Nur Ein XVI: Round Two "Drag Me Around"

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Jerkatorium
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Two "Drag Me Around"

Post by Jerkatorium »

Geech wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 10:41 am
Dear Jerks - BSS with "the most boring and repetitive chorus I've heard in a long time". Well, I didn't intend to go that far with it, but I was surprised that you didn't make the leap to connect the repetition with the title and and theme of the lyrics. Oh, poor me, another misunderstood artist.
Oh dammit you're exactly right and I apologize. I know we claimed to critique these as standalone songs, but then we gave everyone a pass on the field recordings and I completely forgot about the Round 0 repetition challenge. I should have put some more thought into that, and I'm sorry.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Two "Drag Me Around"

Post by Geech »

Jerkatorium wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 11:00 am
Geech wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 10:41 am
Dear Jerks - BSS with "the most boring and repetitive chorus I've heard in a long time". Well, I didn't intend to go that far with it, but I was surprised that you didn't make the leap to connect the repetition with the title and and theme of the lyrics. Oh, poor me, another misunderstood artist.
Oh dammit you're exactly right and I apologize. I know we claimed to critique these as standalone songs, but then we gave everyone a pass on the field recordings and I completely forgot about the Round 0 repetition challenge. I should have put some more thought into that, and I'm sorry.
There's that and in our song, the narrator is routinely ignored and repeatedly brought places and to doing things they don't want to do. The repetition of the chorus was intended to help convey this.

This doesn't justify a bad song, though, I know.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Two "Drag Me Around"

Post by Cybronica »

Chumpy wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:09 am
The Jerks have returned with a podcast, where we review all the songs for the Nur Ein XVI Round Two!

[*]00:59:16 - Mandibles

Hope ya enjoy your just rewards!
Thank you for the thoughtful reviews! I appreciate that Ryan got what the song was about, and also that it’s an odd thing to write a song about. We were trying to go from our semiprecious, where the song is from the POV of a musician who just can’t make it, to pareidolia, where we have an unfulfilled office worker. It was a hard bridge to cross.

I wanted to make a correction- I’m not on lead vocals here. That’s Estaphonia, our other female vocalist. I am doing the backing vocals though!
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Two "Drag Me Around"

Post by iVeg »

Thanks for reviews everyone. I *AM* still working on Round 0's "Lord of the Rigs" messterpiece. Barely.

"Farting Motorcycle Noise" was a low bass fuzz/ sweep synth. But not the usual sub-bass that I go to. I needed something with a bit more character, due to running out of time/ whole notes bass part. An octave up was too smooth/ boring. Some other parameters made it even worse. So it was a conscious decision - the best thing I had at that time. Played by itself through headphones it's this amazing growly snarly thing down to B1, but I was below that.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Two "Drag Me Around"

Post by arby »

Chumpy wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:09 am
The Jerks have returned with a podcast, where we review all the songs for the Nur Ein XVI Round Two! Hope ya enjoy your just rewards!
OMG! So glad the Jerks are back!! Thank you so much for the review!! First of all, that is me singing (Brookes, of Lucky Witch). Secondly, you have given me one of the greatest compliments EVER in my LIFE by comparing my singing to Brian Wilson!!! I am a HUGE Beach Boys fan in general and Wilson in particular, so that is truly amazing and I'm super chuffed. Thirdly, yes, Omni seems to be a rather polarizing instrument in that people either love it or hate it. Haha! Of course I love it and the high-pitched frequencies don't bother me in the slightest. To be honest I don't even notice the absence of low end, I only put drums when I feel like it will make the song more palatable to other people. BUT as you (totally fairly and correctly) pointed out, I often have timing issues, so sometimes I feel like adding drums just makes those more obvious :( . I don't even think about adding bass unless someone else is here to play it, because I don't know how to play bass and adding it in Garageband just sounds super fake. Normally Nivs plays bass for me but for this Nur Ein it's obviously problematic considering he's a judge.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Two "Drag Me Around"

Post by crumpart »

IMO, playing bass is pretty fun. You should give it a crack. The first time I played bass on a Songfight track I had to google “how to play bass”. In retrospect, I probably should have also googled “what is bass for?”

