Song Dissection: Invisible

From the CD: Hearts For Bullets
Music programming, lyrics & vocals: Jennifer Parkin
Production, mixing, mastering: Sebastian Komor

Hearts for Bullets (cover)

Lyrics:

I sit next to you
You look the other way
You saw me falter for one second of the day
Why am I so invisible to you?
Sometimes I hate you more than you could ever hate yourself

But I love you would do anything for you
You don’t even see that I’m in pain
Frustration became humiliation
Waiting outside for you in the pouring rain

What’s left of my self worth you crushed it in your hand
Wicked game to torture me because you can
You toy with me then pull back
We’re never synched in time, we blew that
The sad thing I’ve done the same before to someone else

I tried so hard to be someone
I never was nobody
I tried too hard to play this game
I never was the winner

The Dissection & how song brainstorming works:

Something I found interesting about this song:  at 136 Beats Per Minute this track has the highest BPM of all the songs on Hearts For Bullets, making it the “fastest” tempo song on the CD even though it really doesn’t seem like it is! An “average” (if you can call them that) Ayria song falls into the 125-135 BPM Range.  Examples:  125BPM (Disease) – 127BPM (My Revenge On The World), 130 – (100 Transmissions) – 132 (Six Seconds).   Just to compare.

This song was such an odd one for me to develop to be honest.  It went through such big transformations and incarnations from the concept to completion.   Starting as a simple synth loop I recorded, it was originally a ballad! To dissect this song, instead of focusing on the final demo versions of the song that were passed off for production, I’m going to go back even earlier, to the rougher stages of inception, and take you to the brainstorming stage of how I came up with vocal ideas and lyrics that started with a simple recorded loop.

When I start to write a song, I don’t repeat the exact same processes each time.  Sometimes I start with the sequencer – using Reason software for you techies! – building on synths and a basic percussion loop. Other times I’ll start playing notes on my keyboard or I even start with my guitar. The guitar is my primary writing tool and first instrument I learned to play, though not very well! For this song in particular, I was playing around on my keyboard, THE Nord Lead 2 (remember kids: fancy gear and toys will not magically give you the ability to write better songs! But they are shiny and fun to play with!!). I just play random stuff, trying to come up with an idea, a melody or a vocal idea that would inspire me to develop a song out of.  I want to point out that I’m not technically trained, I know some stuff, but I’ve been blessed with a pretty good ear, able to figure out what sounds good, and write harmonies, which I inherited all from my dad who played a wicked guitar and had music flowing through his veins. For this song in particular, I was recording myself just playing the keyboard and I ended up getting stuck on these 3 notes: D,F,B-flat.  This is that recording of me doing some live synth brainstorming from the original session, nothing particularly fancy or interesting, just to show how simple an idea can start! :

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Invisible_Nord_Brainstorming.mp3[/podcast]

Then, I turned on the microphone and just started singing over this, to capture anything that came out of me.  I sometimes do this and sit there for a long period of time.  I try and let myself go and sometimes not even real words come out of me because I haven’t written any real lyrics at this point yet, and have no idea what I’m singing about! Sometime the notes go way off because I’m not sure myself which way to take the melody in the moment.  This experimentation is full of lots of misses and fails, but then the few parts that stand out to me, eventually become pieces of the song.  Having recorded every idea, no matter how good or bad, means I can go back, analyze it and then refine, tweak and develop a song from it.

So, once I decided this had potential to turn into a song,  I created some basic percussion and sequenced the notes into a very rough and simple loop. At this point in the brainstorming phase, I’m not yet ready to flesh sounds out until there is a worthwhile song idea shaping up. The rough loop is basically a tool for me to develop vocal melodies and potential structure further.  To me, the most important element of song writing, and my main passion, is the vocal melodies.  I actually found a solid 5 minute recording of this loop where I was singing randomly over it to get ideas.  Here were the two most interesting vocal clips that came out of the session, you can hear some of the song it’s to become in these clips, but not all of these ideas were used or developed further. I can’t believe I’m sharing this very early brainstorming phase of the recording with you guys because it’s so very rough, and, as I mentioned above, it’s still more of a ballad here, than the danceable  electro song it became!  You’ll notice, compared to the final recording, that my vocals sound  lazy.  This is because I’m actually sitting there trying to feel inspiration and get a melody from the loop and have no idea what’s going to come out. This is how I brainstorm.  Nothing is polished here, but that’s the point!  The way I record final vocals is obviously much different since I know what’s supposed to come out, with the lyrics and melodies 100% done.  When I record brainstorm sessions or complete a demo, I always slap on a mod delay and chorus effect in Cubase so even they have some moodiness:

