Remember that one time? (I Used To Know You Better Reviews)

Discuss upcoming, current, and previous song fights.
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Re: Remember that one time? (I Used To Know You Better Reviews)

Post by owl » Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:47 pm

Better late than never! I'm back from vacation and finally finished these up. It takes a long time (for me) to actively listen to 23 songs and formulate opinions about them and then write all the opinions down! This time I started at the beginning and end of the alphabet and worked my way inwards, so the people in the middle of the alphabet are the ones getting short shrift as far as review-attention goes. In other words, miscellaneous owl, you're SCREWED!

Absolutely Credible: I really like almost every individual piece of this song, but I think it would have worked better as 2-3 separate songs instead of 1 combined--I kind of felt like I had whiplash when you went back and forth from part to part and it was just slightly too much veering around for me. (I mean, I did essentially the same type of thing in my song, so I approve of it in theory at least.) Ambitious and interesting though! I wasn't really feeling the vocals stylistically, although they're objectively good. Musically, I adore the parts with the organ, the descending triplet bit especially, and the jangly acoustic guitar stuff is really tasty too.

Asteroids 57801-57900: Lots of energy to this one! I'm not a huge fan of the ultra-crunchy bass tone and I feel kind of fatigued from the nonstop drums (aka "lots of energy," ope) and general lack of dynamics--the little breakdown at 2:10 felt really welcome! Even if the music does work well stylistically for the dystopian lyrics, it's just not really to my personal tastes. I quite liked the lyrics--ironically, particularly the ones I couldn't understand without looking at them written down--the robot voice bits are terse yet cinematic. I do think the (non-processed) vocals feel generally too clean and nice for the style of instrumentation; I would have liked them dirtied up and buried a bit more.

Balance Lost: Great intro! I absolutely love the sound of the lo-fi drums and guitars in this, they feel very warm and familiar and nostalgic. I was a little let down when this got into the verse because the vocal melody and timing felt maddeningly loose and meandering to me--maybe that's a consequence of the time signature? But it was hard to get into for me because of that, and I didn't love the chorus enough to make up for the super-wandering verse melody. I thought all the instrumental stuff and the production was lovely, the high synth above those chiming guitars is so pretty!

Berkeley Social Scene: I like the slow build into the beginning of the verse with the bubbling synths. It's unfortunate that you guys come exactly after Balance Lost alphabetically, because I have basically the same main complaint about your song--the verse vocal seems like it just kind of vaguely wanders around, and that's kind of a letdown when the rest of the song sounds so tightly crafted in comparison. I like that high repeating guitar figure in the verses, and the pre-chorus guitar riffs, and the chorus handclaps and call-and-response guitars feel triumphant and satisfying.

Cheeky Pants: This is nice to listen to, it has a kind of 90's, Lilith Fair-type feel to it which is 100% my jam, but really doesn't feel quite finished and it's a bit repetitive, with not enough content in the lyrics to hold it up. Lush harmonies, but the lead vocal feels too quiet and processed and thin compared to the backing vocals.

The Cow Exchange: I'm still allergic to those highly processed modern vocals. I had almost the exact opposite reaction to this song as Vom Vorton, my absolute favorite part of this song was those weird, soaring key shift intervals but I wasn't into the production. I love the combination of personal, intimate scenes and disturbing imagery in the lyrics and there are lots of catchy hooks in the melody here, but I just have some genre bias issues with the general sound of the song.

Darkanon Viva: Cool organ intro, the main riff is catchy but ends up feeling repetitive very quickly. The mix is really odd, vocals seem super buried and the whole thing feels kind of weirdly muffled. Not a big fan of the vocals, particularly the falsetto parts, which sound oddly jokey. Structurally, it doesn't feel done--I think this would have benefitted from another part and a change in dynamics--the chorus and verse are clearly distinguishable but they don't really feel different. I like the sound of the synth part at the outro fade-out, wish that lasted longer. Anyway, clearly you have fans who like what you're doing, so congrats and I guess that means you don't have to listen to me or the haters telling you to trim the 2 minutes of silence off the end of your track!

