What makes a song good: production.

By: Zachary Kolesar, In The Record Store staff writer.

The 43rd episode of In The Record Store, Vince, Grant, and Mel led a discussion centered around the genetics of a good song, and staff writer Hannah Herner agreed with Mel that the music one listens to throughout their childhood helps determine that person’s qualifications for a good song.

“Loaded question” was a term that Mel brought up when he was first asked about the thought process behind deeming a song as good. Hannah is absolutely right when referring to the music she listened to growing up as setting the good song standard, but that does not necessarily hold true for me. 

Loaded questions call for justified answers, but the good song argument can have many correct versions of a justified answer. That point came up multiple times throughout the trio’s conversation on the podcast, and one of those justified answers was given by Grant.

“If it’s any good, it’s evoking memory and emotion, and that’s one of my million criterias for it,” Grant said.

For me, the emotion behind a good song is oftentimes fueled by good producers.

“All of the Lights” by Kanye West: Kanye West is not a top 10 rapper. I wouldn’t even consider him one of hip-hop’s 50 best to ever rap, but he is without a doubt one of the genre’s most prolific producers. Kanye’s production put him on, but it wasn’t until 2010’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” when people were treated to the true genius behind Kanye musical arrangements. The triumphant trumpets, breakbeat drums and arrangement of nine additional musicians, including Elton John, Rihanna and Fergie, make for Ye’s most avant-garde piece yet.

“I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5: The Jackson 5 was a big part of my childhood, but the reason I am so drawn to this song is for the production quality. Despite Michael Jackson’s insanely talented 11-year-old voice, there are contributions coming from all over the place on this song. The overstimulating bongo rhythm, glistening keys and string parts and addictive guitar riff were all covered by members of one family. It would be remiss to mention this song without giving a proper nod to the production team of The Corporation, who wrote, produced and arranged many Jackson 5 hits including “I Want You Back.”

“Hallucinations” by dvsn: Some songs do not get, or just have not received, the love that they truly deserve. “Hallucinations,” released in 2015 is one of those tracks, a lucid trip through a breakup made possible by Canadian R&B duo dvsn. Comprised of singer Daniel Daley and producer Nineteen85, the two take listeners through outer space on “Hallucinations.” The imperfect intricacies of the spacey and ethereal production behind “Hallucinations” show that the duo cares about production in rap in a time when simplicity and repetitiveness is king.

“Thugz Mansion (Acoustic)” by 2Pac: When speaking on emotion and good songs, the beat that backs the lyrics can help an audience better understand the emotion and suffering behind a musician's lyrics. That cannot be more true when speaking on behalf of the two versions of 2Pac’s posthumous release “Thugz Mansion.” The acoustic version featured on his “Best of” album lets listeners hear 2Pac’s struggles much more clearly than the 7 Aurelius Dr. Dre-esque remix. The acoustic version is a constant battle between two entities experiencing great pain: 2Pac’s voice and two wailing guitars. For purposes of highlighting emotion, the acoustic version “Thugz Mansion” is a very good song.