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Production Review: Powerful by Major Lazer

December 12th, 2015 | by Karly VanEvery
Production Review: Powerful by Major Lazer
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Alright, let’s take a minute to breakdown and run through the production of Powerful. First off, Major Lazer did an incredible job producing it, and the mix sounds great. I’ll be breaking down the production through its various parts (ex. verses, chorus, bridge, etc.) and then I’ll discuss different production aspects that I enjoyed after the breakdown of the song.

So let’s start.

In the first verse before Ellie Goulding lays down her vocals, you can hear some really weird (but cool) sounds, with some spacey-sounding vocals that sing “what you do to me.” These vocals have a back and forth pull between the left and right speaker (or headphone if you’re using that). It’s neat, and with that there’s some reverb and delays on some noises. To me, personally, it sounds spacey and builds up to the vocals for the first verse. For the rest of the verse, the vocals are very present and clean. In the right headphone/speaker, you can hear a hi-hat in the distance with some reverb on it and a synth sitting in the centre of the mix.

Ellie_Goulding_at_Manchester_Academy_2012_-_Portrait

Moving into the pre-chorus, you’ll notice the voice of Tarrus Riley being introduced into the track. Immediately, it gives the song a new depth, and some contrast from Ellie Goulding’s vocals. The second noticeable thing that happens at this point is the instrumentals… they all seem to disappear for a bit, and only the bass, hi-hat, and what sounds like (at least to me) some wind-chimes are present. At the end of the pre-chorus, there’s a nice build-up of toms that lead you into the full-throttle sound that you get in the chorus.

Tarrus Riley mit Band beim Auftritt auf der grünen Bühne beim Summerjam Festival 2013 in Köln | Tarrus Riley with his band performing on green stage at Summerjam Festival 2013 in Cologne

Tarrus Riley with his band performing on green stage at Summerjam Festival 2013 in Cologne

 

With the chorus being the climax of the song, you can hear the climax of the instrumentals and everything else surrounding it. The first immediate aspect that drove me into the chorus was the beefy kick drum with the bass-driven synth. Those two heavy sounds joined together create some contrasting frequencies when paired with the sparse and bright wind chimes. I also want to note here that the wind chimes are pushed back in the mix at this point, and they’re presented as a subtle touch to the track. Lastly, when Tarrus sings the word powerful, you’ll notice a background vocal effect on that word too; again, all contributing to the spacey characteristic towards the song.

In the second verse, the instrumentation is peeled back, and only the bass, acoustic guitars, and vocals are existent until halfway through the verse. You can then momentarily hear a shaker, and then the spacey vocals come back with a bass synth, leading into the chorus. The first half of the last chorus is stripped down with just a few claps, hi-hat hits, a synth, Ellie’s vocals, and wind chimes, and then the second half repeats the large-sounding chorus that you heard in the very first chorus. The outro of the song breaks away everything and carries a synth with Goulding’s vocals, and a small delay on the very last word she sings.

audio console

Now to wrap up this review, here are some of the production aspects that I enjoyed about the song. These include:

  • The left-to-right stereo effect on Ellie Goulding’s vocals at the beginning of the song
  • Goulding’s vocals after verse 2 when she sings the “oh’s” (they have a nice vintage sound to them)
  • The reverb on the hi-hat hits throughout the track
  • The acoustic guitar
  • The thick, beefy kick drum
  • The synths in general, and especially the bass-driven synth found in the chorus
  • The delay on Goulding’s vocals at the very end
  • The general placement of added sounds in the mix (ex. wind chimes, effects on vocals, etc.)

 

 

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