Future Boy: I think this was probably my favorite song of the fight, it's earnest and personal and self-consciously, self-referentially clever at the same time, and I'm a sucker for that type of thing--I really like the content of the lyrics, particularly the bridge lines about filling your shelf with books about compassion, and the last line, which I thought was really affecting and memorable. The melody is pleasing (although yes, it feels predictable as other people have mentioned). The skittery beat and orchestra-hit-sounding drum fills are a nice contrast to the slower, vulnerable-sounding vocals. The vocals feel a bit like they're sitting on top of the mix, but that's my only complaint as far as the production, I generally liked the sound of the song.

gizo vs. the 17,455: I don't love the sound of that distorted guitar lead, it seems abrasive yet also strangely smol, so it's kind of distracting on the whole (particularly a few notes you hit that seemed accidental) although I think the way it works with the other guitar is cool in theory. I do really like your vocal delivery, I think it works great for this song, and the acoustic guitar sounds great as well--the riff gives it a lot of forward movement while keeping a generally languid Pavementy feeling to the tune. Lyrically, this was kind of a mixed bag for me--the standout lyric to me is the Barlow/Lowenstein line, but I don't get "I could've shown you all the bad things that you bought on you" means. The pauses in the outro lines before "you" and "me" are memorable. I enjoyed the song, though, it felt like a song that meant something to you and not just a writing exercise.

Glenn Case: Really enjoyed this one, the acoustic guitar part is catchy and compelling and I like the way you syncopate your lyrics with the rhythm of the instruments in the verse. The sea of chord changes in the prechorus is musically complex and interesting but also gives it a jazzy feel that isn't my favorite part of the song, because I am a simple woman with simple tastes. The mix and arrangement all sounds clear and lovely, and I particularly liked the lyrics "you hold your tongue and you bite your lip."

Hot Pink Halo: Those big guitar strums are really interesting-sounding, I wondered at first if it was an autoharp or Omnichord or something. New mic sounds nice, your vocals are much clearer! I think the melody drags a bit and the execution is pretty loose in general, which might have worked better with a more stream-of-consciousness, melodically varied vocal, but I think if you're going for repetitive minimalist vocals, it might be good to get the whole production tighter to highlight the deliberate changes in lyrics. I like the arrangement of the layers where you have lots of harmonies coming in (particularly like the line "just a world with a hole in it" with all the vocals stacked up there) but I do think the vocal layers and melodies should be tighter to pull that off. There is some whispering or something that isn't really working for me, it just gives a general impression of chaos. I think with some tweaks, in terms of arrangement and general sound, I could imagine this song going in either a Neutral Milk Hotel explosion-of-exuberant-energy direction (if you lean into the horns and speed it up/make the melodies a bit poppier) or a hypnotic krautrock kind of direction (with a motorik drumbeat and tighter execution), right now it's neither here nor there.

James Owens: Nicely executed folksong--unlike some of the other reviewers, I don't have a particular issue in this genre with songs that tread familiar musical ground. The simplicity of the lyrics and gentle delivery reminds me of some Cat Stevens songs. The synths add some interesting movement but I don't think the song needs them, and perhaps it would have sounded a bit more timeless with just vox and guitar, or some other acoustic instrument--it walks the edge of sounding dated. I liked it a lot, and didn't notice any particular issue with the long A chord pauses you were mentioning.

Jeff DeSantis: This is very professionally performed, arranged, and produced, but it's so slick, it just feels like a certain brand of polished AOR that leaves me cold, but I think that's totally due to personal biases, I could certainly imagine it getting radio play. I don't find the song itself super memorable, and the rhyme scheme in the verses feels overly simplistic to me, although I like the line lengths. There are a few places where the piano and acoustic guitar are both arpeggiating in a very similar way and they get off from each other just a little (around 1:53, 2:09) which feels a little distracting or messy but otherwise it all sounded very clean and nice. Your voice has a nice slight grit and sadness to it, I liked your vocal performance a lot.