I still need to pull up a chart of the notes up the neck every time I record, but I think I’m getting better at it. I also sometimes do midi bass with a keyboard depending on the song.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Two "Drag Me Around"

Post by BoffoYux »

iVeg wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 7:42 pm
Thanks for reviews everyone. I *AM* still working on Round 0's "Lord of the Rigs" messterpiece. Barely.
Remind me when your 'Nein' songs are finished, and I'll play them during the Nur Ein LPs as shadows.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Two "Drag Me Around"

Post by thirdcatmusic »

thanks to two jerks for doing the podcast, it makes it a lot more interesting doing this when there's something like that to go with it. I don't think I'm gonna do reviews for this one since it's already on to the next one. but I liked ever kenieval (especially the verse) and the lowest bitter tracks quite a bit.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Two "Drag Me Around"

Post by governingdynamics »

Cybronica wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 10:22 am
Governing Dynamics: your voice is so pressed in the chorus. It goes beyond the effect you’re going for and wanders over to possible vocal damage territory. I get more concerned at the end with the soaring vocals, which it a fab melodic line, but I’m concerned about how you’re singing it. The bridge sounds like you’re going for a falsetto voice, but instead putting on a faux whisper that strains your voice. This is a different from your other songs I’ve heard- it seems you went to the wrong extreme on your regular vocal delivery.
I'm.. puzzled. Other than at the final chorus (which is pretty much at the very top of what I should ever even attempt to sing in full voice, I admit, and then I sang it about 30 times trying to decide on exact melody and phrasing) I wasn't particularly straining or feeling fatigue on the vocals. I did have a pretty bad allergy week and was working with a little less lung capacity than usual. Between that and Pareidolia I needed a break and stayed pretty mid-registe until the Big Ending. Anyway I assume the vocals ruined the whole thing for you, sorry about that.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Two "Drag Me Around"

Post by governingdynamics »

Chumpy wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:09 am

[*]00:39:37 - Governing Dynamics

Hope ya enjoy your just rewards!
Thanks for amending to top four so you could include me Chumpy :D

And I appreciate some comment on lyrics and the craft that goes into that. When I do reviews (which I haven't at all for any of the recent entries, sorry everyone, maybe I'll get to it eventually) I know lyrics can be hard to comment on but it seems weird how little it's mentioned in what is ostensibly a songwriting contest. So far about the most I've got before this is "whiny" which doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Maybe I listened to too much Dashboard Confessional in the olden days. Anyway! Thanks for taking the time and effort to dig a bit.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Two "Drag Me Around"

Post by JonPorobil »

Hi everyone! I'm sorry I dropped the ball on reviews last week. Here are the belated "Drag Me Around" reviews.

Balance Lost - I appreciate that you bridged the songs backward, which was an approach to the challenge that I hadn't thought of! (I assumed that the sequence of songs would be "Semiprecious," "Drag Me Around," "Pareidolia" in all cases.) I unfortunately didn't have time to give this a close enough listen to piece the narrative together, so I'm not sure if your take goes beyond the musical intro-outro. As for how this stands as a piece unto itself, I do like it, but I think the intro-outro noodling sort of took the place of your usual melodic panache, because it feels like this is missing something compared to other Balance Lost songs I've enjoyed better.


