Monday, February 23, 2009

Depeche Mode "People Are People" 25 years later


Driving home from the pharmacy tonight I happened upon the radio single version of "People Are People" on my iPod. It was a recording I forgot I had and I heard it in a way never had before.

Of course, nothing about the song has changed in 25 years but my ears have changed a lot. As a youth Depeche Mode's beat and mood carried me along. Tonight I subjected the song to a technical deconstruction I was certainly neither capable of nor inclined to before.

What got me most was the vocals. The vocal arrangement on "People Are People" is considerably more complex than I had previously realized. I didn't get as far as trying to count parts but there are several. Some of it appears to be fairly basic layering and harmony but there are some more subtle things going on too. For example, additional voices come in to give a small dynamic lift in spots where I certainly didn't remember them.

The other thing about the vocals that I had no memory of was the generous use of reverb. Did I say "generous?" I meant "lavish," "extravagant" something like that. For much of the song the lead vocals are drenched in it. Besides the obvious gravitas and heft this gives the vocal it also makes the thinner, dryer vocals contrast that much more when they come in.

If you were waiting for me to be profound then I'm sorry. I just wanted to toss these observations out there for anybody who's as big a nerd as I am.

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