Lichen Throat: The general vibe of this song is a lot more darkly ominous and hypnotic than I think the lyrics would suggest, which is interesting. The single-note guitar line is oddly compelling, although it gets off rhythm, it has a vaguely avant-garde feel to it. I think the lyrics are lovely, sweet and sad and nostalgic (although the "couldn't get much wetter" line felt a bit clunky to me) and really do a beautiful job of painting a picture of a specific place and time and relationship--I much prefer personal, emotional, vivid lyrics like these to the more formal or conceptual ones like your Bleak House songs, although I admired those as a body of work. Seems a lot of people complained about vocal timing in reviews this time around, but honestly I don't think it's too bad pitch or timing-wise... it's not the tightest performance but it's not the worst either, I think it's actually more that the guitar timing issues are compounding the vocal timing issues because when both are a little off then the whole thing sounds really off when they're added together. Composition-wise, aside from the mismatch of mood between music and words, I think I just would have liked more of a change-up, the tune gets very repetitive by the time we're through the third verse.

Lily Plus Martin: Much like Jeff's song, I think this is a very professional, clean-sounding production, it's beautifully performed and your voices are both wonderful, but it doesn't do a whole lot for me as far as personal preferences go. It's moody and dreamy, but I find myself losing interest by the end of the song. I really like the warm, rounded tone of the synth arpeggio that comes in at 1:12ish. I don't care for the slight phaser effect or whatever it is on Lily's voice. The "outside world-proof" lines are interesting in terms of rhythm and melodic progression but they do jump out a little because of that too. What is a caligary soul (am I mishearing that? Don't see it in the written lyrics)

The Magnetic Letters: This made me laugh, although it didn't really make me want to listen to it again. I wasn't really expecting to find it funny from reading through the lyrics before listening, but that "sexy woman with great big enormous brains" bit has made me giggle every time. The falsetto vocal reminded me more of Canned Heat than Curtis Mayfield, and listening to Canned Heat usually makes me want to chew my own leg off to escape. Instrumentally I think it works well for the genre too, though the sax sound takes me out of it a bit and the synth arps don't feel like they particularly fit in. Overall I admire the commitment to the idea!

miscellaneous owl: Lyrically, I think this seems big and political and sweeping, but actually has the most personal details and emotions of any song I've submitted to Song Fight! to date. (Also I just visited the Woody Guthrie museum in Tulsa, OK over the weekend, and it made me happy that I had just written a protest song.) My parents immigrated here about a decade before I was born. I remember my mom getting her American citizenship sometime when I was a kid, after many years in the US, and in the intro, I'm name-checking all the places she lived. I started writing additional notes about the lyrics and what I was trying to convey, but it turned into a rehash of the song so that's kind of pointless, I guess. I will point out a couple of things--the wire mother (experiments done in Madison, where I live!) and the nightingale are both specific allusions, metaphors about a deceptive replacement figure that is materially rich but spiritually poor. The abrupt shift in style and major to minor key after the intro was intended to correspond to the lyrical content and the switch from dreamy naivete and optimism to seeing this nation for the unwelcoming dystopian hellscape that it has become (or maybe always was), hence the disconnect James Owens was complaining about.
crumpart wrote:
Mon Oct 28, 2019 11:39 am
when I initially read through the lyrics I thought "wow, that's a lot of words, how is she going to fit all those words in?"
^^^ Story of my life

Paco del Stinko: I love the guitar riffs and the spooky vibes in this one. The intro is chock full of drama and the left turn into darkness and dissonance at the chorus is cool as hell. The vocal melody didn't particularly grab me this time around, but it's the usual unusual musical extravaganza I've come to expect from you, with plenty of dynamic changes and tight performances.

Phlebia: I love the slow build of this song followed by that epic roaring sound explosion, although maybe it could have gotten to that loud part a wee bit faster. (I feel like writing a 5-minute slowcore dirge + noise song is kind of a bold move in Song Fight, especially in a fight with 23 songs.) Anyway, the ending is so good! Worth the wait. I like the lyrics conceptually, but they move slowly enough that I can't really pay attention to them in real time; the vocals feel more like texture than content. (Also Queensryche has spoiled the word "lucidity" for me forever). Great unsettling mood, this was another one of my favorites.

