ARTS & CULTURE

The Secrets of Songwriters

08/16/2010 03:43 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's close to midnight in a Manhattan recording studio, and a songwriter is listening to a work in progress, one that he hopes millions will soon know by heart. He'd recently improvised the lyrics in the vocal booth, including the chorus: "If you're the country, I'm your new citizen." Now, he sings along with the playback in a soft, high voice. If all goes to plan, however, the voice forever linked to "Citizen" will be that of Beyonce Knowles, the superstar singer in the next room, who's been gathering songs for a new album.

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