Berkeley Social Scene - It was pretty clear to me how this connected to your "Pareidolia," but I didn't get the connection to your "Semiprecious" until I read your liner notes. Honestly, I think it's a bit of a stretch, but hey, credit for effort. You had one of the harder pairs of songs to find a link between. You're rocking kind of a bar band vibe on this one, and it's a little more ramshackle than some previous BSS songs. I think the lead vocal is either a touch too high in the mix, or needs a little bit of EQ tamping, because it sticks out a little too much. I recommend that very cautiously, because it's at least as common to hear songs where the lead vocal gets buried, and you don't want to overcompensate, but it's tough for me to focus on where the music is guiding my ear behind the vocals at some points in the song. I also think the lead vocal lands flat on several notes in the verse, which isn't helping matters. Also, when I listen on headphones, I hear a few spots where something was cut for an edit. Most notably it sounds like the drum part is clipped between the first chorus and second verse. This wasn't apparent to me when I was listening on my studio monitors or car speakers, so it didn't factor into my rankings, but if you want to revisit this song later, that's something to look at in the mix.


Brown Word and the Big Whine - I like your approach to the lyrics. Your verse melody works great, and the chorus appropriately kicks into high gear. Did you actually increase the tempo during that chorus, or does it just feel that way due to the arrangement? The biggest problem with this song is the mix. Your previous two songs also had some mix issues, but that didn't stop me from loving them. This one's a different beast, I'm afraid. The guitar and the piano sound like they're from two different songs, and then the vocals on top have that "karaoke" feel that we all dread. I think the problem might be that everything is a little too dry. It's true that mixing is more art than science, so there's no one best way to fix this mix, but I have some suggestions you could experiment with. For the vocals, I think either adding a delay or increasing the one you have already (if you have one already; I honestly couldn't tell) would give you some presence that would suit the song's tone well. On a lot of my songs, I use one "slapback" delay that's set to like 100ms or 150ms and mixed pretty low throughout the whole vocal, and then a second delay synced to the tempo at quartner-note intervals, and I keep that barely-audible, but use automation to pump it up when there's a gap in the vocal melody. And then on top of that, some reverb too. I also think the guitar needs a little (or maybe a little more) reverb (but not the same as the vocal), and the piano needs, either yet another reverb, or some sustain pedal, or possibly a subtle delay effect, or maybe all three. Now, I get that this whole suggested effects chain may turn out to be overkill in this mix, but it's worth playing around with, because if you can get your ambitious arrangements to gel better in the mix, I really think you could go far this year.


Budget Bears - I like how you took the outro from "Semiprecious" and turned it into your intro for this week. I know it seems obvious given the wording of the challenge, but your "Semiprecious" ending was creative and lended itself to this. I feel like the vocal is a little shakier than usual for you. It's possible this was an intentional style choice on your part, but it sounds like you just didn't have time to nail it down. The outro segue into "Pareidolia" wasn't as effective as the intro segue, in my opinion. The lyrics totally fit both songs, though!


Cavedwellers - I read your liner notes and almost immediately gave up on trying to follow the specifics. This feels like Coheed & Cambria, where I know there's a decently well-thought-out story undergirding the songs, but I enjoy it a lot more if I make the choice not to worry about following the thread. You've more than earned the benefit of the doubt and my faith that you know what you're doing. One connective element I can't help but notice and appreciate is the factory/machinery noise percussion element. This song contains one of your best vocal performances that I've heard, and that "Shut it down / shut it down" chorus is one of the strongest hooks of the week. This one benefitted, probably the most of the round, from repeated listens.


Ever Kenievel - Do you guys watch Adam Neely videos? He did one recently where he was giving feedback to someone who'd submitted a metal piece, and he said "So the moral of the story—and I really, REALLY hate to say this—is... [sigh] I think you could turn the guitar up in the mix." So yeah, here's my "turn the guitars up" moment for you guys: I think you should make the pitch correction more conspicuous. The synth pop vibe here is already so saccharine and the melody so stop-and-start that, for once in my life, I think that "way too much Autotune" sound might actually be what this song needs. Mark your calendars; I've no idea when I'll ever say that again. Moving on... I get that the short-stopping clipped delivery on "Drag me around" was a style choice, but I'm finding it hard to get into. It's possible that it would work better for me if the lead vocal were blended a bit better into the mix. Similar to the advice I gave Brown Word earlier, I think you've got that "karaoke" effect, where the voice is sitting uncomfortably on top of the mix and not blending. I think what it comes down to is, you're mixing your voice in the same way that you typically do for a rock song, and it needs a different treatment here. I also think that adding a vocal delay (or turning it up, if you already have one here, since I can't hear it!) would help fill the space in the vocal melody that I was complaining about earlier.


