Fucking fade outs…

Fade outs suck. I just don’t get what happens when an artist decides to release a track with a fade out. You’ve spent all this time crafting this piece of art, dragging listeners into the song at the beginning, building up to that payoff when the song crescendos. Then when you’re finally leaving your mark with the listener, you just slowly turn down the volume. What is up with that?!

Take, for example, ‘Tusk’. One of Fleetwood Mac’s iconic tracks. The marching drums that drive the song forward are done a disservice when they are faded out instead of getting a final flourish. Plus, when you look at the music video, it just feels weird to have the music disappear, while you can still see the band in full action. I guess the video producer felt the same way and eventually they just give up and faded the video out too. Problem solved!

When I have talked about fade outs with others, the word that always seems to come up is ‘lazy’. And that is because it is lazy songwriting! There is a whole part of the song that the artist has decided. ‘Na. I’m going to opt out.’ Artists are supposed to be pushing things forward and taking risks. A fade out is just so risk averse it feels cowardly. It’s almost like they want to get out of the song and disappear like a magician. But it’s just so noticeable. 

I think the thing that annoys me the most, is that a fade out could be good. Well managed and done with intention. Just think how good a slow build to a song can be. That pay off. The opposite is possible as the music disappears into the ether. But that is not achieved by slowly turning down the volume knob. That is achieved by careful and creative instrumentation, to compose an ending that fits like in ‘Dance Yourself Clean’ by LCD Soundsystem.

Or you can just let those guitars ring out, like Nirvana did for ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’.

Maybe I’m just crazy. A quick Google about fadeouts in songs, gives pretty much nothing but a commiseration for the decline of the fade. Still I just can’t take anyone seriously who thinks that someone as musically skilled and innovative as Jack White cannot come up with a better ending to ‘Icky Thump’. In my books the only fade out in a song worth anything is in ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ by Radiohead (SPOILER: there is no fade out!).

 

Words by Matt Paul

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s