This is what's wrong with music today

In the studio, rarely, if ever, does a star sing a song the whole way through. Instead Mr. Harrell builds a gleaming whole from granular bits. A singer working with Mr. Harrell covers a few bars — a line or two, maybe four — over and over, with different emphases and inflections, until Mr. Harrell hears what he wants. The process repeats for each section. Only later, after the singer is gone, does Mr. Harrell stitch the best pieces together, Frankenstein-like, into the song you hear.

Read the whole article for yourself because I certainly couldn't after that paragraph.

Its bad enough that they do this, but these people seem somehow proud of it. Proud enough to cooperate with the reporter. If I was doing this they would have had to bust in on me Mike Wallace style.


  • The line that I think is a complete piece of crap:
    We want to enhance the artist’s authenticity.
  • Most insightful line, so far:
    Pop music's universe of celebrities has widened in recent years to include producers and songwriters; they're as crucial to what you hear on the radio as the stars, and increasingly known to the public.

    For better and worse, this is 100% true. When I was growing up, you followed a lot of stars -- big and small -- over the course of a long career. Now, at least in pop, there are a handful of enduring stars, but mostly star producers and engineers. Different world.
  • Article does make current pop sound unappealing in a way -- too processed and focus-group tested. But (a) that's also largely me projecting certain feelings into the article's subject-matter that may not reflect reality, (b) there's some damn good pop made nowadays, so something must be working, and (c) don't believe for a moment that things were much different during, say, the 80s and 80s -- likely the only difference is the advance and democratization of technology. Trust me, Dr. Hook would have auto-tuned and focus-grouped the s--t out of "Sexy Eyes" of they could've.
  • Final point for now: it is hard to post while typing on a cell phone. And for the moment, that's all I got.
  • “I’ll take it in chunks,”

    Me, I'll just blow chunks, thank you. How nauseating. It's like watching sausage being made, but in this case I don't like the finished product. This certainly provides insight into why so much of this pop dreck sounds so exactly what it is - product. I knew it was digital shenanigans, but it's obvious what these people think is "magic" is a hell of a lot different from, say, the magic they used to make in the "Snake Pit" at Motown. Too much of today's music ain't got no soul and this kind of production value has a lot to do with it.
  • It feels like pop stars like Beiber are created or formed, especially in the Disney factory/laboratory of music that couldn't possibly offend anyone in any possible way. Unless of course you find that whole process nauseating and/or you're not a preteen girl.
  • edited July 2012
    I don't disagree -- and I can't stand Justin Bieber -- but do you really see, say, Leif Garrison or David Cassiday differently?
  • My teenaged daughter and I have been having a related conversation. She says that for a pop star to be good it is necessary to be good looking. And she's a musician. As a case in point she brings up Bieber, who she admits is not that much of a musician but is, she says, "beautiful." Last night I told a friend about 40 years old about this and surprisingly he agreed with her. I got him to look at a YouTube video by The Mamas and The Papas and he was amazed that they would have had Cass in the band.

    Maybe I'm just getting old, rambling on in a crotchety way about how much better things were before. Anyone remember these guys?
  • edited July 2012
    If we were talking about a film, particularly a major production, would we feel the same way? Actors use multiple takes to read lines, expressing them in different ways to allow the directors and editors to have all options possible. A film, though, is sold under its own name, not its actors, whereas a Bieber album is presented as his own oeuvre.

    ETA: Let me clarify: Bieber takes a lot of credit for an album for which he does not himself even conceptualize. He doesn't write, he doesn't produce, he doesn't even figure out how to deliver the songs.

    As a case in point she brings up Bieber, who she admits is not that much of a musician but is, she says, "beautiful."
    Have her compare pictures of the young and old David Cassidy (or any child star).
  • Haha at Bieber being "beautiful" !
  • I feel I need a shower after reading that. Almost as bad as the subject matter is the style in which that puff piece was written. Are there any journalism schools left? The entire article is basically propaganda for the music industry to explain how this makes everybody's life better, and that by completely taking a part a performance, pushing it through some machines and tweaking some buttons and knobs it makes it more real because the vocal producer says so...

    I understand that albums of all levels have producers and engineers that work to get the sound right, but that takes it to the extreme of removing all elements of humanity.
  • edited July 2012
    Really? Did you hate Boston in the 70s ("Better music through science?")
  • In my opinion there is nothing wrong with using the technology of the day if it supplements what the artist is bringing.

    Who could complain about Peter Frampton or Roger Troutmant

    but to build the entire sound piece by piece is something else.

    If I were Bieber, I would be wondering what the hell they need me for if they can just put some Frankenstein shit together.
  • @Daniel - I definitely see a difference between one man laying out every instrument and vocal track separately to create a full band sound that he wants in a studio he built in his basement and what that article describes. Like I said, I understand that albums of all sorts use production and engineering to build a better sound. I have numerous albums in which a single person played all or almost all of the instruments and obviously had to put the tracks together from pieces. But this is describing the opposite - several people working together in order to make one person's vocals actually decent.

