Music: The Lonely Island

Jun 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Matt Gallagher



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So they worked on their own in Southern California before they brought in any other celebrity guest vocalists.
Yes, so they did all of the [guest vocal] parts. It was hilarious. They [did] references for Nicki Minaj or Michael Bolton or Beck, or any of the other guests.

Did they have specific guest artists in mind from the beginning?
Well, yes and no. Some [songs were] written intentionally with an artist in mind, but some [were] just written as concepts, and the guest artist came later. The one that features Michael Bolton “Jack Sparrow” was written with him in mind. Others were a little bit more generic in that you could say, ‘insert female pop star here.’ Once they had decided on that, they recorded the guest artist and got the multitracks from the producer. Then all that came to me in pieces. I had to put it all together, reverse-engineer it and then mix it.

They had already done a record with Rihanna, and then they did a second one with Rihanna. They wrote “I Just Had Sex” with Akon in mind. They scripted [the songs] like they’d do an SNL script. Obviously, they’re open to any kind of input, but they script it directly and precisely—down to the inflections, the number of tracks, where the ad libs go. It’s just like a sketch on SNL in that respect, or any of the "Digital Shorts" that you see on the show.

They chose beats based on concepts. An example is the Rihanna/Shy Ronnie concept “Shy Ronnie 2: Ronnie & Clyde." Shy Ronnie is a character who, whenever he’s supposed to be rapping real hardcore, just whispers, and the whole joke is that [Rihanna is] telling him to speak up: “Nobody can hear you.” She steps out of the room and he just hits a verse really hard; as soon as she steps back into the room, he goes back into whispering again. That’s a character that Andy Samberg came up with, so they had to marry that concept to a beat and then [bring in] a guest artist, because that’s what SNL is all about. They’ll take those "Digital Shorts" and just apply that [approach] to making an album.

Certainly the vocal tracks in this particular project are of paramount importance.
You have to keep in mind that the records are jokes and they’re supposed to sound like these amazing pop records or a grimy Beastie Boys record or Jay-Z, or whomever they’re emulating. But the most important thing is the joke. On a pop record, you listen to that melody and those lyrics hundreds of times—it’s blown all over the radio. If you pick a song you like, you listen to it forever. You don’t tell a joke 1,000 times. After you’ve heard the joke once, most people don’t need to hear the same joke five times because it’s not as funny. I think this record is the exception to that rule, but that’s sort of the premise that they operate under.

So first and foremost, you have to get the joke the first time. And that was something that was new to me, having to work the vocals and the track in such a way that it sounded like a pop record and it had all that gloss and finish, but they still got the joke because the joke is paramount.

Every single syllable has to come through perfectly.
The first time, yeah. I had to stay away from certain types of delays I would normally use, or vocal effects, because they would step on the next line. In comedy, a lot of it is timing. They love delays and effects but they have to use the right one; they have to be very specific so they don’t mess with the timing of the joke, of what they were putting out there. And again, they did a good job of dummying up that kind of thing so that I had a good template to work on. I used their delays and their effects as they had them. Sometimes I made it better, and sometimes I didn’t. When I did, they were happy, and they wanted me to try everything. I did most of the EQ and compression, if not all. But we kept some of the effects that they had going on that were specific to the record.

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