“It’s like Whitney, but imagine if Bruce Springsteen had a baby with Whitney Houston — that’s what it is,” she said. “And that was it! We made a baby. Finally. After all that fornication, miserably long and tedious, Fernando and I finally conceived.” — Lady Gaga on “Marry the Night” to MTV News
It’s inspiring to see a pop artist like Lady Gaga work so relentless and be so dedicated to her work that calling what she does commendable would be an understatement. In 2011 alone, we’ve seen an album, a DVD, a remix album, a book, collaboration with Tony Bennett, a Thanksgiving special (complete with a digitally released EP), and 1, 2, 3, 4 stunning videos to compliment the singles released from the May released album Born This Way. So many well executed, acclaimed, and highly anticipated projects in just under six months and with the release of her fifth single “Marry The Night,” Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta keeps cementing in the fact that her blossoming and ever evolving career will keep rolling on strong, looking promising to go on longer than her real name.
Before we get into the music video for “Marry The Night,” 2020k would like to take a look back at the consumption of this track, mixing approaches to the song, and the interviews, equipped with live performances that all merge together to make up the larger musical and entertainment marketing intellect that this song has taken upon itself.
I. The Recording Process & Mixing
Like much of the recording of Born This Way, “Marry The Night” was recorded on the tour bus during The Monster Ball tour, which spanned from 2009-2011. Producer Fernando Garibay, who toured with Gaga to record the album, reportedly began working on the musical composition of the song as a ways to top their previous collaboration “Dance In The Dark” and beat out the outstanding energy that song brought to The Fame Monster and opening number in The Monster Ball tour. Gaga spoke to MTV about this feeling, “I remember being backstage and hearing the concert start, so I go out there and hear ‘Dance in the Dark’ open up the whole concert, and I wanted to outdo that feeling. I wanted to outdo that moment that opens up the show.”
Fernando stated in the same interview that when he played the song for Lady Gaga, she changed a few chords, took a few moments to compose herself (through meditation), asked him to make a mic track and recorded it right after a show, translating the energy from the crowd and production of the concert into the song. All programming was done by Garibay except for additional percussion which was provided by DJ White Shadow, with the vocals being recorded (which are all, lead and background done by the artist herself) by Dave Russel and assistant Eric Morris.
2020k is unsure of the conditions of the tour bus or just how they blocked out all of the sounds that had to have been going on inside and outside of the environment the live vocals were recorded in, but the end result sounds like an extremely clean recording, free of any sort of noise, which is most likely in part by Dave Russel, who also mixed the track with assistance from Paul Pavao. Noise reduction is almost a must when recording in a setting like a tour bus that is very un-suitable for noise blockage and considering that the vocal is extremely compressed and up front in the mix and it still maintains a perfectly polished sound, it’s almost a guarantee some sort of noise reduction plug-in or outboard method was utilized.
Beyond the technicalities of the initial vocal recording, the mixing is quite aggressive on all layers of vocals accounted for within “Marry The Night”. A small reverb runs through the majority of the lead layers of the vocals and delays that do not sound synced to tempo and are more often than not presented in stereo with delays quickly spinning off of the original vocal to the left and the right channel a few samples ahead and behind of each other to give the impression of a more tripped-out, dense vibe and panned more to the left channel at the end of phrases to conclude lines, rather than give them an on going, echoed feel (these panned delays sound like 8th note delays, mapped to tempo).
Subtle distortion, most likely creating such a sound using extreme measures compression, paired with layers of background vocals panned different directions, with some vocal tracks possibly treated with very small levels of distortion outboard gear or plugins are also wildy featured on the track, practically taking over the chorus during the initial “I’m gonna marry…the night!” lines.
The last, more obvious vocal mixing effect is some sort of pitch correction that is also mixed subtly in the track and is used as a guide to ensure an even more varnished sound. No Autotune/Melodyne digital artifacts can be heard throughout the track and 97% of pop music (and music in general) bring pitch correction into play during the mixing of their records, that it’s become a standard and nothing to be alarmed about if it’s used in delicate moderation, which this track makes well use of.
Production wise, it’s basically comprised of percussion samples and synthesizers that are probably ITB virtual instruments that are made up to emulate guitar and church bells. ADSR envelopes are for the most part set to moderate levels, with the attack of the synths either being very quick or a bit later as ways to let the kick drum have the initial on-the-beat-four-to-the-floor attack with the synth leading in a few milliseconds afterward. It’s a standard dance music feel that’s normally associated with a parallel compression technique, but the kick doesn’t seem to be linked to the synth in the slightest in this song so that doesn’t seem to be the case.
A small gliding synth helps the church bell synth at the beginning of the track before launching into what was stated in the previous paragraph and all synths are pretty much compressed in some sort of fashion to give a more powerful feeling. Interestingly enough, during the post chorus it’s the slow-attack synthesizers that take the lead in the mix as opposed to the catchy “Ma-ma-ma-marry” line – which isn’t something that happens in radio pop music that often. There are several times where Gaga’s vocals are distinctly lower and less powerful than the musical atmospheres on the track and adds to the diversity of the track.