    A friend of my wife used to work as a producer. When he helped her out recording some tracks of hers he commented that hers were the only vocals he didn't have to work on with pitch correction and tuning and whatever to make sound right. It still makes me wonder why the other people were making music professionally while my wife was just playing at open mic nights.
  • There was significant editing done to the recorded music. Short sections were spliced together to create longer pieces, and various effects were applied to the recordings.

    - from the Wikipedia entry for Bitches Brew.

    So what's the big deal about this pop music production stuff? It's not particularly my type of music but I hardly find it offensive that they produce it that way. These people are actors who happen to have decent singing voices. Like Sinatra. Like Elvis. So what?
  • Like Sinatra. Like Elvis. So what?
    What if I don't like either? Or Bitches Brew? or Boston?
  • Then don't listen to them. There's plenty of other stuff out there.
  • edited July 2012
    These people are actors who happen to have voices.
    Edited for accuracy. I've already stated my feelings on the fact that production, engineering, mixing, editing, technology, etc. are apart of music period. I've got no problem with that. I do take issue with the fact that "singers" are basically being developed completely separate from the act of singing. The fact that this producer seems completely uninterested in hearing the "singer" sing the song bothers me. It's not the end of the world and I'm certainly not listening to it if I don't like it. But it doesn't change the fact that I see it as harmful to the music industry.

    "Singers" only sing parts of the song at a time to make it easily digested and corrected by producers and algorithms that correct pitch, tune and whatever else. The results are then re-assembled as a hit song with pre-recorded beats. At what point does this become indistinguishable from Milli Vanilli?
  • edited July 2012
    I'll tell you what's wrong with it.

    You pay fifty to a hundred bucks a head to go a show and they can't do this

    Instead, they use flash pots and smoke and half naked dancers and lip syncing and video screens to produce the illusion of being entertained instead of actually providing entertainment.

    That's what's wrong with it.


    Note that she takes her earpiece out at 1:25, ostensibly so she can actually hear herself blow
  • @jUj - That one made my wife come into the room and check out what I was watching. Very nice, I'll have to look her up...
  • He said it made his wife come

  • Lol. And with that I bid thee goodnight.
  • edited July 2012
    OK so I'm a 13 year old

    When you check out of Rachelle Ferrell's stuff might I suggest that you not only forgive me for that last comment but that you check out her song I forgive you

    And yes, she can do it live
  • What if I don't like either? Or Bitches Brew? or Boston?

  • "Okay, Aretha, let's start with the R, and then I was thinking we might do the S and P. Maybe get the two Es and the C after lunch. If you're willing to stay late we could work on the T..."

    I guess the problem here is the vast disconnect between what's being made and what's being sold. Bitches Brew might have been assembled using studio tricks but it was still Miles Davis's creation. Peter Paul Rubens had his assistants do a lot of the actual painting on many of his works, but he did all the preliminary work and finished the painting off, so the painting was "his". Justin Bieber is mostly irrelevant to the creation of something bearing his name. If the product in question was being sold as "the new album by Kuk Harrell" I don't think any of us would have had a problem with how it was made.
  • That's what I meant about actors - they don't write or produce or film or do lighting or serve as key grip or best boy, and their performance is spliced together from myriad takes, but they still get their face on the poster, and their name at the top. I guess the only thing that bugs me a little is that the producers and writers and directors of music don't get as much credit as their film counterparts, but that may change, with articles like this.

    And the article seemed to me to say that the key part the vocal producer was looking for actually came from the singer's own voice. I haven't heard much of this music at all, but I do think Rihanna has a very nice voice, and seems to use less auto-tune than "indie" bands like Vampire Weekend.
  • Here is where my sympathy for producers and over-production ends: BIG TIME RUSH.
  • edited July 2012
    Film has always been a wholly "artificial" and non-spontaneous medium, though. A pop song can in theory (and used to in practice) be recorded in a single take, but that's impossible with film. Well, not impossible - it's been done, but really that's not how we perceive films to be made. Whereas the further a pop record gets from spontaneity, the more uncomfortable we might feel about how "real" it is. And although film may be more artificial, there isn't the equivalent of ProTools for actors, the sort of technology that would produce a convincing performance from someone who can't act.

    ETA: As regards actors receiving the main credit for a film, I think it's fair to say that the more prominent an actor is on the poster, the greater the chance that the actor is the main reason the film will have an audience and probably the key contributor to the entertainment value. If people enjoy, say, a movie with Adam Sandler in the lead role it's probably because it's got Adam Sandler doing his thing rather than because the director or writer or key grip is doing a great job (even if they did a great job). Whereas with your average pop song it seems like the bulk of the creative input is coming from the producer and writer and although the singer is essential for the selling of the song, the song in of itself could very well have equal value (in as much as these things can be quantified) with another vocalist.
  • edited July 2012
    Re: Justin Bieber:
    I wouldn't be surprised if he in forty years time would be on some stage in Las Vegas singing "I did it my way" and will be regarded as one of the greatest singers from his generation.
    - I guess what I'm trying to say is that no producer with the most advanced technology can do anything without either talent or personality in the source material.
  • I guess what I'm trying to say is that no producer with the most advanced technology can do anything without either talent or personality in the source material.
    But this is getting close to "monkeys writing Shakespeare" territory (which I guess they could do with a dictionary and an army of editors).
Sign In or Register to comment.