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Production Review: Never Forget You by Zara Larsson

June 22nd, 2016 | by Karly VanEvery
Production Review: Never Forget You by Zara Larsson
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The same artist who came out with the song “Lush Life” last year, put out an insane duet with MNEK this year… and I’ll applaud it over and over again. For this review, I sourced out the lyrics from a website (http://genius.com/Zara-larsson-never-forget-you-lyrics) and analyzed its verses, choruses, and other parts to discuss them. The only alteration I made was the post-chorus. Instead of calling it a post-chorus, I called it a refrain. Following the analysis of the song, I’ll wrap it up with the productional aspects that intrigued me.

Here we go.

The song starts off on the first verse. In this brief verse a piano has a strong reverberated presence, and by the end of the verse, you can hear a synth forming that carries into the pre-chorus.

Tying into the pre-chorus, another higher-pitched synth is introduced. At this point, we are now graced by the piano, the two synths, and Larsson’s vocals. This is a great set-up for the chorus because it’s still very simple, but yet it gives you a taste of what’s to come… which involves another installed sound in the chorus.

Another synth (the highest pitched one so far) is added right at the get-go of the chorus. This synth carries more of a smooth melody compared to the others. Secondly, you’ll notice a thicker secondary synth is coordinating with the piano – creating an atmospheric depth to the song. Lastly, when she sings “Til the day I die,” for the last time in the chorus, there’s a reversed reverb effect held on the hi hat, then no instrumentals at all to really emphasize her vocals.

MNEK

For the refrain, there’s a lot going on here. I’ll explain from how I heard it – starting with the percussive sounds. There’s four individual percussive sounds that build on each other to create the beat. The first: could be called a synth, but I’m going to compare it to a percussive sound effect with a sub harmonic placed onto it. Basically, what a sub harmonic does is it creates depth to what’s already there. For example, if you have a kick drum, and you need to amp it up a notch, you can input a “tone” onto it, and you can control how much of this tone goes onto it, and when it does too. It’s pretty neat! Anyway, the next percussive instrument that stood out to me sounds like a castanet (a wooden clapping instrument). This has a nice contrast with the thick, beefy kick drum since it carries a higher-pitched tone to it, and it has some mildly-heavy reverb to it. The last two aspects of percussive sounds that make up the beat are the hand claps, which fall on the second and fourth beat, and the clean, electronic hi-hats. The rest of the refrain appears to be a back-and-forth pull of vocals. It start’s off with female vocals singing “oh” that fades in smoothly and fade out sharply. Following that, there are different vocal segments singing, “til the day I die,” and male vocals towards the end of the refrain that are panned from the left headphone to the right.

Zara Larsson MNEK

With the beat broken down, and some vocal ad libs that were unfolded, the rest of the song carries all of that through, with some “fine touches.” A couple of these are found in the second verse, with the first and foremost focusing on MNEK’s vocals. There are some points in this verse where all the instruments peel back, and it places the emphasis on the power of his voice – the first is actually at the end of the refrain and the very beginning of this verse. The last inch of that synth really set up his vocals for it. Second to that, and very briefly, there’s an arpeggiated synth that sweeps from the left to right at the earlier half of the verse.

After the brief verse, we are moved into the pre-chorus again. This time with some harmonies on “time you were my everything,” and “time hasn’t changed.” Towards the end of this pre-chorus, I found two things that stood out. One being the hi-hats on the right side, when he sang “off my mind,” and two was the background vocals at that exact same moment.

The next segment is the first chorus where they’re both singing and building on each other’s performance together. This chorus is fundamental (in my opinion) to building up the bridge. You’re starting to hear more vocal ad libs adding up in the background, which are complimentary to the other vocalist. Pairing up with that, are some beautiful harmonies and a consistent build up of drums.

Zara 2

The bridge has a quick change in dynamics to the song. The first half of it only consists of vocals and a piano – creating a really intimate moment in the song. However, the second half of the bridge has a heavy, consistent uprising of drums, vocals, piano and synths. All of these instruments and ambiences really power-up the last chorus of the song… and it is powerful. Throughout the last chorus, everything is amplified. The claps are more frequent, and are pushed up into the mix at this point, the harmonies are up front and focused, the synth and piano are serving each other at full capacity, and the drums (which seem automated in this section) now bear a stronger presence here to help with the power of the song. Finishing off the song, is the outro. From this point, all of the instrumentals resume back to their regular flow, and it’s just a matter of vocal captivation.

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Okay, now that the song analysis is completed, I’ll share with you some of the productional aspects that I was intrigued by.

Some of these aspects include:

  • The reversed reverb that was added to the end of the first chorus, when she sang “til the day I die”
  • The vocal panning found in the first refrain
  • The peel-back of instruments to emphasize vocals throughout the song
  • The added drum in the last chorus
  • Everything about the last chorus from the vocal ad libs, to the automated drums, and just the diversity of the mix compared to earlier on in the song

Overall, the song was completely intriguing, and there was something very unique, very raw and very real about it all. I look forward to seeing more projects from Larsson and MNEK in the future.

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