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Well, it’s here, the first of the “Ur So Beautiful” Tour previewed new material, but as recorded in the studio.
One major point of interest before we even listen to the song;
Neither Ido Zmishlany, nor Greg Wells, worked on this song, but someone new (at least to us) in the GraceVerse; producer Blake Slatkin who has mostly worked with up-and-coming indie artists (quite good ones at that).
After having listened to a couple of recent samples of Mr. Slatkin’s work this year as a producer/co-writer for an artist known as Omar Apollo…
“Trouble” by Omar Appolo (I like it!)
“Ashamed” by Omar Appolo
…I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was very excited.
What I heard upon first listen, as is normally the case when Grace releases a studio produced version of a song we were previously introduced to live, was a classic case of disconfirmed expectancy. In my old-man-heart I wanted a straight up rock song like we heard in concert, with a real guitarist, a real drummer, and heaven forfend maybe a real bass player jamming their hearts out in a studio while Grace wildly belted the lyrics in a booth…
What we got instead, was a very controlled sound, which is exactly what I’d been asking for following what I felt were fairly muddy production/arrangements of the studio versions of “Ur So Beautiful” and “Waste My Time” where Grace’s vocals were drowned out by what I thought was an unnecessary, and counterproductive, amount of reverb on…everything.
This recording of “I Don’t Like You” is the polar opposite of the kind of production featured on Grace’s previous two releases. The drums here are so precise that they must be digitally produced, the bass line sounds similarly “perfect”/artificial, and there is so much “empty space” between Grace’s vocal tracks and the other instruments and effects that she sounds very raw and exposed.
At this point I had to try and gain some objectivity and rid myself of my fantasy of how I wanted the song to be recorded vs. what we actually got, and at that point I began appreciating this version for what it is; an excellent showcase for Grace’s vocals and lyrics, one where we can actually understand what she’s singing. There is no hyperactive reverb drowning out the melody, Grace’s vocals, or the percussion. It’s not an overproduced melange of unflattering effects (I’m looking at you, “Sick of Being Told”). It’s just what it needs to be.
I also really appreciate the build of this song…it’s a mountain of emotion and rock vocal sensibilities that just keeps ascending ever higher.
While we don’t get a raucous electric guitar driving the melody, or organic and creative drumming propelling the song forward, we do get an accumulation of sound beginning with a very organically played ukulele intro that gradually adds bells (thankfully not of the jingle variety) and other subtle effects. The heavy synth drums and a bassline then adds to the tension until we eventually reach the crescendo of the song where we get megaphone-like effects on a series of layered vocals from Grace that reflect the frustration found in the lyrics to comprise a contemporary take on the Phil Spector “Wall of Sound”.
I initially didn’t love the studio version, but I liked it, and after having carefully listened to it a number of times I’ve been converted and now both love it and like it.
Great job, Grace.