Governing Dynamics - Long running times are a consistent issue with your songs, and this one is no exception. I really think this would have more impact if you'd been able to trim it judiciously. And for the record, I don't just look at the timestamp and say "Whoops, you crossed the arbitrary magic number and now your song is officially too long." I say this because some time around 3:00 in most of your songs, I find myself looking at the time marker and wondering how much is left. So how do we tackle that? I'll start by acknowledging that maybe you just don't. You could simply decide "I don't make songs for Jon, so I'm not going to change a thing." And that's okay! No hard feelings. But if you want to tackle my complaint, there are a few approaches to consider. You can change things up from verse to verse or section to section so that the song doesn't feel its length. You can add or remove instruments. Change the playing patterns on the existing instruments in the arrangement (I noticed that you did this, actually! You played longer held notes in the second verse and added that octave vocal, but I think the effect was dampened by your busy verse melody). You could cut sections out entirely—for instance, does this song need a prechorus? Or that eight bar instrumental lead-in to the bridge? Or maybe the third verse could be shortened or skipped? I'll pivot for a moment, though, to what is working here, which for me is the ending. When I did my little intro in the "Starting Line" thread a few weeks ago, I wrote:
I wrote: Consider especially whether there's a part in the structure where you as a vocalist can really let loose and belt out the lyrics. Not every song will have this kind of opportunity, but seek them out!
Now let's take a look at what happens around 3:45 of your song. "I shouldn't let you drag MEEEEEEEEEEEE!" I also really like how, just a couple of iterations later, you have that lead vocal hit the high note on "Aro-o-o-ound!" and follow that little pentatonic run down. This is exactly the kind of thing I was thinking about when I wrote that part of my judge intro post. That moment when you, as a singer-songwriter, allow yourself to get swept up in the climax of your song. I love this part! I guess my biggest complaint (other than the fact that you don't consistently hit those notes) is that it feels to me like it's a long road to get to this satisfying ending. Obviously you can't just skip straight to the ending, but I think this could be a leaner and better song at around the 3:45-4:00 mark with some smart editing.

Grumpy Mike - It's possible to work with fake instruments and make it sound like a style unto itself. You yourself have done that in the past a lot. Unfortunately, I think this one misses the mark. I'm not sure what special sauce is missing that makes the fake instruments sound annoying instead of charming, but that's where we're at. I can hear a good song hiding under this mix and arrangement. I like the structure of the verse lyrics, with a clever turnaround in almost every line. I'd love to hear a bit of Cab Calloway style call-and-response on the "They've been" part. I'm imagining you singing "They've been!" and a chorus of baritones and basses repeating "They've been!" And then you sing "Dragging me around" and the backup singers come in a bar later with "Dragging him around," etc. That's one possible approach, anyway. As far as challenge goes, you set it up nicely, and I find it surprisingly satisfying to see how the creepy collector character from "Semiprecious" managed to break the cycle and have his moment of self-reflection. Your liner notes say that you've bridged the two entries "both lyrically and sonically," which is bizarre because that was the original suggested verbiage of the challenge before we shortened it. I 100% get how your lyrics bridge the previous two songs, but I confess that I'm not hearing how this connects those two musically. Not that it matters much to me, I'm happy to give you full credit for your take on the challenge. But the arrangement and mix is holding you back on this one.


Heid - I was surprised when I read the liner notes on this to hear that it takes place after your "Semiprecious." I assumed that your intended sequence was "Pareidolia," "Drag Me Around," then "Semiprecious." I think maybe I had that impression because "Semiprecious" seemed to be from the point of view of someone who'd already processed the home abuse and had already made the decision not to return home again. I do appreciate the complex emotional narrative of being basically re-traumatized and reflecting on all that. From a musical and mix standpoint, I have no complaints. I really feel the head-bobbing groove when it kicks into double-time for the "Fine, mother, fine" part. Everything here works, but your lyrics are the strongest suit of all; I find your specificity and emotional vulnerability awe-inspiring. I know this kind of writing can be emotionally exhausting, so I hope you can keep this up!


Hot Pink Halo - I like the lyrical approach to this, but the mix isn't working. You have a similar problem to Berkeley Social Scene this week; the lead vocal is a little TOO present in the mix. I'd recommend very cautiously either turning the fader down, or investigating the EQ of your vocal track for a spot that you might be able to lower without sacrificing the character of your voice. The other complaint I have, and I think this might be the one that regrettably got you cut in the end, is that the background vocal just isn't tight. There are spots in the song where it sounds like the harmony line is searching around for the right note before it lands there. I really do appreciate this as a link between your previous two songs. I think functionally it's stronger as a prelude to "Pareidolia" than as a sequel to "Semiprecious," but that might be because I liked your "Pareidolia" better than your "Semiprecious." Ah well. It's a pity you got the axe.


The Lowest Bitter - I really like the groove in your intro, with the sweepy synth and the choppy guitar part. But I think you had some trouble with your verse melody - the vocals seem to be wandering in and out of key. If I had to diagnose the root cause, my guess would be that you wrote your vocal melody separately from writing the instrumentaion, and either didn't notice that they didn't fit very well or maybe by the time you noticed it was too late to fix it. The effect isn't super-unpleasant to listen to - we're not talking nails-on-chalkboard here - but it does mean I basically bounce off this, because the pieces not fitting together well keep this from being memorable to me.


Mandibles - I really like this old-timey style of songwriting. Even the choices of which states and cities you name-check have a Vaudeville feel to them, Peoria, Duluth, Chatanooga, etc. The rhymes are clever and the lyrics do a fine job of bridging the two songs. I have to say that the vocal is the weak link here, drifting around some of these complicated melodic turns. Listen really closely to the first line of the song, and how the vocal bends around the last syllable of "Kentucky." It starts off okay, then wanders sharp. There are little examples like that throughout the song. I also... Look, I know you're probably both tired of hearing "opera-style," when you're doing a lot to tamp down your opera-vocal instincts, but there's a rigid formality to the vocal performance here that doesn't suit the subject matter. It has a vibe similar to Pat Boone singing Elvis; I'd like to hear some more soul in here.


Max Bombast - Your guitars, as usual, are the song's strongest suit. Those are some sicknasty bends! I hear some musical elements connecting this song's intro to your "Semiprecious" and, much more obviously, the outro to your "Pareidolia," but I don't get how (if at all) the lyrics connect to those two songs. More importantly, and I'm sorry about this, but the falsetto voice was not working on me. Your voice normally has a natural musicality to it. I know that it's not genuinely effortless, but at your best you really make it sound effortless. Here these verses sound strained in a way that inhibited my enjoyment.


Moss Palace - For your "Semiprecious" I really shouted from the mountaintop how much I appreciated hearing Erin push her vocals in a more aggressive genre and how this seems to have kind of "broken the barrier" and gotten a level of power I felt had been missing. So it stands to reason that you'd at least make an effort to bottle that lightning again when explicitly trying to bridge "Semiprecious" to your "Pareidolia." In this judge's opinion, you rose to the occasion once more. This more prog-rock style was not the obvious direction to head, but it fits well and I love the musicality here. Especially those triplets with the organ stab chords. As a stylistic choice, I wanted less distortion on Erin's voice, as I felt like the distortion got in the way of the emotionality of the performance. Everything else about this mix works, as far as I'm concerned, and this is more top-notch work that both showcases your professional chops and pushes you out of your comfort zone.


