The volume wars, it looked like they might be waning, they seem to be back with a vengeance. Maybe the pop music producers were just reloading their overzealous compressors, or maybe they were busy acquiring extras so they could stack them up to multiply the non-dynamic over-deciberated sound that has become the trademark of acts like Katy Perry, Imagine Dragons. and too many others to list.
Check out Taylor Swift’s new hit Bad Blood. Even if you have earplugs and the volume set to “1”, the song is still so surprisingly loud that it sounds like a group of people yelling and screaming so they can try to be heard over drums that are fully compressed. no dynamic volume, Obscenely Loud!
To understand exactly what I mean, you can compare Bad Blood to Led Zeppelin’s Good Times Bad Times. No one is going to call Good Times Bad Times a ballad or a weak tune. But you can hear the dynamics, you can hear the feeling, the outro has Robert Plant singing, even yelling, some very rocky high notes. In short, that song is totally scorching played by some guys who play loud, but with a sonic fullness that doesn’t sound like an assault on your ears or a freight train trying to run you over.
Swift’s song does not have any of those nuances, what’s more, Swift’s song does not contain any musical intensity at the level of Led Zeppelin, an interesting phenomenon that shows that volume is not equal to intensity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Swift and I enjoy her sound immensely. In fact, Swift’s voice is so wonderfully full of expression that it’s amazing that her producers seem to have somehow been able to surgically remove all emotion from her performance on Bad Blood. Swift’s producers have done this to you, and your producers are not the worst offenders. I love Imagine Dragons, but my gosh, someone needs to produce their songs in such a way that they let the band’s personality come through. That band has a genuine warmth that’s buried under a mountain of complicated producer studio effects.
Overall, we need a return to producers who can let singers, rockers, alternative musicians, and songwriters breathe a bit. I’ve been listening to some new music lately that sounds pretty good and pretty little produced in a nice way.