Artist Name: S.D. Young Title: Bad Ass Love Genre: Pop
DAW – Logic Pro X; Interface – Focusrite Scarlett 2i2; DAW Controller – PreSonus Faderport 16; Instruments – PRS Custom 24 guitar and Korg Nautilus keyboard; Microphone – Audio-Technica AT 4033; Software – Native Instruments; Monitors – Yamaha Monitors.
“Bad Ass Love” is a pop song written, recorded, performed and mixed by Steve (S.D.) Young. It’s a guitar-based composition with a playful vibe that suits the song lyrics perfectly—the sort of song that sits modestly in a party playlist until the words catch your attention, at which time you want to listen to it over and over. “Bad Ass Love” was created with a relatively modest amount of equipment: an AT 4033 microphone for vocals, a Korg Nautilus keyboard, a Scarlett 2i2 interface, and Yamaha monitors, along with Logic Pro X and Native Instruments. Steve played a PRS Custom 24, whose tones are the heart of the track. Songs like this are a reminder that recordings are not made by gear, they’re made by musicians.
Review By Dave Martin
I have an abiding fondness for clever wordplay in song lyrics, from W.S. Gilbert’s “Modern Major General” and Ira Gershwin’s “‘S Wonderful” to the amazing lyrics in “Spamalot,” written by Eric Idle. This sort of lyric writing isn’t confined to the theatre. Artists ranging from Trout Fishing in America and the Austin Lounge Lizards to Modest Mouse and the Smiths, musicians are a clever bunch of people.
My first takeaway from listening to S.D. Young’s “Bad Ass Love” is I enjoyed the songwriting, with its delightfully quirky lyrics and memorable melody. My second takeaway: I really like the guitar tracks, both the rhythm guitar and the solos. The performance, the tones and the processing used on the guitars all sound great. The third thing I appreciated was how the minimalist approach to drums and percussion created a vibe that fits the track very well—a great drum lick to start the song, then a rhythm section that stays out of the way of the lyrics.
The vocal processing on the lead and background vocals is interesting. There are points in the tune where I’m unsure whether the background and harmony were sung or programmed, but it doesn’t matter. They work within the context of the song, which makes it fun to listen to.
There’s an interesting phenomena that those who take on all the tasks of recording a song can occasionally experience: it’s all too easy to lose sight of the goal because you know all of the elements of the song so well. By the time you start to the final mixing stage, you’ve become intimately familiar with everything—you know every note on the recording. You also remember which were the fun tracks to play, and which ones weren’t as much fun to record.
That familiarity can be a problem when it’s time to mix; since you already know all the words, you may leave the vocal tracks at a level where you can hear them, but no louder. When you get a great tone on a guitar track, you want to share that tone with listeners without considering that some other instruments can be masked by the guitar sound you love.
The best way to fight the tendency (because it happens to me fairly frequently) is to start my mixes, or at least the first mix on every project, from scratch. I’ll turn everything down, then create a drum mix, processing and all, as though I hadn’t listened to the drum track a hundred times already. Then I’ll build my mix from there, as though this was the first time hearing it. I try to forget all the stuff that I played and mix it like it was someone else’s band.
While I’m not suggesting that this is what happened on S.D. Young’s “Bad Ass Love”, it could be an explanation for the one thing that I found a bit distracting: the rhythm guitar level. I wonder if bringing that down 2–3dB might help the rest of the track. With the rhythm guitar turned down, the two elements that are arguably the most important things for a new listener—the vocals and the guitar solo—will more easily be heard. And I think it would also help the drum and percussion tracks to be heard. Does the rhythm guitar level ruin the mix? Not at all! It’s a fun song as it stands, but I suspect that the one change would help make it even better.
S.D. Young’s “Bad Ass Love” is an excellent song with great lyrics. I look forward to hearing more of Steve’s material.