Nick Soma - In reviewing your "Pareidolia," I said this:
I wrote: On the positive side - I'm pretty sure you set yourself up really well for the round 2 challenge! It makes a lot of sense that this song's narrator could be the same as the narrator of your "Semiprecious."
I was more right than I could have known. This challenge brought out the best in you. I hear the lyrical connection to both songs and the musical themes of both so clearly, only they've been improved upon here, possibly due to two weeks of getting more comfortable with the musical ideas. The pounding drums in the first half evoke your "Semiprecious," but with what feels like more confidence and purpose. When you get to "My shield's been destroyed / I blankly stare into the void," I had the briefest moment of "Where have I heard that progression before?" until it clicked that you were calling back to the prechorus of your "Pareidolia," slowed down and transposed a bit, but sounding almost iconic here. You did the best job with the challenge this round, in my opinion, and it resulted in a song brimming with urgency, purpose, story, and drama, buoyed by great performances and your best mix of the year so far. Sorry if I've been a bit tough on you so far this year, but welcome back to the top.


see-man-ski - I read your liner notes to get the explanation of how this song addresses the challenge, and I accept your explanation, but I'm going to level with you - I never would have figured that out without the explanation. The arrangement and performance work as well as they can here, but I'd like to hear some more darkness in the mix - plate reverbs with low reflections, some delays with high feedback levels, a little distortion here and there... As a matter of fact, listen to Third Cat's entry right after yours, and hear how they used delay and reverb to "smear" and "darken" parts of the mix. They made it moody and atmospheric in a way that I think would have benefitted this immensely.


Third Cat - To be honest, I was surprised to see this one shake out at the very bottom of the list. But then I realized, though I didn't remember it being that bad, I was struggling to remember it at all. I'm listening again and trying to figure why that is. The chorus is hooky enough, but I think the verse melody isn't as strong as it could be. Sounds like your voice is mostly hanging around a fixed point waiting to get to the "Drag Me Around" part. And then there's a transition to another part of the song (or rather, a transition to your "Pareidolia"), a fade that's a little too abrupt


WreckdoM - Don't let the haters drag you down. This is quintessentially WreckdoM, and the talk-sing vocal delivery is one of the best things about it. I also really like the texture that the trumpet adds to it. When the verses transition into the chorus and the lead vocal switches to more of a sung mode, it gets a little shakier, but there's no one in in the hole world quite like WreckdoM.


Crown Shy - This didn't hit my sweet spot as well as some of the other judges', but I really appreciate what you were going for here. I especially love the line "Is it useful to be pretty?" Your lyrics often have a trenchant specificity, and your vocals never let your lyrics down.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Two "Drag Me Around"

Post by Cybronica »

governingdynamics wrote:
Tue Jun 08, 2021 12:42 pm
Cybronica wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 10:22 am
Governing Dynamics: (…)
I'm.. puzzled. Other than at the final chorus (which is pretty much at the very top of what I should ever even attempt to sing in full voice, I admit, and then I sang it about 30 times trying to decide on exact melody and phrasing) I wasn't particularly straining or feeling fatigue on the vocals. I did have a pretty bad allergy week and was working with a little less lung capacity than usual. Between that and Pareidolia I needed a break and stayed pretty mid-registe until the Big Ending. Anyway I assume the vocals ruined the whole thing for you, sorry about that.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that I think this song is bad. Rereading what I wrote, I totally see how that came across- my b. I do really like the laid back relaxed flow and how well you matched the timbres across your instruments, and as the jerks said, your lyrics’ internal rhymes were on point. Seeing your reply, I absolutely was responding to the allergies. That explains the change in your voice I was hearing- ever so slightly breather and less present. My brain heard a shift in vocal timbre and it flipped back into voice teacher mode lol. The good news is since the cause is environmental and not technical, my fear that you’ll damage your instrument is assuaged. I get jumpy when it sound like singers are going to hurt themselves, especially singer I like.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Two "Drag Me Around"