Slither: The single-strum-of-the-guitar arrangement seems oddly simplistic, doesn't quite work for me... although I like it where the jangly guitar comes in on top of it (although I wish that jangly guitar was louder and the organ stabs were quieter in that part.) It's well performed and mixed, but as usual I wish you had mixed up the vocal style--I feel like that kind of limited-range-talk-singy thing is so distinctive that it has the quality of kind of leveling out any other cool stuff you are doing because the vocal always makes it sound like all your other songs, so they all end up more similar in my mind than they actually are. (In other words, when are we going to get some more of that old-school Smalltown Mike punk screaming?!)

Soulflowsteve: I really like the sound of this, those klaxons are cool and I like the beat and sound of the drums. Reminds me heavily of "Firestarter" by The Prodigy. Better rapping than I usually hear on Songfight--great delivery and rhymes at the beginning of the second verse especially. There are some kind of half-sung parts that don't work so well for me, they sound pretty off-key, and I really don't like the autotuned part, but thankfully there's only a tiny touch of that. Listening closely, there are some parts of the vocals that felt a little rough to me--sounds like Steve is running a little short on breath at the end of verse 2, and the flow seems kind of odd in the "Used to recognize your grip never slipped" verse ("lost SOME feathers," some odd pauses in there, and "other" is cut off in "I'll be the other"), and the accent on the "ly" of "carefulLY" in the penultimate verse was sort of strange. GREAT ending, very dramatic. I think the lyrics are rhythmically well crafted, but in terms of content, they really lean heavily on vague, tell-not-show relationship talk (growing, giving and taking, etc.) and that type of song always feels a little navel-gazey and insular to me.

Third Cat: This has a nice general sound and slightly melancholy mood, but the song itself doesn't really grab me; I wish it had a strong melodic hook or two in either the vocals or the instrumentation, but somehow I feel like every time I listen, it washes over me pleasantly without leaving anything behind. I think my favorite part of this is those doodly synth arps that come in around 1:10, they have a nice, dreamy feel to me.

TOSHIRO: One of my favorites of the fight--I got heavy Cars vibes (particularly "Just What I Needed") more so than "Jessie's Girl"--either way, it's in a genre sweet spot for my tastes. Catchy chorus, cool ending note, I love those "aaah"s and the horns. (FWIW I didn't read the 2nd verse as divorce necessarily, maybe the girl saying no up front and a "here's what could have been"-type reflection on their situation? Anyway, it's hard to make a happy song with a title like this.) I really dig the progression on the "I, I, I"--something about it feels slightly unexpected; it's nice.
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Re: Remember that one time? (I Used To Know You Better Reviews)

Post by AJOwens » Wed Nov 06, 2019 5:41 am

owl wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:47 pm
Better late than never! . . .
It's never too late for reviews!
owl wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:47 pm
James Owens:The synths add some interesting movement but I don't think the song needs them. . . didn't notice any particular issue with the long A chord pause
Thanks. Nobody else here seemed bothered by the long A's either. You're right, I could have gone with just guy 'n' guitar, or used something more organic. But there was the optional challenge! Besides, it was fun messing with the syrupy strings in the MIDI editor.
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Re: Remember that one time? (I Used To Know You Better Reviews)

Post by vowlvom » Wed Nov 06, 2019 7:11 am

Aww I loved the synths and I'm glad they were there! They were definitely a factor in my vote!
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Re: Remember that one time? (I Used To Know You Better Reviews)

Post by gizo » Wed Nov 06, 2019 4:26 pm

owl wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:47 pm
gizo vs. the 17,455: I don't love the sound of that distorted guitar lead, it seems abrasive yet also strangely smol, so it's kind of distracting on the whole (particularly a few notes you hit that seemed accidental) although I think the way it works with the other guitar is cool in theory. I do really like your vocal delivery, I think it works great for this song, and the acoustic guitar sounds great as well--the riff gives it a lot of forward movement while keeping a generally languid Pavementy feeling to the tune. Lyrically, this was kind of a mixed bag for me--the standout lyric to me is the Barlow/Lowenstein line, but I don't get "I could've shown you all the bad things that you bought on you" means. The pauses in the outro lines before "you" and "me" are memorable. I enjoyed the song, though, it felt like a song that meant something to you and not just a writing exercise.
Thank you. I can't argue with any of these comments really. I spent most of the time for this fight trying to shoe-horn an idea about my son growing up into shape, but it just wouldn't fit. Then I briefly considered an idea about meeting your heroes, which led me to the Barlow/Lowenstein line that I built the song around.

