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Michael Chabon is becoming a pop lyricist-for-hire

From The Yiddish Policemen's Union to the Universal Music Publishing Group

Leann Mueller

Author Michael Chabon has signed a publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing Group as a songwriter, according to Billboard. This is an unorthodox career move for Chabon, to say the least: he's been considered a leading American author for almost three decades now, and his bibliography is studded with critical favorites, movie adaptations, and gentle, curious writing. (He won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.) It's also one with a personal precedent: Chabon collaborated with producer Mark Ronson on the latter's 2015 LP Uptown Special, writing lyrics for nine of the album's 11 tracks. (I'm sorry to report that "Uptown Funk" wasn't one of them.)

Signing with UMPG means the company will advertise Chabon's lyrical services and promote any future work. It doesn't necessarily guarantee he'll be writing singles for Rihanna's next album. At the very least, it's a fascinating expression of intent from an author who's always been interested in culture's impact on people's behavior and experience. His last novel, 2012's Telegraph Avenue, revolved around an Oakland record store and the changing music business, and it was defined by Chabon's palpable love for sound's possibilities.

Maybe Chabon will become Ronson's Bernie Taupin

It's not like pure writers can't succeed in music, even considering the industry's current volatility: there are plenty of writers whose contributions to hit singles are chiefly lyrical. And if Chabon becomes Ronson's Bernie Taupin, that wouldn't be so bad either. "It's very exciting to have [Chabon] now part of our UMPG family and on our roster of songwriters," says UMPG chairman / CEO Jody Gerson. "It's only the beginning for him in music."