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Ayria-Invisible-brainstorm-1.mp3[/podcast]

You can hear the randomness of this whole process and what I filter through. Some of these vocals are unintelligible!  Enjoy! Hahaha ;) :

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Ayria-Invisible-brainstorm-21.mp3[/podcast]

I don’t know exactly when and why I made the decision to scrap the ballad approach and pick it up to a fairly fast tempo song but over time as I worked out the full structure to this song, it became more of an electro-pop track. The structure for this complete song that I developed stayed the same in the final produced versions, but, of course, in production, Seb transitioned this song to something almost commercial sounding which blew me away with delight at how slick it turned out! When I passed the production kit to Seb, which includes all the files that make up the demo song so it can be produced (raw vocals, midi, separated instrument file), I said: “This song is structured like a pop song! The influence is electro/80’s while still having a darker, grittier edge.”  From there, he added that main synth lead in the song as well as some other great synth layers and beefed up the percussion. I’m sure he could write a chapter on production, but that’s a completely different beast! Here’s a clip of the final produced version, obviously VERY different from the brainstorming and I’ve skipped a lot of steps in between that got us to here, but I wanted to show how dramatically a song can change and develop from it’s inception:

[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Invisible-produced-clip.mp3[/podcast]

Yes, but what’s this song all about?  The Lyrics:

Verse 1:

This song turned out to be a classic tale about young love and feeling rejected by the object of your affection.  Trying to gain their attention, love and respect but realizing that all attempts have been futile and you remain invisible to them. I’ve had a lot of people tell me they completely relate to this song, and it’s their favourite track.  Both comments that touch me.  The line “You saw me falter for one second of the day”.  I’m not sure I totally landed that exactly how I wanted to.  In my mind, it’s about the one time that person does see you, it unfortunately happens to be a moment of weakness when you screw up. “Sometimes I hate you more than you could ever hate yourself”. I just love this line, it’s so painful and harsh and you could hear it’s beginnings in the very early demo stages.  It’s self explanatory.

The Pre-Chorus:

“But I love you, would do anything for you but you don’t even see that I’m in pain. Frustration became humiliation waiting outside for you in the pouring rain.”

I just wanted to point out a moment of self-growth I had in song writing!  This song was the first in all of my history that I developed a “pre-chorus” in a song.  This song structure element wasn’t something I’d ever experimented with or even thought about before.  I heard a song do it once and thought, “Hey, that part is really effective!  A complete change in melodies preceeding the chorus! I want to try that!”. I was proud of myself for expanding and introducing a new element to my song writing.

Chorus: Rain!

If you know me, you may know that I love rain.  I’ve wanted to work rain into an Ayria song forever and here, I really got to belt it out.  Plus the imagery of someone humiliated, standing outside in the pouring rain, waiting for someone who’s probably not going to show up.  It was just so sad.

RAW VOCAL SHARE:  Here’s the raw, unaffected final vocals that were produced in this song. I thought you guys might find this neat since you only ever hear the vocals in the music.  This is the last minute of the song and there are multiple layers going on.  There were 6 vocal tracks in the production kit, which means 6 wav files that layer together to complete all the vocals in this song.
Final Raw vocals:
[podcast]http://www.ayria.com/wp-content/uploads/Invisible_raw_vocals_Layered-2.mp3[/podcast]

The Bridge? (I think that’s what this is):  “tried so hard to be someone

I don’t know what this part is really.  It’s a transition before verse number 2, and acts as a bridge later in the song. I’m just not sure a bridge typically makes an appearance in a song more than once?  I took a pop-music history class in University and I don’t remember this coming up to be honest. I love the lyrics here with the life is a game and I’m never the winner analogy and the “never was nobody” sadness of trying so hard but never getting to be what you want, in either life, or noticed in the eyes of another. This song is not exactly autobiographical, but as always, I can’t help but inject honest parts of myself into it.

Verse #2:

Favourite vocals: “a wicked game to torture me because you can” when you love someone that much, and they know it, they can take advantage of that.  Also the “sad thing is, I’ve done the same before to someone else”.  This has been true in my life personally where I know I’ve put someone through what I’m going through now.  It’s karma.  Everyone wants who or what they can’t have. An awesome production element in the second verse that I want to point out, is during the “you toy with me, then pull back”. Seb put a break that sounds like the music starts going backwards “pulling back”. It only lasts for a second, but keeps it interesting.

