Why Pop Music SUCKS Today in Two Words… Well, Maybe One Word…
February 26, 2013 by GoofyDawg
You probably know what they are: Autotune and Compression.
But for me, the overuse of compression is the most heinous offense to pop music; way more so than autotune ever will be. Before I go on, check out this video of Adele singing “Skyfall” at the Oscars this past Sunday:
Did you notice that when she’d the chorus her volume actually went down? That wasn’t just her vocal volume relative to the whole orchestra coming into play; that was compression and a limiter to prevent her volume from going past a certain point. Not to mention it was also a really shitty job of compression and limiting at that. Wrote Rolling Stone about the performance: “Adele’s vocals sounded low in the mix at first, but she turned on the power as her theme song from last year’s James Bond film built to a crashing finale.”
The song as a whole was a mushy, over-produced disaster that was – at least to me – an absolute insult to one of the true power-voices in pop today. I’m not really a fan of Adele, but if I were her and I listened to that performance after the fact, I’d be pissed!
When I hear a production like that, I immediately think that the sound engineer was simply playing god. But it’s not just this particular performance. Almost all the pop songs we hear today are simply solid walls of sound with no dynamics. It’s an assault on the ears!
Admittedly, most of the public just can’t tell the difference because a lot of this has to do with the compression that comes along with MP3s. Then on top of that, you don’t hear any of the big names speaking out against this lack of dynamics. It’s uncanny and inexplicable, really.
But then again, with the music industry execs, things like dynamics and delivering a quality product don’t seem to matter to them. They’re just looking for catchy tunes that will fill their pockets. Why would they care about their packaging as long as the stuff sells, right?
To me it’s a damn shame.
For all you aspiring sound engineers out there: It’s easy to balance a mix by throwing a lot of compression and limiters on it. It requires absolutely no thought, and it certainly makes your life easier. But I think the truest testament to your skill would be to engineer a dynamic mix where you have to constantly work. I’ve observed lots of front-of-house guys over the years. Most just sit on their asses and make an occasional tweak. But the best ones I’ve seen are the ones who have their hands on the controls all the time, working the dynamics, and the results they produce are spectacular. So who do you want to be? Lazy asshole or freakin’ audio wizard? It takes a lot more effort to be a wizard…