November 10, 2012 An interesting trend…
Back in the late 90’s / early 2000’s, the odds were stacked in your favor if you were searching for traces of real people playing actual instruments. With the post-grunge, alternative craze you were likely to be hearing Jimmy Eat World, Third Eye Blind, Matchbox 20, Alien Ant Farm, and a host of other archetypical bands. Even in rap and hip hop, people were sticking to sampling real instruments (Eminem’s “My Name Is” has samples of real drum / guitar / bass backing, even into the mid 90’s Tribe Called Quest was sticking to jazz and motown samples, B.I.G. and Tupac were using legit tracks, etc etc).
Gone are those days. Yet, in a world gone completely nuts over everything being computer generated, hyper compressed and filled with a barrage of fat synth leads and pads, there has been a recent trend of minimalism. It conforms to but one rule: a single real instrument being played over a sequenced beat.
Case in point was 2007’s Crank That (Soulja Boy Tell’em)
This track single-handedly changed what was accepted in terms of production effort. The producers on this track made a hit with virtually no music present – just a single steel drum over simple drums and orchestral hits. There are legitimately three or four things going on – drums, steel drum line, orchestral hits, vocals. That’s it, that’s all. And it doesn’t change for the whole song. But it’s deadly in how catchy it is.
This concept has been (consciously?) noted by execs and used for good and for evil.
A relatively catchy, silly, well produced recent release: Thrift Shop by Mackelmore has a single alto sax line that repeats ad infinitum:
And finally, a total piece of shit – so bad it practically demands the listener to laugh (either out of wonder, horror, or just general uncomfortableness) every time. I present Michelle Obama by Lil’ Debbie feat. Riff Raf with a stupid fucking french horn line over a shitty skeleton of a beat.
Honorary mention to Yolanda Be Cool’s hit remix of We No Speak Americano for it’s digitally manipulated aggravating sax line!