My thoughts on playing this song live:

It has an awesome energy to it.  My flaw in structuring this song, from a live perspective, is that I NEVER STOP SINGING!!  That’s right. There are no musical gaps in this song once my vocals come in, making this song difficult to perform live.  Also, pulling off the “tried so hard to be someone, never was nobody” even the recording was done on separate layers so I wouldn’t have to sing more than one repetition at a time. There’s not a lot of space to breathe, especially difficult going right into the second verse! It was in the set list for the full European Tour I just came home from and my keyboardist for Europe, Justin, LOVED playing the parts live, but it’s slightly challenging to sing, move, dance and breathe all at once in this song!  Which is weird because I tried to keep in mind the element of live shows when I worked on Hearts For Bullets because I knew that touring was such a big part of what I do! Here’s a clip of us playing it live in Dortmund, Germany in December 2009, and if you’ve seen me live before, you know this isn’t a fraction of how much I usually move around, but honestly, I was pacing myself to make sure I could pull off the singing, and NOT pass out.  Did I mention how hot it is up on stage too? Excuses, excuses!

Thanks Josaustsoest for posting this video!  If you can’t see it, click here:
Ayria performing Invisible Live in Dortmund, Germany (Dec 2009)

Here’s my obligatory pimp on where you can buy the song “Invisible” or the full “Hearts For Bullets” CD.  This link takes you to my web shop where I personally sign and send you stuff:

Or you can purchase the song or full CD digitally from iTunes:

I’m sure you have felt invisible at some point in your life and can relate to the frustration portrayed in this song!?

3 songs down now!  Let me know if you guys have any other questions or ideas you’d like me to cover for future songs. As each song is unique, I’m trying different approaches for each one ;)

Jennifer

20 thoughts on “Song Dissection: Invisible

  1. I have to say, it’s started to become a Friday thing for me to read your dissections and I always look forward to it now. =) Thanks again sooo much for doing this. It’s so interesting to hear exactly how each song was created. And Invisible is probably my favourite on the album, because it is so relatable. And I love that it has the sense of a ballad whilst still being a very fast and upbeat song.

    I do have one question: did you write this song with one person in mind or is it more about general feelings of infatuation?

  2. Wow! These insights are just blowing me away, JP! It takes courage to share your raw work, I understand, but it is so helpful and fascinating to me (us) and we really appreciate you doing this. I love the brainstorming clips, and the vocals-only clip, so wonderful to hear! I always wonder how you go about this (I, like so many, wish to make music but I lack your natural talent).
    You even explained one of the little gems I love – that “backwards” sound on “pull back”. WTG, Seb! heh.
    I think my favourite part of this entry was your mention of your father’s talent with the guitar. I’ve always wondered what your father thought of your music and how much he inspired you thereto; thank you for mentioning this. I know he was a great guy. =)
    Oh! And you play guitar! Have you thought about doing a little guitar when you perform live, just for 1 song? That’d be fun!
    Thank you so much, Ms. Parkin, for posting this. You’re the best!
    - JC

  3. Oh sorry to post again but I wanted to mention – I also love the rain, but it always made me sad to imagine you waiting in the rain for someone to not show up; glad to hear this was more allegorical (?) than factual. You’re too wonderful to have to be sad! =)

  4. I remember the first time this was played live in London last year. After that live performance it vaulted up to become one of my favourite tracks on the album.

    Another excellent entry as ever – fascinating to see just how much the song changed from its early beginnings.

  5. That was fascinating reading as always. I can’t believe how different the final version is from the original ballad.

    It’s just great to be able to understand how much is involved in the music creation process.

    I do love this tune and it’s brilliant to have been able to read about how it was created.

    Again, thank you for sharing. You’re the best!

  6. Hi! I am really enjoying these deconstructions. In away they make me feel like an insider to the process, like I am involved in the songs in some way.

    It makes the recordings more personal, and more meaningful, and adds an additional layer to enjoy and muse about..

    Thank you for taking the time to share these with us.
    :) Kurt

  7. Thanks for a great blog; I feel like I’m kind of living this song myself at the moment. It’s great to hear you acapella; your voice has a raw honesty that really shines through when its unaccompanied.

