Warren exclaims.

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