Why It Sucks #8

You can’t please everyone.

Issues think otherwise.  They are stuck in a place where they can’t decide if they want to be a metalcore band, a boy band, or a pop/punk band. Surely this means fans of all of these genres will be appeased and we will be the most popular band ever.

Unfortunately this is exactly the case, this band is blowing up right now because of this album. It is approachable to fans of non-heavy music for many reasons.

the song is structured as per the current song writing meta- play the chorus first so people immediately know that this part will be repeated many more times, then play a verse, repeat, play a verse, repeat, change keys for the chorus, repeat, repeat. I’m so mad at myself for listening to this entire song.

Issues also realizes that everybody loves catchy vocal melodies. You can’t sell a record with any substance beyond the singing because the fans won’t understand it, so why bother. If you can’t sing, well there is a solution for that to. There is nothing wrong with auto-tune in the right context, but mixing it with real instruments is not one of them. The melody is absolutely repetitive and catchy, and every teenage scene girl in America will be screaming it at the top of their lungs at their concerts that will sell way too many tickets. The lyrics are clever in that really bad pun sort of way, “Shes like a Honda, these days I drive Mercedes,” “I’m the king of this game but I think she just beat me.” I don’t think anyone with a fully developed brain is impressed by your lame metaphors guys.

At 1:44 the angry part starts. Well, he’s yelling so one would assume he is angry, but the lyrics have exactly the same tone. “She’s a fiend for attention, and I’m a guilty dealer” is the same metaphor style of lyric as the clean singing parts, so…why are you yelling man? Oh right, because this is a HXC (hardcore) band and there needs to be some yelling to ensure the HXC fans are appeased. He’s not any angrier than he is during the rest of the tune, but there has to be some harsh vox because there has to be some harsh vox.

The bridge is usually my favorite part of pop style songs, because it’s the only part where you can’t really predict what is going to happen (since it only happens once). This starts at 2:28. Oh yeah, a key change and a different chord progression, maybe this will develop into…nope, BREAKDOWNZ! Since we are a HXC band and use harsh vox, we need to have some BREAKDOWNZ so people have a part where they can punch each other at live shows. The last thing we want is to disappoint anybody with some dumb pop music, since we are a HXC band, so therefore unnecessary and forced breakdown! DUNNUNUNUNUNUN DNUNUN DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN  DUNUNUN DUN. IM SOOO MAD AT MYSELF!

Ultimately the problem with this is that it tries to please fans of both pop music and metalcore.  That’s the problem with most all pop/punk music, its ‘heavy’ music aimed to sell as many records as possible, not to express themselves or contribute to the creative world. The thing is, the fans of ‘heavy’ music think it sucks (it does suck) while it gives other ignorant fans the guise that they are hardcore and enjoy heavy music. There are guitar chugs, there are harsh vocals, but that’s not what makes heavy music. ITS OK TO NOT LIKE IT. ITS NOT FOR EVERYONE. But using it as a marketing strategy, THAT is why it sucks.

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Metal Monday #22

You can give me crap about taking this much time off, but nothing good ever comes out in the end of January and December anyways so, semi-legitimate excuse? Nope, this happened.

starting @4:19

After a slow start, I was expecting this to be another minimalist guy-with-guitar type of artists. There is nothing really wrong with that except that it is not metal. This song has two themes, one that you hear for the first time at 5:47. This one is melancholy and has sad feelings and stuff.

6:28 shows the second theme. It is much more simple, it is just two notes a chromatic step apart (the higher one starting sharp them bending down) in a quarter note triplet pattern. The contrast between these two themes is what grabbed my attention. The first is played very lightly and sustained while the second theme is played more aggressively. It returns to the first theme again after then the song slowly ends itself.

The songs structure is reversible, not sure if this is even relevant but I thought from a songwriting perspective it was cool. I’ll call the developmental chord progressions in the first and last 1:30 of the song part A and the themes 1 and 2 respectively.
A 1 2 1 A

From pop music we are accustomed to the repeat of the chorus or part C (which would be theme 2 in this situation) at the end, not the beginning, so it interesting to hear how changing this alters the flow of the song. That second theme was pretty heavy, but I just feel like… I need more.

@1:34

Not sure what Texas has to do with anything, or why they only spent one night there, but they must have had a pretty bad time.

Obnoxious-deliberate breakdowns aside, this band is better than most of its kind, at least in the top 50%. I guess that’s not saying much though…

Why It Sucks #8

In one of the greatest creative decisions ever made, Britney and company have decided to let Will.I.Am produce every song on this album.