Post by governingdynamics »

JonPorobil wrote:
Tue Jun 08, 2021 8:17 pm

Governing Dynamics - Long running times are a consistent issue with your songs, and this one is no exception. I really think this would have more impact if you'd been able to trim it judiciously. And for the record, I don't just look at the timestamp and say "Whoops, you crossed the arbitrary magic number and now your song is officially too long." I say this because some time around 3:00 in most of your songs, I find myself looking at the time marker and wondering how much is left. So how do we tackle that? I'll start by acknowledging that maybe you just don't. You could simply decide "I don't make songs for Jon, so I'm not going to change a thing." And that's okay! No hard feelings. But if you want to tackle my complaint, there are a few approaches to consider. You can change things up from verse to verse or section to section so that the song doesn't feel its length. You can add or remove instruments. Change the playing patterns on the existing instruments in the arrangement (I noticed that you did this, actually! You played longer held notes in the second verse and added that octave vocal, but I think the effect was dampened by your busy verse melody). You could cut sections out entirely—for instance, does this song need a prechorus? Or that eight bar instrumental lead-in to the bridge? Or maybe the third verse could be shortened or skipped? I'll pivot for a moment, though, to what is working here, which for me is the ending. When I did my little intro in the "Starting Line" thread a few weeks ago, I wrote:
I wrote: Consider especially whether there's a part in the structure where you as a vocalist can really let loose and belt out the lyrics. Not every song will have this kind of opportunity, but seek them out!
Now let's take a look at what happens around 3:45 of your song. "I shouldn't let you drag MEEEEEEEEEEEE!" I also really like how, just a couple of iterations later, you have that lead vocal hit the high note on "Aro-o-o-ound!" and follow that little pentatonic run down. This is exactly the kind of thing I was thinking about when I wrote that part of my judge intro post. That moment when you, as a singer-songwriter, allow yourself to get swept up in the climax of your song. I love this part! I guess my biggest complaint (other than the fact that you don't consistently hit those notes) is that it feels to me like it's a long road to get to this satisfying ending. Obviously you can't just skip straight to the ending, but I think this could be a leaner and better song at around the 3:45-4:00 mark with some smart editing.
(second try responding because I got hit by the accursed login bug the first time)
Well, it's mostly going to be "I don't write songs for Jon" ;p

But seriously I appreciate the advice. I will say I do most of this already, maybe not judiciously enough. Long runtime has been an issue for the entirety of my amateur internet songwriting career. I used to regularly hit 6 minutes, generally because I liked super long intros, instrumental sections and too many verses. Just want to point out that I ask these questions but maybe don't come up with the same answers

I am not sure if the examples you gave were supposed to be song specific but for example:

Does this song need a prechorus? In my estimation yes. Another thing I have heard a lot over the years is "I can't tell the verses and chorus apart" and I thought that was likely to happen here when I tried non-prechorus style. I will say I wanted to shorten one of the prechoruses but I couldn't figure out the lyrics. When I inevitably re-write this later I'll probably revisit that.

eight bar instrumental lead-in to the bridge? I admit four bars might have worked - skipping right to the vocal didn't to my ear. I kind of wanted the 12-string part to play without anything over it once because, well, I liked it (That progression/part was almost the basis for a whole song when I was workshopping early in the week). I did try to make the second time through pop a little using the "add/remove instrument" hack via a lead gtr fill.

could the third verse be skipped? This is why I thought maybe this was general feedback. There is no third verse? I avoid them because they make songs TOO LONG! ;)

Not that they're judges but the Jerks' feedback goes to show how subjective these things are. They really liked my verses, you found them busy. They thought the length was justified and I'm guess you were bored around mid second chorus. It is what it is.

Thanks for the reviews!
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