  8. Hi everyone & thanks. Once again, your comments are moving! I exposed even more on this dissection because of you all! Raw vocals, brainstorming demos and all ;)

    I’m sorry it’s taking me a while to respond. I was working on new stuff this afternoon so I try and turn off the interweb so I have little distractions ;)

    @ Maza – Thank you & the song has a few specific people in mind that I’ve felt invisible to in my life. Some times each phrasing will remind of someone different, but all together, they make up one complete song!

    @ John – Like I said, I can’t play guitar very well! ;) But it’s always been an interesting idea.. just not really fitting in the current style of live shows we do.

    @ Mike G – Really? The live version made it become a fave? That is so awesome! Oh and you rock by the way! I haven’t had a chance to write you back yet.

    @ Kurt – I’m so glad you’re liking them. They started as almost theraputic for me personally too! Letting the world in was hard but it’s getting easier week by week, knowing people look forward to them!

    @ Ken – Good luck with what you’re going through! Oh, and it’s funny, I’m so sick of hearing my own voice because I have to listen through those files all the time, make sure they’re good enough, etc. But it never occurred to me that people may like to hear it!! I’ll try and post more! ;)

  9. First of all, Ayria is my favorite band. Thanks for the tunes.
    Now, I personally can relate myself to a lot of your songs. Invisble being one of my top five Ayria songs I can relate to. But just an idea for a future song (or not) how about another heartbreaking song.
    A song about loving someone so deeply for so long and wanting to have a relationship with the person, but just too shy or scared. As so much time passes and finally find the courage, its too late; the person is with someone else and he/she says that their relationship is getting serious.
    Just an idea for a possible future song that I thought I share.
    Thanks again.

  10. Yes, please more raw vocals. They are absolutely amazing. Possibly the best elements of your music is your voice. I would say it is one of my favorites but that would be unfair to the rest of your music. I simply adore them all!

    This song is so relatable in more ways then I’d like to admit. The chorus is my favorite part. Being in the rain, brings back so many memories good and bad but often times in life where it was needed and serves a purpose. Hearing you sing that always brings out big smile :)

  11. I thought this song was faster than others. The part in this song where the music plays backwards caught my ears the first time i heard it! i loved it! I love this song because i have stood out in the pouring rain for someone. I feel that there is music out there that people can understand.. and that they can connect too. Your music, so many times, can so many people understand and connect with you. This is what makes you a great and talented artist :) I loved listening to clips and hearing how the song has transformed. It turned out to be a great song!

  12. I can definitely relate. I had a crush on my best friends boyfriend back in junior high. I felt invisible, though he wasn’t aware of my crush and didn’t torture me about it. But also felt bad because my BEST FRIEND was dating him. AND, she didn’t treat him well, and we all knew it. She dumped him, he was crushed, a while later we started going out, been going out for 7 years, and are getting married in August :P

    Anyway, I agree with John Connell and others, raw vocals are so cool! Actually, the whole progression of the song is so interesting, and I’m so glad you do that!! I also love how you post the lyrics. I know what song you are talking about, and I know the words, but it’s nice to have a quick refresher.

    I’d really like to hear “Girl on the Floor” at some point. I and especially my fiance oddly enough relates to that. He had a REALLY hard senior year in college, and he just loves that song so much because of that. No pressure, just a bit of a request :) <3 Hope to see you soon!!!

  13. Any possibility that you might post more raw vocals for a remix contest or something like that in the future? That would be really fun.

    There are a couple of tracks that I’m excited to hear more about, in particular one that I just can’t figure out what the hell it means! I’ll just sit and enjoy them one by one, though. Write whatever comes out for each song, it’s been working wonderfully so far.

  14. Jenn,
    Thank you sooo much! I love hearing the raw vocals. You have the most amazing voice and to be able to hear just the vocals is such a treat. Of course, I wouldn’t give up the fast paced stompy music either :p Until next Friday! <3

  15. I love the original version of this. It would be great if u could record a version of it like that. Maybe something to release as a B-side or to add to a remix album? That would be cool.

    I think u were amazing at that live performance. We don’t have to see u bouncing around the stage all the time. :) I’d love to see u perform this live. Please!

    That layered track of raw vocals was really cool. I’d never noticed that slow part during the bridge. And it was really cool that u threw in all 3 parts during the live performance. I’ll have to listen for that part next time I play the CD.

    I love this song alot. It totally reminds me of my ex & just reaffirms how self-destructive that relationship was. I was considering getting back together with him recently & reading this dissection just reminded me of how BAD an idea that would be. Thanks for the reality check! :)

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