The change is evident on this track. She certainly has come a long way since the days of ‘Oops I Did It Again.’ Instead of utilizing her soft-dreamy voice to her advantage, she has decided to go with a more aggressive-talking style. It’s hard to say that that is the reason this song is awful, since it’s pretty acceptable for rappers and hip-hop artists to do this same thing and it would be considered ‘intense’ and not degenerate to the style.

This is not that style though.

Let me preface this in depth look into the amazing display of talent by pointing out the beginning is literally 16 bars of 808 kick drum. There is that syncopated/distorted synth that that leads into the 5th, 11th, and 15th measures, but you can hear how Will.I.Am took the first 4 bars he worked really hard to create and then copied and pasted them 3 more times. The song is called Work Bitch, and it’s about how to get fame and glory you have to work for it. Yet I get the vibe that Will.I.Am did very little work on this song, and has a very minimal understanding of digital audio workstations, virtual synthesizers, and production in general. The fact that he even had the opportunity to work on any music as a professional producer makes me sad. If you listened to literally ANY producers work compared to this you can hear the difference. Will uses barely any modulations, barely any harmonic layers, uses the default drum kits that come included with DAW’s, and reuses the same VST over and over.

This would be like using times new roman as a font, every time, even when new free fonts get released. It’s like driving a 2001 Honda civic in a race full of 2013 models. Out of context it works just fine and gets the job done, but comparing it to other, newer innovations, it looks out of place and stupid.

How about those vocals though? After the aggressive talking section, Britney actually uses musical pitch, but she bases the ‘melody’ line on one note, and the note one octave above it. A note that is an octave higher is the same note, so really there is only one note, until 2:48 when the bridge happens.

If using one note and its octave is the most basic melody that can exist, then using a note and the 3rd, and 5th of that same note is the second most basic melody. You make the most basic chord that can exist with root III V, and these are the ascending/descending notes in this melody.
The entire song is based off of only 1 chord, the entire time. The only thing that is not a constant in this song is the lyrics. I have ranted before about how people really only relate with the lyrics and not the music (because they don’t understand anything about it), but here you go. This is why you need to learn. So songs like this can stop being made and stop being on the Top 40. This is why Work Bitch by Britney Spears (and Will.I.Am) sucks.

Metal Monday #16

So you only learned how to play one chord, but don’t want to suck, what do you do?

Na, these guys definitely know more than one chord. What I mean though, is most of their phrases are one chord cadences that have an open ended length. :01-:10 is part A in one key. :10-:15 is part B in another. They continue to change keys as their phrases transition from one to another, it makes up for the lack of structure in the rhythmic patterns. Notice at the first part A (0-:10) then another (1:34) the rhythm and pattern changed form before, but the key is the same as before.

Man is this guy upset though.

It makes me feel upset and want to punch things, so maybe it’s time for BREAKDOWN BEATDOWN

Not as heavy as usual (whatever that means), but I really dig this. This breakdown is not what I would typically expect as a breakdown. The ‘build-up’ part actually does the opposite, at :46 it drops off, then at 1:20 the full instruments (with gain) return until 1:45. After this the instruments slowly get phased out until only the vocalist is left. The vocalist also designed his lyrics to hit one of his more impactful lines right at at 2:00, when it finally happens. This ‘breakdown’ is followed by a more traditional sounding breakdown at 2:15. Two for the price of one.

In metal news, Dying Fetus is officially scheduled to play at Download Festival 2014. This wouldn’t be news, if the headlining bands weren’t Avenged Sevenfold, Linkin Park, and Aerosmith. We have ourselves to thank, this magical event is happening because of a social media campaign. Rumors say it started because of a post on metal injection, which I can confirm nor deny, but the story goes that someone saw the headliners, was upset, and so asked the event managers one simple question : #whynotdyingfetus ?

For a glimpse of just how quickly this escalated

https://twitter.com/search?q=%23whynotdyingfetus&src=typd&f=realtime

So many people tweeted/social media’d that the people behind the event decided the people could not be ignored, Dying Fetus will be playing at the event. I hope thousands and thousands of Aerosmith fans have their lives changed that day.

The Music Man Behind The Curtain

These songs are by exactly the same band, but something is very different. It isn’t anything in their style that changed, but the sound on the older song just sounds…hollow. Pardon me if I failed at coming up with an adjective to describe what a very unmixed album sounds like on mediocre recording equipment.

There is a difference, while hardcore fans will argue the older song sounds more “true,” the newer song sounds more “clear.” Some people honestly prefer the grittiness of the under-produced sound and some prefer the more articulate and full sound of well-produced tracks.

I can’t stand listening to music with low production quality.

As an entitled, spoiled American citizen, I have high expectations for my music. It should sound clean, without infringing on the artists creativity. I can blame my society for this sense of entitlement, or I can embrace it.