Due to the time wasted on false starts, the whole thing was done in one night, and by the time I got to the lead guitar I as tired and sloppy (moreso than usual). Which also explains the 'bought on you line' - essentially this is "i could've shown you what you were doing to yourself" but with a mispronounced 'brought'. I shortened 'yourself' to 'you' because it felt more direct - "YOU did this to YOU".

The whole song is vaguely creating a narrative around having a brilliant comrade who is self-defeating, and imagining the journeys you could have ridden on their coattails. It's actually not about any thing personal to me, although I could probably do some mental gymnastics to make it a song I am singing to myself.

and yeah, I love that riff too. I could play it forever. Best use I've made of a dropped D tuning.

Owl - thanks again for taking the time to reflect on my work (and that of others here). The time and consideration you give us is incredibly generous.
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Re: Remember that one time? (I Used To Know You Better Reviews)

Post by furrypedro » Wed Nov 06, 2019 5:29 pm

owl wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:47 pm
Balance Lost: Great intro! I absolutely love the sound of the lo-fi drums and guitars in this, they feel very warm and familiar and nostalgic...the high synth above those chiming guitars is so pretty!
Thanks for the review. I'm gonna take this opportunity for a bit of shameless self-promotion, but all of the things described above are present in abundance on my bandcamp albums, and mostly in 4/4 so none of that meandering nonsense. And while I'm at it, have you ever heard Water From Your Eyes? Their Long Days, No Dreams album in particular is a wonderful example of lo-fi, boppable tunery.
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Re: Remember that one time? (I Used To Know You Better Reviews)

Post by owl » Thu Nov 07, 2019 1:17 am

furrypedro wrote:
Wed Nov 06, 2019 5:29 pm
owl wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:47 pm
Balance Lost: Great intro! I absolutely love the sound of the lo-fi drums and guitars in this, they feel very warm and familiar and nostalgic...the high synth above those chiming guitars is so pretty!
Thanks for the review. I'm gonna take this opportunity for a bit of shameless self-promotion, but all of the things described above are present in abundance on my bandcamp albums, and mostly in 4/4 so none of that meandering nonsense. And while I'm at it, have you ever heard Water From Your Eyes? Their Long Days, No Dreams album in particular is a wonderful example of lo-fi, boppable tunery.
I believe I have heard of this "Balance Lost" fellow before, but not Water From Your Eyes, I shall explore both catalogs when I have time!
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Re: Remember that one time? (I Used To Know You Better Reviews)

Post by owl » Thu Nov 07, 2019 1:18 am

gizo wrote:
Wed Nov 06, 2019 4:26 pm
Thank you. I can't argue with any of these comments really. I spent most of the time for this fight trying to shoe-horn an idea about my son growing up into shape, but it just wouldn't fit. Then I briefly considered an idea about meeting your heroes, which led me to the Barlow/Lowenstein line that I built the song around.

Due to the time wasted on false starts, the whole thing was done in one night, and by the time I got to the lead guitar I as tired and sloppy (moreso than usual). Which also explains the 'bought on you line' - essentially this is "i could've shown you what you were doing to yourself" but with a mispronounced 'brought'. I shortened 'yourself' to 'you' because it felt more direct - "YOU did this to YOU".

The whole song is vaguely creating a narrative around having a brilliant comrade who is self-defeating, and imagining the journeys you could have ridden on their coattails. It's actually not about any thing personal to me, although I could probably do some mental gymnastics to make it a song I am singing to myself.

and yeah, I love that riff too. I could play it forever. Best use I've made of a dropped D tuning.