It’s a given, through all of the compression talk of this track that headroom isn’t in this song that often as the song peaks at a -0.01 reading on the digital TT Loudness meter and reads out a Dynamic Range reading of 5db. In a track that blends pop, dance, distorted industrial inklings, and soul yellings that are reminiscent of past pop powerhouse divas, it’s an acceptable rating and one that commands attention but gives room for a few aural breaths here and there.
Some of those breaths come from the synth samples and loops that are more mid-high range rather than full frequency assaults on us and carves out it’s own frequency trenches so that they don’t muddy the bass frequencies or overpower the high EQ boosts of Lady Gaga’s vocals.
It’s interesting to note that the song doesn’t clip off at 0.00, which states that a limiter may have been used during the mixing of the track, then applied again when Gene Grimaldi mastered the track for the album, which means that some of the distortion heard on the record could actually be a product of original clipping that’s happening in the recording and processing of certain aspects of the track that are brought out more prominently once it reached the mastering chain. Regardless, it adds to the overall industrial-esque feeling of the track and does nothing to hinder the unstoppable power of “Marry The Night”.
II. The Remixes
Two remixes of “Marry the Night” have been released thus far, the first being the Zedd Remix featured on the Special Edition release of Born This Way that stays true to the original feel of the track by utilizing piano synths and a four-to-the-floor kick and snare combination, while using filtered synths, powerful upfront pads, and sweeping transition synthesizers. There aren’t many layers in the song, so the track is able to be mixed extra loud and has an average dynamic range rating of 2db. Horrid, right? But, with such an originally sparse track being commissioned by the record label, it’s a smart decision to mix a track slated to be a single off the record at some point (“Marry The Night” was supposed to be the lead before they settled on the title track) so that it’s more eye and ear catching when during DJ set lists. Interestingly enough, there is a lot more headroom in this track than there is on the album version of the track, probably to compensate for the overly compressed track so that it’s easy to mix in with other records during a set.
The second remix, done by the explosive viral, Drake aided, and 2020k favorite sensation The Weeknd & his producer Illangelo take the track to a dark and broken place with a downtempo, dark R&B/pop infused twist on the track, filled with percussion samples and background vocals by The Weeknd himself. Crazily distorted and at times even more vocally pitch corrected than the original (but pitch incorrected as this song is meant to sound broken, out of town, and show the darker side of marrying the night) giving the overall appeal of this song an overall signature Weeknd touch. Percussion, keyboards, and other ambient atmospheres in the song are pitch bent, lo-fi’ed, and have other various gritty techniques applied to them to give a depressive and mournful feel to the song. A dynamic range of 8dB is the average for this song, giving it more of a replay factor and not tiring ears out after a few listens at a bit louder levels. An A+ interpretation of the song, for sure.
Other remixes are to be released through the “Marry The Night” single just like all of the Lady Gaga singles get and while we’re unsure of the full tracklisting, Amazon.de has a 2-track single listing up with a David Jost & Twin Radio Mix present and Universal music store has a Picture-disc single up with a Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs ‘Marry Me’ Remix up.
We’re anxious for the full digital release, due out December 4th, possibly. Especially after that remix that’s used in the beginning of the “Marry The Night” video. More on that later…
III. Marketing: The Interviews & Performances
“Marry The Night” has been brought up in interviews since the beginning of the Born This Way era. From the Monster Ball Tour HBO Special, to the MTV special, magazines, and other aspects of the journalism world – it’s all documented as a song about marrying your problems and not giving up on your life, striving toward something better. To Lady Gaga, she stated to NME that “this song is about me going back to New York. I wrote this about the courage it took for me to say ‘I hate Hollywood, I just wanna live in Brooklyn and make music.'”
“I know how rejection feels in the business. I got signed, I got dropped, I got signed again. That’s actually what the ‘Marry the Night’ video is about. It’s about one of the most horrible days of my life when I got dropped from my first record label and it’s the story of what happened that day.” and according to Vanity Fair, the video is “autobiographical” and illustrates “the worst day of my life.”
And after all of the interview babble, we have brilliant live performances from MTV EMA, Children in Need Benefit, The Bambi Awards, X-Factor, A Very Gaga Thanksgiving, and most recently a performance at the Grammy Nominations that all present the true liveliness of the record, combining gorgeously sung live vocals with various set changes and choreography from the music video. They’re the way performances should be presented: Authentic, with backing vocals and most of the time a backing track, but presented only as a means to beef up the production and performance aspect, to be aesthetically pleasing and to be vocally live. But, it’s the interview and performance on Andy Carr’s Chatty Man show that truly takes the cake and shows the essence of where Gaga is at both in live and talent.
During Andy’s interview, we see a delighted Gaga stating that the only thing she does straight is her whiskey and talking about living in the vessel during the 2011 Grammy Award ceremony toward the beginning of the Born This Way era, “I was texting and I was looking at the tweets, it was quite fun for me, you know? I was inside, I had my oxygen on and I walked down the red carpet and I saw all of the fans going ‘what the fuck is she doing?’ It was exciting” she stated and eventually letting out “it was realistic, but it was a performance piece” when playfully asked how she went to the bathroom.
