Thursday, February 2, 2012

David Guetta "Turn Me On" Song Analysis

This week's song analysis is #2 on the Ultimate Chart and is at the tip of a trend in music that's starting to snowball. The song is "Turn Me On" by French DJ David Guetta, featuring singer Nicki Minaj.

Electronic dance music has been a huge underground scene for a number of years now, and we've seen flashes of it on the top 40 charts, but now it's beginning to break through in a big way and David Guetta is leading the charge by adding star vocalists to what was once purely electronic music.

Guetta was one of the first to join this trend on his 2009 album One Love, which included the hit singles "When Love Takes Over" (featuring Kelly Rowland), "Gettin' Over You" (featuring Chris WillisFergie and LMFAO) and "Sexy Bitch" (featuring Akon). The last song hit the top five in the United States and all three reached #1 in the UK. The album also featured another internationally known single called "Memories" (featuring Kid Cudi), which became a top five hit in many countries. 

Guetta has sold over three million albums and 15 million singles worldwide and is currently one of the most sought-after producers in the music business.

As with all song analysis, we'll look at the song form, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

The Song
"Turn Me On" is a very basic song form with one twist in the prechorus. The form looks like this:

Intro, Verse, B Section, Interlude, Chorus, Verse, B Section, Interlude, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus

Every section is 8 bars long except for the Interlude (the "Oh" part before the chorus) which is only 4 bars, and that's the only thing that changes the song up a bit form-wise.

The Arrangement
There aren't a lot of elements or layers to the song by the very nature of electronic dance music. Instead of a drum kit and bass, the rhythm element is made up of a huge kick drum and bass sound, which take up so much sonic space that's it's difficult to fit additional foundation instruments in.

What's very interesting in "Turn Me On" is the way the claps and high hat are used to develop the song. Usually a song is developed by adding additional arrangement elements or additional instrument or vocal layers. On this song percussion is used to accomplish the same thing. Here's how it's done:

In the first verse you only hear the kick and bass sounds, but doubled claps in stereo are used to develop the B section. In verse 2 the claps continue, but a hat sound is used to develop the 2nd B section.

Here's what the arrangement elements look like:

  * The Foundation: Bass and kick sounds

  * The Rhythm: Arpeggiated synth line, claps from the first B section onward, hat sound in the second B section.

  * The Pad: A synth in the bridge

  * The Lead: The vocal

  * The Fills: Background vocal line at the end of the chorus, arpeggiated synth in the choruses, vocal answers in the first half of the bridge

The Sound
Another function of electronic dance music is the fact that distortion is normally viewed as something to be embraced and not rejected. There's plenty of it here that's a big part of various sounds, but even the vocal (which you'd expect to be clean) has a lot of distortion.

There's a slight ambience sound on most of the syths, but most of the layering on both the syths and vocals comes from timed delays that are long enough to hear and fill in the holes between phrases.

A couple of cool things are the way the the vocal is manipulated in the Interludes by panning from left to right channel and back again, all the while modulating it gradually into full distortion at the end. I also loved the use of the stereo claps that enter in the first B section.

The Production
I think a big reason why this song is a hit is its excellent dynamics. The song goes from a whisper to a roar and back again several times during the song, which keeps your attention on a rather uninteresting song form.

Want an example? Listen how the song starts off quiet, gets a bit bigger during the first verse, a bit more during the B section, then comes down to just a vocal (over a gurgling synth) during the interlude, then smacks you over the head on the chorus. The same happens during the second verse, B, interlude and chorus, then again from the bridge to the last chorus. The tension and release is why it remains interesting.

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5 comments:

redvoid said...

surprised you didn't mention the obvious sidechain compression between the kick and synth pads as the primary harmonic / rhythmic backdrop, or the use of obvious autotune on the vocals. what do you think about these?

Anonymous said...

Their inclusion goes without saying in this style of music. Perhaps if they're both "obvious" as you suggest, they don't merit analysis.

Obe1 said...

Once every couple months a song will drop on the radio that completely infiltrates my brain for weeks, and this is the one that currently has my attention. The chrous is absolutely chilling; literally. I get chills every time I hear it. I don't know if that kick ended up the way it did mostly from production or the mix process, but I spent hours trying to emulate it. Just an overall brilliant song. I wonder what he used for his sounds...

Obe1 said...

Once every couple months a song will drop on the radio that completely infiltrates my brain for weeks, and this is the one that currently has my attention. The chrous is absolutely chilling; literally. I get chills every time I hear it. I don't know if that kick ended up the way it did mostly from production or the mix process, but I spent hours trying to emulate it. Just an overall brilliant song. I wonder what he used for his sounds...

Bobby Owsinski said...

Can't say for sure what he used for sounds. That's the thing about electronic music; you never really know the source.

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