Owl - thanks again for taking the time to reflect on my work (and that of others here). The time and consideration you give us is incredibly generous.
thanks for explaining more about your process and song! That all makes sense. I think it is a gift to be able to make songs that aren't actually personal to you but feel that way.
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Re: Remember that one time? (I Used To Know You Better Reviews)

Post by Æpplês&vØdkã » Thu Nov 07, 2019 3:37 pm

Owl: thanks for the kind words! I agree that yeah it was probably a bit of a bold move to submit a slowcore turned noise breakout entry but it was definitely received better than I anticipated. Unrelated, soulflow and I *may* be getting something together again...travel problems caused us to skip out on the last couple fights.

Finally I've had your salty protest song stuck in my head all day. Hoot!
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Re: Remember that one time? (I Used To Know You Better Reviews)

Post by owl » Thu Nov 07, 2019 10:13 pm

Æpplês&vØdkã wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 3:37 pm
Owl: thanks for the kind words! I agree that yeah it was probably a bit of a bold move to submit a slowcore turned noise breakout entry but it was definitely received better than I anticipated. Unrelated, soulflow and I *may* be getting something together again...travel problems caused us to skip out on the last couple fights.

Finally I've had your salty protest song stuck in my head all day. Hoot!
heh, Vom and I submitted essentially a slowcore+noise song in Round 2 of Nur Ein this year as part of the "dynamics" challenge and it did not go over well at ALL, it got called "the biggest disappointment of the round" by one of the judges and possibly also a "snoozefest" but I might be mixing it up with some other song someone didn't like.

Hope to hear from you + Soulflowsteve again soon! I don't know how you had enough time and energy to put in like 3 different entries.

Glad to hear the protest song has some earworm value too :)
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Re: Remember that one time? (I Used To Know You Better Reviews)

Post by Æpplês&vØdkã » Fri Nov 08, 2019 4:36 am

owl wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 10:13 pm

heh, Vom and I submitted essentially a slowcore+noise song in Round 2 of Nur Ein this year as part of the "dynamics" challenge and it did not go over well at ALL, it got called "the biggest disappointment of the round" by one of the judges and possibly also a "snoozefest" but I might be mixing it up with some other song someone didn't like.

Hope to hear from you + Soulflowsteve again soon! I don't know how you had enough time and energy to put in like 3 different entries.
Are you talking about the Vowl Sounds entry? Cause I'm listening to it and I really like it! But then again this is totally my style, it kind of reminds me of Low, which is a very good thing in my book. Apparently you didn't bomb *too* hard cause you still passed. :) To answer "how did you have enough time": I didn't, really. But for Asteroids I recorded those drums in like two takes and the bass in maybe 3, so less than an hour effort total. For Soulflowsteve, I've been using FL studio for so long that it probably took me a couple hours to get that beat going. And the vocal editing was kind of sloppy...because time constraints. I probably spent the most time on my own entry, with the bulk of it being spent on the violins and vocals...I started it with the bassline, which is really only two riffs repeated then just detuning my lowest string until it flopped. :)
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Re: Remember that one time? (I Used To Know You Better Reviews)

Post by thirdcatmusic » Fri Nov 08, 2019 9:18 am

The Vowl Sounds "Shock Value" was my favorite of the round if I remember correctly. Just listened again and I still really dig it. I love me some slowcore I guess.
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Re: Remember that one time? (I Used To Know You Better Reviews)

Post by owl » Fri Nov 08, 2019 9:28 am

Æpplês&vØdkã wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 4:36 am
Are you talking about the Vowl Sounds entry? Cause I'm listening to it and I really like it! But then again this is totally my style, it kind of reminds me of Low, which is a very good thing in my book. Apparently you didn't bomb *too* hard cause you still passed. :)
Yes indeed, the Vowl Sounds track. Low is what I thought of too when Vom first sent me the instrumental!

I think we would have been eliminated in any later round, but fortunately it was only Round 2 so there weren't that many people being cut relative to the number of total entries. Also fortunately we did this experiment then and found out early on that most of the judges didn't like slow songs, so we generally avoided slow stuff later in the contest.
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