After the interview is a “Cooking With Gaga” segment where she cooks an Italian meal while Andy Carr tries to bait Gaga by creating puns such as picking up an egg and asking “Is that an egg or a vessel?” and presenting “Lazy Gaga” in which he goes on to say “this is a sauce you can use for any occasion and you actually..um, you actually use this yourself, don’t you, Lady Gaga”?
“No.” she replies straight poker faced and attempting to ignore the jab and continuing on cooking. But, the most hysterical laugh-until-you-cry portion of the segment comes when Gaga starts attacking the chicken with a pan. Finally, a stripped down performance of “Marry The Night” follows and concludes a humorous and creative outlook on the pop artist.
IV. The Video
“I know how rejection feels in the business. I got signed, I got dropped, I got signed again. That’s actually what the ‘Marry the Night’ video is about. It’s about one of the most horrible days of my life when I got dropped from my first record label and it’s the story of what happened that day.” She stated on Andy Carr’s television show and again to Vanity Fair that the video is “autobiographical” and illustrates “the worst day of my life.”
Snippets of the video were uploaded onto Lady Gaga’s YouTube channel on November 17th, 2011 after several tweets from Gaga posting a video still, dialog from the music video, and finally breaking down (read: “my teaser is ready”) and tweeting that she would post a clip Children In Need Rocks Manchester, which she did. It ignited over 5 million views by the full video’s release date, tonight, December 1st, 2011 and with the full video now out and in the hands of all of the Little Monsters across the planet Earth, we’re shown that at her longest video to date, just a little over thirteen minutes long, Lady Gaga is still on the path to making extremely symbolic music videos that seem to be getting more complicated, more abstract in meaning, while remaining true to a transparent view to the visual atmospheres as well.
Destruction is clear through the video’s length as Lady Gaga becomes a patient in a mental hospital after she lives through the horrific news that a record label does not want to sign her. She trashes her apartment, throws vinyl records throughout it, douses her naked body in Cheerios (nice subtle product placement, along with the Calvin Cline and spring mint fashion droppings..a step up from the clear Miracle Whip promotion featured in the “Telephone (Featuring Beyonce)” video), and paints her hair a bright turquoise in the bathtub (looking like a completely stripped down human compared to the mermaid in the previous video release “You and I”) and brings it all together in one scene as a means of expressing the negative feelings equated with that phone call and the association of destroying as a means of creative reinvention.
There’s small hints of Madonna from the early days and Madonna from the “Hung Up” video within the beginning of the video, most notably the first dance sequence and the small bit before it, but that’s to be expected as these two women will inevitably be wrongly (and rightly, no one can deny that “Born This Way” doesn’t sound like “Express Yourself” infused with TLC’s “Waterfalls” all harnessed under a 21st century pop umbrella beat) compared to each other for the rest of their careers, lives, and beyond for being two strong, boundary pushing, mainstream pop queens. But, it’s the spirit breaking and humbled NYC hustle that’s present within both of these artist’s beginnings that’s genuinely the same and it’s almost common sense that these visual similarities and artistic visions cross each others paths and create some sort of unique pop unification. This time, unlike the “Born
This Way” fiasco, it’s a legitimate homage.
The video also leaked a few hours before it’s scheduled premiere at 8PM on E! and it’s refreshing to see the Lady herself have a somewhat sense of humor about it all. She tweets, “You know its bad when Haus of Gaga is downloading ILLEGAL video torrents on their cellphones. Thanks guys. Although I do appreciate that really sneaky monsters are flipping out :)”
This song is one of pop’s most gorgeously put together pieces of mainstream art, from start to finish. From it’s conception, it’s constantly pushed back released (it was supposed to be the first and third single from Born This Way), to a full throttle release, a promotional campaign that’s gone stronger than most artist’s album promotion runs, growing radio support (currently sitting at #53 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, jumping up from last week’s #93), and stunning music video it’s been one bloody battle for it’s voice to be heard on it’s own instead of an album track. Born This Way is a very honest album, and “Marry The Night” holds it’s core: a song about failure and trying times, but refusing to give up on anything that means something to yourself – marrying everything about your life, your problems, where you live, your career setbacks and advancements, everything.
It’s one of the songs that epitomizes what it is to be Lady Gaga in 2011 and what it was beforehand: an authentic piece of pop history. Don’t you agree?
(Oh, and here’s a present. It has nothing to do with “Marry The Night” but I completed a mash up of “Bad Romance” & The Glitch Mob Remix of Daft Punk’s “Derezzed” a week or so ago. It’s uploaded on soundcloud and is available as a free download. 2020k’s first remix on the blog! Yeeeahhh! Click here to get it: http://soundcloud.com/twenty20k/derezzed-bad-romance-2020k-mashup)
Purchase “Marry The Night” [Amazon]
Purchase Born This way: Special Edition (Featuring the Zedd Remix) [iTunes]
Purchase Born This Way: The Remix (Featuring The Weeknd & Illangelo Remix) [iTunes]
Purchase Marry The Night Single [Link TBA upon it’s arrival]