What is it about a good album that makes us walk with a little extra pep in our step when we play it on repeat for a week straight? Why do certain songs pull us out of bed by our ears in the morning? Many music aficionados will probably tell you it's the beat. Whether it's an uptempo house track, a smooth, samba groove, or a Mike Will Made It tagged club smash, it's the music --and very often the percussive elements of the music -- behind the lyrics that hooks the listener and grabs their attention.
For the majority of my 23-year relationship with music, both as a consumer and a creator, I have been involuntarily moved by the thump of a kick drum and the snap of a snare, more than a few times. Recently though, while I appreciate an undeniable drum pattern (and still believe that production and arrangement is key to any good song), I've started to find myself trapped in the gravitational pull created by the way an artist or a band approaches a song.
As I've started to explore more outside of urban radio and hip hop blogs for inspiring and interesting music, I've been pulled in what feels like a thousand different directions. Dozens of musical genres float in and out of my musical landscape on a daily basis. A lot of them overlap with each other, but a lot of them don't. I spend arguably too much time analyzing why I listen to what I listen to. I think about what makes me purchase an album or put a song in my 'starred' playlist on Spotify, and the one quality that the majority of my favorite songs and albums share is that they all have a certain level of vulnerability.
As an emerging artist who has been writing, recording and producing music for seven years, I can say with conviction that it already takes a certain level of courage and vulnerability to step in front of a microphone and share your voice -- and your thoughts -- with the world, regardless of content. But the music that makes me want to run to the studio and create are the songs in which I can almost hear the artist kicking all of their homies, their handlers, and their entourage out of the room, turning down the lights, reaching deep within and sharing a piece of their inner self. The songs and albums that fall under this category, I like to call "instinct music." I chose this name because when I listen to albums like Amy Winehouse's debut Frank, I can picture her writing those songs, pausing to think about what people might think about the transparency of the lyrics, then shrugging, pushing those thoughts aside and continuing to follow her first instinct. I love songs that make me feel like I know the artist as a person through the lyrics and albums that can act as both a soundtrack and a mission statement. And it's not always the way an artist approaches writing a song that makes it instinct music. Everyday I am inspired by artists and producers that buck traditional song structure and production trends in lieu of presenting a new style and pushing music forward as a whole.
I love instinct music because of the effect it has on me. In a time of my life that is 90 percent finding out who I am, five percent failing, and five percent surviving, the confidence and fearlessness of my favorite artists push me to truly be me. Artists like Omar Lye-Fook and Seu Jorge who relentlessly do them, give me that boost I need to shake off the fears of traveling alone to a different continent in search of instinct music, but mostly in search of myself. They encourage me to finish the song that I started writing but stopped because I worried about getting disappointed emails from friends and family members. They tell me to stop trying to pull the perfect blog post out of thin air, and write from within. They tell me to go with my gut. And I think I'm finally starting listen.
Bardo is a Chicago-based songwriter, musician and producer who grew up in the U.S., Japan and Europe. Follow him on Twitter @mr_bardo and on instagram @whereisbardo. Check out his newest projects at whereisbardo.com.
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