4) Midnight Metropolis

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A couple of months before I started working on “Hope for the Best,” a massive blizzard hit the east coast, shut down New York City, and ruined plans that me and a singer/ friend/ ex of mine had to hang out (before you ask, yes we were trying to remain friends after breaking up and yes it eventually resulted in a lot of drama). While we were stranded inside, we decided to pass the time by trying to remotely work on music together. She had a song that she had recently started working on so she sent me a rough acapella of it for me to put an instrumental to. Since the acapella wasn’t recorded to any type of rhythm or metronome, I took the melody and played it into Ableton Live using a sine synth lead. Afterwards, I figured out the key signature, added some chord progressions that sounded good with it, added a bass line, and then sent this sketch back to her to see if she liked the direction it was heading. She ended up not liking it because it sounded too old school to her so we abandoned our attempt at collaborating and this sketch was left to be forgotten for the next few months.

The snowstorm that resulted in the Midnight Metropolis instrumental being made.

Now fast forward a few months. I had just released “Assembly Line” (and “Live In Fear” before that since it a took a while for Emily to finish her part) and was promoting it in various music groups on Soundcloud. This was before Soundcloud removed the feature, which was a shame since I discovered some cool artists, such as Fjer, through Soundcloud groups. Anyways, after posting my track in one of the groups, I listened to a few of the tracks in it and came across this beat that reminded me a lot of “Nuages” by Claude Debussy. Now, I have historically shat on classical music since it was forced down my throat in every music class I had ever taken in school. When I learned about the modern period in Music History IV, however, I gained a whole new appreciation for the genre and was particularly fond of French composers such as Claude Debussy and Erik Satie who created atmospheric compositions with no direction or journey. This beat had the same feel to it and since the last two songs I had released were all about their respective journeys, it inspired me to make an atmospheric track with no direction that painted a picture for the listener.

Even though the Soundcloud beat was dope, I figured that it would be faster and easier for me to make my own instrumental instead of trying to work with a stranger who had just joined Soundcloud. Before I started doing this though, I decided to go through the ever growing list of song sketches that are on my computer. This caused me to rediscover the failed blizzard collaboration and after listening to it, I knew that it would work. So I made some adjustments to the bass line, added the drums, added strings, added the choir, and organized the loops into the instrumental that you hear now. When it came to the lyrics, I decided that the picture I wanted to paint would be of New York City at night. This was because the first line in the original acapella that was sent to me was “another late night in the city,” which led to the title “Late Night Metropolis.” I eventually changed this to “Midnight Metropolis” since it sounded cooler. After listening to the instrumental on repeat for a while, I decided that the first verse would describe the scenery of the city, the second verse would describe events that happen in the city, and the third verse would summarize the first two verses as well as describe the transition to daytime. I also had an idea of how I wanted each line to rhyme and flow before I started writing the song.

Whereas “Live In Fear” was an absolute nightmare to mix, “Midnight Metropolis” was an absolute nightmare to write. This was largely because of the restrictions I had placed on myself in terms of cadence and rhyme structure. Operating within these restrictions while staying on topic and keeping a certain amount of vagueness to the whole thing was a huge challenge and I almost gave up on the song multiple times. It eventually came together though, which brought me to the next challenge: adding the scratches. I knew that I wanted someone to scratch a sample of Mos Def saying “metropolis” off of Black Star’s “Respiration” as soon as I finished making the beat. The person who was originally supposed to do it though ended up being too busy so I ended up adding some place holder scratches with an old Numark 4Trak controller. Even though those scratches were supposed to be place holders, they ended up being the final thing after I moved Boston and failed to find a DJ here who can scratch (I’m still looking for someone too so if you know anyone who can scratch and is interested in performing these songs with me, shoot me a message). I finally released this song three months after I had originally intended to release it. It was the first song I released while I was in Boston and the last song I had recorded in NYC.

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