For the sake of simplicity I am going to refer to any song or artist that uses more than one musical style in their music as a crossover. As with the rest of my posts I’m going to analyze good and bad examples of crossovers and why I judged them that way. I feel like crossovers are a rising trend in metal especially, but they are apparent in popular music as well.
This first example is an excellent crossover (says the biased metal head). It should be obvious which styles Wintersun is using here: classical instrumentation with power metal. Power metal to me is usually a joke, singing about epic journeys and complete non-sense (Dragon Force, while the worst power metal band of all time, is a prime example of this), but has some of the best instrumental writing in any sub-genre. There are blast beats here and there, but the song doesn’t stick to any one groove for too long before switching to another. The way it uses the classical elements doesn’t distract from its power metal core. Instead it uses the symphonic parts to add harmonic layering to the already epic instrumentals which are standard to power metal. There is so much going on at every point in the song that I could listen to it again and again and enjoy it.
With every good crossover there is a bad one.
First of all, if this was metal without the electronic treatment, it isn’t good by itself. For the first example I feel it would still be a pretty good without the symphonic midi. This is very straightforward bland metal. Then they decide to add electronic beats to it on top. The band is clearly trying to target more than one audience here, the ravers and the head bangers. What I feel like the browning fails to realize is that no raver is going to listen to screaming vocals and breakdowns. Wintersun doesn’t try to appeal to the classical audience, it is purely metal, this song awkwardly goes back and forth between electronic and metal breakdowns, when they use both at the same time it doesn’t really add anything to the song. They just put it in because one member of the band likes it while the others like metal. This mix of metal/techno can be done well, and it has been done well. This isn’t it though.
This takes an extreme approach to the mix of metal/techno. This is purely electronic, with a drummer added for the beats. All of the guitar chugs and riffs are sampled from existing music and altered to the rhythm he wants. This song doesn’t awkwardly go between metal and electronic, the beat is almost purely heavy and syncopated like in metal, but then the sounds he uses are computer generated. Again this is my biased opinion, but this is far more interesting to listen to than techno beat-metal breakdown-techno beat- metal breakdown. He uses both styles of music together to create a unique sound.
I have to admit, as derivative and bland as this is, this is better than The Browning. As metal, it is still follows the hardcore formula and doesn’t do anything that interesting, but the electronic aspects are much better employed in this song. The Sounds are played in conjunction with the instruments and actually adds to the sound as opposed to going back and forth between the two for no real reason. Alright, enough metal/techno for now. What do more popular artists do for crossovers?
Timbaland does mostly collaborative work with artists from many genres. I feel like he is highly over looked and one of the more talented producers in the industry today. I know he still produces music about getting bitches, getting money, going clubbin, but of that sort of music his tracks are usually more interesting than most. Other songs on this album feature Fall Out Boy, Elton John, and of course Apologize features One Republic. He likes challenging himself by working with artists farther from his own hip hop style. He likes to let the artist do their thing, but also do his thing. This song has a very Hives repetitious melodic line, but a very Timbaland hip-hop beat. This is what makes good collaborations, it also in this case makes for good crossover songs. He uses many styles in his music because almost every song features someone else’s.
Muse makes many avant-garde songs that have really oddball beats and strange vocal styles in them. This song was the first song Muse released to its fans before their newest album The 2nd Law came out. Many fans were very confused and upset by it because of the use of the style which gained a lot of popularity in recent years called dubstep. Of course the rest of the album was more pertaining to Muse style (if you consider them to even have a defined style), but this song stands out as the only one which uses “dubstep”. I for one think it was an excellent crossover and a good decision to write the song this way. The song/album concept is the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which is basically that a closed system can only lose energy and heat thus resulting in the eventual heat death of earth and the universe. The use of the electronic style gave them the freedom to explore sounds that cannot be produced on a guitar or voice, it allowed them to represent this concept of the 2nd law of thermodynamics sonically with electronic sounds. They also use symphonic effects throughout which seem to portray that something bad is coming, the inevitable heat death of the earth. The “Drop” is this heat death happening in an instant, everything is dying, and then they return to the symphonic sounds and use those amazing vocals to represent the earth, or its population, crying out one last time before they slowly die. This is a good crossover because they had an idea in their head that they knew they could not represent with their limited instrumentation so they explored other options and it blends together well with the album concept.
Last example is a fun one, but also a good one.
the song is very normal for Between the Buried and Me’s style. There are many moments throughout this album where the band juxtaposes in some strange part of the song in a different style than the rest of the song, or anything else they have every done. The part in this song to listen to is at 11:40. Bluegrass. Yes. Bluegrass style. You probably think I’m going to say this is a bad use of crossover, because The Browning just arbitrarily switches between styles and this seems to be the same sort of thing. It does very randomly switch to bluegrass and then back to metal, so why on earth is this a better crossover than The Browning? First take notice to what else you hear during this part, it sounds like it is in a bar and there is clinking of glasses and drunkards yelling at each other (the dialogue, if you are interested, is pretty hilarious by the way). It also comes after an extended guitar solo, leaving little lyrical context for this part of the song. Therefore we have to use what happens after to understand the reasoning behind doing this. Ah yes, the very same theme from the beginning of the song. Listen at 1:10 to 1:50, now listen to just before the bluegrass section till the end. The bluegrass section seems to be a transition back into the opening theme of the song. I don’t know why it had to be bluegrass other than some comic relief for this otherwise emotionally exhausting album. I think it was just that.
Next post (whenever school allows me to get to my computer again) will be a review of Killswitch Engages’ Disarm the Decent , because a long time ago they were my favorite artist and they deserve my attention.