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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Scarlet Johannson's Single

K, after spending the last couple weeks working hardcore on recording, mixing, and processing vocals, it's hard to hear this and not cringe. Her vocals sound awful. I don't think it's just her, I mean they can make terrible singers sound somewhat acceptable with enough effects and auto-tune. But her vocals just sound out of place. I mean, her performance sounds like she's the girl in the karaoke bar that suddenly decides to take it seriously, while the rest of the people at the bar cringe and hope that the next person will sing a rousing rendition of Livin' on a Prayer to re-lift their spirits. I've been that person. I've sang a five and a half minute Kate Bush song. It's not good. But I digress.

I'm also not a particularly good singer. But I know, and am learning, that I need to build the mix around my voice. It seems as if this arrangement, by Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio, was created without her involvement, or at most with minimal involvement. That's the technical reason, aside from her singing, that it sounds so karaoke. The backup singers are not a part of her sound, they more get in the way than anything. The arrangement is too droney and noisy without a break. And Scarlet doesn't have enough effects on her voice. Sorry.

It seems like he was going for that distant Beach Boys style, with the reverb-soaked mix and anchoring snare hit. But the voices! They need to be more distant and present at the same time! Wetter reverb, more compression, EQ the meat out of the backups so they'll fit inside of her voice. Let the reverb control the drone, the guitar shouldn't bear the responsibility.

For a successful version of the contemporization of this style, check out Comfy in Nautica by Panda Bear.

Sure, this is a lot like The Beach Boys, almost too much, but he modernizes the style. I appreciate what Sitek was trying to do, I grow tired of the cookie-cutter crisp, over-compressed sound that is most of todays production. To be fair, there are several things I like about the mix. I dig the beat, and overall the arrangement is interesting, I just don't think it works. It sounds undercooked.

K, that's my geeky opinion, from one who's spent way too much time recently on the production side of music. I just spent days mixing and mastering a tune that had two very different vocals. It's hard to agonize over that and then hear a major produced track with serious vocal mixing issues. Or maybe it's great... Maybe it's great... A strong man also cries... A strong man also cries.....

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