TRACK TEARDOWN: JUSTIN BIEBER & BLOODPOP – FRIENDS
This is a sonic teardown of Justin Bieber & Bloodpop’s, “Friends”
Written By – BloodPop®, Justin Bieber, Julia Michaels & Justin Tranter
Vocals – Justin Bieber
Recording – Josh Gudwin
Backing Vocals – BloodPop® & Julia Michaels
Mixing – Mark “Spike” Stent
Synthesizer – BloodPop®
Bass – BloodPop®
Keyboards – BloodPop®
Engineering – Josh Gudwin
Release Date – August 17, 2017
I have chosen to do a sonic teardown of the track, “Friends” by Justin Bieber & Bloodpop. This is in the hope of learning how pop music is recorded and mixed. Pop songs always seem to have a higher level of sonic quality to them. By analysing this track, I will learn how this level of quality is achieved. I have used the drums for this song as a reference for a project I am working on. I aim to incorporate the same producing, recording and mixing techniques learnt from “Friends” in my own projects.
“Friends” is about staying amiable after a breakup. (Genius, 2017) The song was released through GENPOP Corporation, RBMG Records, School Boy Records, Def Jam Recordings and Republic Records on August 17 of 2017. It has amassed 243, 489, 984 streams on spotify and has peaked as high as number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.” (Wikipedia, 2017)
- Song Duration: 3 minutes 9 seconds
- Song BPM: 105
- Song Time Signature: 4/4
- Intro: 1 Bar
- Verse 1: 8 Bars
- Pre Chorus: 8 Bars
- Chorus: 16 Bars
- Verse 2: 8 Bars
- Pre Chorus: 8 Bars
- Chorus: 16 Bars
- Pre Chorus: 8 Bars
- Chorus: 8 Bars
Breakdown of Sonic Elements
For a pop song, the vocals are the most important part of the mix. They must be clear and up the front at at all times. This is the case for “Friends”. Justin’s vocals are very bright and sound like they have been boosted quite a lot from the 10khz and up range. This gives his vocal the young and boyish nature his public persona is about. Justin’s voice has quite a bit of sibilance. The eses are quite strong, however they do not distract from the main vocal. The esess give his voice a very airy quality which suits his high voice range.
Time Based Effects
The vocals have a delay on them. This is a stereo delay as the delay is left and right not in the centre. This could possibly be an H delay. There are a lot of pitch effects on the vocals. Some are pitched up and pitched down. There is also a female backing vocal in the verse and this is panned in the centre. The vocal delay has a reverb on it and most of the backing vocals are heavy with reverb. A lot of the backing vocals and vocal effects have low pass filters on them. This is most likely to not take attention away from the lead vocal. The delay also sounds to be automated as in the verse it only comes in after each line has been completed. This allows the delay to be heard clearly but also not muddy up the lead vocal. It also allows space between phrases which allows the listener more time to register the lyrics. Like most Pop/EDM tracks the hook of the song features a chopped up vocal that almost sounds like a synth lead. This was most likely accomplished by putting the vocal through a multi sampler and playing it on a midi keyboard.
In an EDM song, the synths are an integral part of the production and can make or break a track. “Friends” is no different and is layered with many different synth sounds. The synths are prominent in the mix but still reasonably quiet in comparison to the lead vocal and kick drum. The synths also leave a lot of frequency space for the vocal. This was most likely achieved by EQing out some of the 2 – 3k frequencies in them. It is hard to tell what type of synths are being used but they sound like they could be square and saw waves. At parts in the song, the synths also seem to have been automated with an EQ high pass filter. This adds dynamics to the song and allows the track to stay interesting even though the same chords and structure is being repeated.
Drums & Bass
The drums and bass are the engine of a Pop/EDM track. They must be able to have impact and be felt on any sound system. The main kick drum of the song sits at around 70hz. This is quite high for a kick drum and this gives it a lot of punch. There is also a sub kick layered underneath the regular kick that sits at around 40hz. This adds weight to the punchy kick. This is the most prominent bass sound in the track. It’s strongest frequency is 40hz. However, it covers a lot of frequency range and goes up to about 60hz. With the kick drum sitting at 70hz and the bass covering from 40-60hz, this keeps the kick and bass separate and makes the bass sound very big. There is also another bass element in the track, the arpeggiated synth bass line. This isn’t very loud in the mix compared to the sub kick.
It appears to be played an octave lower than the main pads that are playing. It gives the bass its rhythm and movement but is deceptive because it is not what is providing the majority of the sub frequencies. The arpeggiated synth bass appears to have been stereo spread. It does not sit in the middle of the mix but to the left and right equally at around maybe 30 – 35 degrees panned if you were panning in Logic X. This allows the synth arpeggiated bass to be heard independently from the kick and sub kick. The hi hats and cymbals appear to predominantly sit in the 10 khz range. They are not very loud in the mix.
The hi hats and snares are in the centre of the mix. Some of the rim shots are panned slightly to the left at maybe 10 degrees. The snares and hi hats are not the focus of the mix, this allows the driving 4 on the floor kick beat to take focus. This is common in dance music as the kick is what gives the track its groove.
To conclude, Justin Bieber & Bloodpop’s, “Friends” is a great sonic example of a well recorded and mixed pop song. All of the recording and mixing decisions were made in conjunction with the songs target audience and in what circumstances the song would be heard. This is backed up by the findings that a lot of the integral sounds are in the centre of the mix. This was most likely a conscious decision as the song is in the genre of Pop/EDM and was made in the hope of playing in a lot of clubs. Because most club’s sound systems are in mono, not hard panning the most important elements of the track allows the song to better translate to clubs as well as other speaker systems. As it is a pop track, it will mainly be listened to by people who don’t have great sound systems e.g. on laptops, phones, basic earphones and in public spaces. The vocal is also very clear and at the front of the mix at all times. This puts all the focus on the artist which is important for branding and promotion.
In summary, this track teardown was a great learning experience. I now aim to incorporate the techniques learnt and improve my work!
Genius. (2019). Justin Bieber & BloodPop® – Friends. [online] Available at: https://genius.com/Justin-bieber-and-bloodpop-friends-lyrics [Accessed 8 June. 2019].
En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Friends (Justin Bieber and BloodPop song). [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friends_(Justin_Bieber_and_BloodPop_song)[Accessed 8 June. 2019].