The truth is, the technology exists to make recorded music sound better. By better, I mean to make it sound the way the artist intended without the characteristics of the recording equipment altering the harmonic balance. Very expensive audio equipment can let you have this effect without as much post-record mixing, but for lesser known groups without a big record label, they will probably be recording with less than preferred equipment. To see the difference that the hardware really makes, listen to the older song again, then listen to the one from last year.  I believe that Converge uses similar mixing techniques (very little pitch correction and quantization) throughout the years, but as they have become more highly acclaimed they have grown economically, and technology has advanced, therefore they recorded on better equipment. The result is Converge, the way they always wanted to sound.

While in a genre like metal, where the fans are more passionate and willing to ignore flaws in their music, in popular music the production quality is even more important. The leading (economically) artists of today have great voices (mostly), yet  backtracks use harmonizing backup singers, pitch correction, and electronic instruments, leaving nothing in the hands of the audio hardware or the artist themselves. The producer takes the recorded voices/instruments and then essentially builds the entire song himself in computer software. The only thing you hear that is the artists creation is their voice. Some artists got famous for their ability to do this (Daft Punk, Kanye) without being all that talented or creative musically.

Kanye is a clever rapper and a good producer, but doesn’t play instruments or sing. Just wanted to clarify because I know there are a lot of die-hard Kanye fans, I hate him because he is a moron not because his music is awful.

Those of us who are musically retarded don’t care if you are not as privileged and don’t have access to nice audio equipment, we don’t care if your recording engineer went to community college, to our untrained ears all we know is it sounds good or it sounds bad. Big producers have to take the part of the music that are easiest to understand – the beat and the vocals – and make them stand out from the track so they are noticed the most. That is how you mix music that you need musically retarded people to like, give the listener as few things to focus on at one time as possible so their brains can process the information being presented in the sound. It is unfulfilling harmonically and rhythmically bland, but it does play on the strengths of the music (usually only the artists voice) and the demands of the common listener (simple beat definition, singable melodies and lyrics).

I look to electronic music producers for examples of good mixing. These artists are not known for their performing talent or musical knowledge, but instead their ability to create music with a computer. There is a huge difference between recording mixing and electronic mixing, each requires a different set of skills, but I think the recording guys could learn a thing or two from the electronic guys.

A lot of people think electronic music producers are garbage because they don’t play instruments or have to know anything about music theory to do what they do. Sure, they don’t, but it is clear this guy knows something. Every single track is edited and filtered to sound exactly the way he wants, which is probably upwards of 50 different tracks. Every minute sound is perfectly balanced with the melody, and different tracks are the focal point at different times in the song. Even though there are no instruments being played, lots of different sounds work together to give the song depth. Its 100% predictable, it’s a magic 4 chord song, the lyrics are cliché and uninspired, but despite this the song is still interesting because of the incredible attention to detail.  Andrew Rayel is a great producer, regardless of how uncreative his music may be.

The man behind the curtain is as integral to music as the person playing the instrument. When you make an argument that ‘production quality’ is cheating or dishonest (pitch correction, quantization, harmonizing, vocal filters etc.), you’re not wrong, you’re just an asshole. The fact is there is no way around post-mixing recorded music if it is going to be distributed digitally. Even the simple task of combining the recorded tracks onto a single MP3 is mixing. That being said, I totally understand where you are coming from…

This is an example of a song that is absolutely over-produced. Aside from the song just being bad overall, the filters/time delay effects on the vocals are gimmicky and distracting. The synthesizer is mixed at a level that covers the harmonics of the guitars.  Why even bother having a real drummer when the main rhythm is electronically generated? This style of production is simply to have a gimmick so they can catch your attention, not to play off the strengths of the performers recorded tracks. Perhaps there is a conflict of creative interest between the band and their producer and this is the result.

I’ll end this post with a look at how production quality has evolved throughout the decades. Nothing will ever take away what the older artists contributed to the world of music, but I can’t help but imagine what it would have sounded like if they had been recorded and produced today. Usually I tell you to listen more carefully, but this time listen to the sound as a whole as it evolves with technology.

Pop:

70’s

80’s

90’s

now

Metal:

70’s

80’s

90’s

now

Why It Sucks #6

Let’s remember back to the year 2002, Avril Lavigne releases Let Go, every pre-teen girl then proceeded to dress/act in this new punk/pop style so people think they are a badass. I witnessed it first hand in middle school, this new hybrid clique developed full of girls who acted just like the rest of the girls and were socially well accepted, but portrayed themselves as rebels and rejects because it was edgy. Doesn’t that sound like the worst kind of person you can remember? Avril Lavigne was the embodiment of this image, she was more edgy and had attitude even though she grew up a spoiled princess just like the rest of the solo female artists.

Now that edgy/punk is out and party queen is in, Avril found herself irrelevant in the mainstream for quite some time. I can’t remember the last hit she had since “Girlfriend” which some would argue is one of the worst songs of my generation, and that was in 2007. She also got a lot of flak for possibly lip syncing on different occasions.  A lot of people confuse lip syncing with recorded backtracks and point the finger when the singer makes a mistake, but the backtrack continues to play, making it seem as though the singer was not singing the entire time.

I’m done defending her, this song sucks.

For personal reasons I am going to start off talking about the Radiohead reference. Anyone who actually likes Radiohead would hopefully never associate themselves with this, and she claims to be singing Radiohead “at the top of our lungs.” Have you ever listened to Radiohead?  It’s not something you sing at the top of your lungs; it is mostly calm and slow. This makes me question why she uses this band in association with a fun night out, and if she is even familiar with their style at all. The real reason behind the reference is obvious; it’s strictly a name drop to make her seem endearing to fans of “good music.”

Also a song about not growing up that is also about getting really drunk on “a bottle of whatever.” Endorsing underage drinking? Your target audience will LOVE that Avril. Their parents however, will not.

Alright, enough about what she is saying. Let’s talk about “her” intense guitar playing skills. Avril Lavigne can definitely play guitar, it’s not like you can ignore footage of her successfully operating the instrument (not this music video). Now listen to the guitar part during the first verse of the song.

Wait for the note to change… wait…wait…

The bottom note of the major triad is the only note to change, and only twice. The other two notes remain the same THE WHOLE TIME. This does entirely change the harmonic makeup of the chord, but it is also LAZY SONGWRITING. Why do the work of completely re-establishing the key in the listeners ear every cadence (basic level songwriting) when you can instead just play that note the whole time (Lavigne level songwriting). We wouldn’t want our musically retarded listeners to get confused as to what is going on in the song.

Now onto the chorus, the pride and glory of every pop-hit. The majority of the phrase is the same 3 notes descending-ascending over and over until the song drops its own title “here’s to never growing up.” The catchiest part of the song is that line, and it is also the only well written measure in the entire song. The perfect authentic cadence really catches the ear nicely, as it is at the end of an extended phrase and gives us the harmonic resolution that we need. The problem with this chorus overall is that there are too many words. If you want this song to be a party song, played at clubs and bars, it has to be easily ‘singable’.  I can’t believe I am recommending catchy and simple melodies, but nobody is going to listen to this shit in their free time, nobody is going to put the effort forth to learn all those lyrics, keep it simple and people will eat it up in those situations. It will still be awful music but it will at least be more successful.

And that is why ‘Here’s To Never Growing Up’ by Avril Lavigne SUCKS.

Metal Monday #15

After just 15 seconds you have heard more notes than all of the notes combined in last weeks edition of Why It Sucks.

Its been 4 years since No Tolerance For Imperfection. The grooves have always been good, and the speed coupled with precision makes for great death metal.

To me, the musical phrases make sense in this song. Even the sections where it is mostly one note strummed quickly, the transitions make up for it with forward movement. Especially the first half of the song has satisfying half cadences, only landing on the perfect authentic cadence when the groove is about to change significantly. Even the vocal lines flow and fit within the length of the phrase. Basically they all play well together and don’t hold back, so it’s a recipe for success. My only complaint isn’t a complaint at all, there is so much going on at every turn it is hard to keep up on the first listen. I would recommend taking in one role at a time, so you can really notice how much weight each individual member is pulling.

There are some song writing techniques that are so OBVIOUS, that are so simple, that I wonder why they are never used. For example, the title of this song is On The Verge Of Collapse. Now lets remember sonata form, exposition, development, repetition.

This song is exactly sonata form with the exposition building to the lyric “I am on the verge of collapse.” Then the song ends exactly the same way. The lyrics make their point, their punchline, exactly as the song reaches its two peaks. Even though the amount of notes and the speed might seem overwhelming, even on the first listen, these moments stand out. This group doesn’t use cheesy breakdowns and dissonant chords, they use the shape of their phrases to add tension an release. It’s that extra dimension that makes it interesting.
DID SOMEONE SAY BREAKDOWNS AND DISSONANT CHORDS?

Thies weeks Breakdown Beatdown is at 1:06 and 3:04

In the next month I will begin to work on compiling my top 10 albums of the year. It was a good year for me, with releases from Dillinger Escape Plan AND Between The Buried And Me AND Streetlight Manifesto (who I thought would never release another album after 99 songs). To compliment this post I will also have a worst 10 albums of the year, and terrible music has also had a good year with releases from Beiber, Miley, Avril Lavigne, and Black Veil Brides. If you had a favorite album this year that you think it worthy, I’d love to listen to it, if not at least to understand why you like it.