I call it the Bryan Adams curse.
In the mid-1980s, his music was heard on every station with a music format of top 40, adult contemporary, and even smooth jazz. From his rock songs to his ballads, his music was everywhere.
Today, I’m apt to switch stations when I hear one. But what if he released remixes of his music? I’m listening.
The Bryan Adams curse doesn’t often happen with artists. Instead, we get the Goyte song curse.
In 2011, they released the song “Somebody That I Used to Know.” It was unique and it was everywhere, finally crossing over into background music for advertisements. Would I listen to it today? Ask me again in a year.
It’s one thing to talk songs as a music lover but as an audio engineer, it’s another conversation completely. Not only do we have to listen to the music we’ve grown to hate (the Goyte curse), I’ll put it that we must keep it interesting for the audience, in our case the church congregation.
Artists recognize the need to keep songs fresh. Enter the dance mix, the live version, the version with the “lost” verse, or the ever popular acoustic version. I don’t count adding rap to country music because that’s not a remix, that’s a travesty.
During the pre-Beatles era, remixes filled the Top 40 radio charts. It was common for the same song to be on week’s chart multiple times because it was covered by various bands with different arrangements and people loved those versions.
The artists do what they can but we also have a responsibility to keep songs fresh.
Jump from the pop charts to what you and I work with every week: worship music, from hymns to contemporary worship. No matter the type of worship music, you’ve probably got a few songs you never want to hear again.
I HATE the song “As the Deer.” The lyrics go, “As the deer panteth for the water so my soul longeth after thee.” I never was a huge fan and long ago was at a church that sang it all the time.
Time to talk details. Let’s say the song is in rotation for next week. With such dread of the song, what am I going to do? It’d be easy to slap together a mix and get through it. But what if I brainstormed ways of making it fresh? Surely I’m not the only person in the room tired of the old arrangement.
1) Steer the arrangement from worship band-lead to congregation-lead. For example, let the band own it for the first verse and then at the chorus, pull the volume back so the congregation’s voice carries it. The lead vocal would still be present but just above the congregation with the band in the back of the mix.
2) Treat choruses and verses differently so either the band is fuller for the verse or for the chorus, but not both. Listening to a song should be like riding in a car—no one wants to be stuck on a straight boring road for four minutes. They want hills and curves and pretty scenery.
3) Mix it differently. For example, with a full contemporary band, pull back the lows on the drums and bass and even push the highs on the piano and acoustic guitar. It’s like when a band covers a song. You have a lot of control, so have fun and get creative.
Think about a song you’d rather never hear again and come up with two or three ways to give it new life. There’s nothing wrong with creating a new arrangement; you might even get a few compliments.
Ready to learn and laugh? Chris Huff writes about the world of church audio at Behind The Mixer. He covers everything from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians. He can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown.