an anthology of various creative works arranged by Daniel Kim.
Finally, after a total of 180 hours of work, I have finished the 2013 edition of my annual “Pop Danthology” music mix series.
(In alphabetical order by artist)
LYRICS & SONG TITLES
(In order of appearance)
There is so much that goes into the production of Pop Danthologies. Below is a pie chart that shows the breakdown of all the work I did for Pop Danthology 2013.
The first and least exciting part of making Pop Danthology is gathering all the different instrumental and acapella tracks, audio stems, and full songs. I search all over the internet like a determined chef searches different markets and grocery stores for his ingredients. Mashup artists such as myself, however, are “chefs” who live in a world of many deceitful grocery stores that mislabel their produce as “fresh” and “organic” when they really are far from those descriptions. I am one “chef” who will not be deceived. I instead take the time to visit every “grocery store” in order to get ingredients of the highest quality. This year, I felt that there was a shortage of high quality audio parts compared to previous years. Nevertheless, after 33 hours, I was able to compile a ready-to-mix list of 179 (73 vocal, 41 instrumental, 65 complete with both) music files.
PLANNING AND ORGANIZING
A lot of planning is required in the making of Pop Danthology because not all songs fit nicely into one stationary tempo and key (many other mashup artists do this but it distorts the sound quality and timbre of the original audio parts too much for my liking). In order to determine what keys to use in Pop Danthology, I draw up a chart like the one below.
This key chart shows me that this year’s music, like many of the previous years’ music, is all over the place; there is no one key being predominantly used. I, therefore, had no choice but to use multiple key changes in this year’s Pop Danthology. The tempos of all the music this year were all over the place too. I had to use a total of 11 tempo changes in Pop Danthology 2013.
I spent a total of 9 hours planning and organizing Pop Danthology 2013.
ARRANGING AND MIXING
The fun part began only after investing 42 hours into this epic project (talk about delayed gratification, huh?). This is the part I get to combine all the different sounds together to make new sounds. I spent a total of 114 hours arranging and mixing Pop Danthology 2013. A lot of that time, though, was spent just listening to my progress at full volume and dancing as if I was hearing it at a DJ concert. It is also during this part of the mashup making process that the only music I listen to, on loop, is my work in progress. Even while driving my car from one place to another, I examine all the volumes and frequencies of each individual audio part with a critical ear.
[ Arranging my music on Logic Pro X ]
Unlike the music portion of the mashup making process, it is so much easier to find the official music videos to all the songs used in Pop Danthology. All it took was 1 hour of simple YouTube searches.
Editing the music video was so easy as well. All I really had to do was find the video clips matching the audio parts featured in Pop Danthology 2013 and then stretch or compress them by the same percentage that the audio parts were stretched/compressed. I do spend the extra time, though, to carefully select video clips that are appropriate for all ages. I spent 23 hours editing Pop Danthology 2013.
POP… DAN… THOLOGY INTRO
This year I decided to make a parody of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s viral Volvo commercial as my video intro. I could not have done this part without the help of:
Justin Lam (Lighting, Equipment)
Steve Tan (Editor/Compositor)
|Website: threesixtyphoto.com||Website: stevetan.net|
|Facebook: ThreeSixtyPhotography||Instagram: @stevetan|
|Twitter: @threesixtyphoto||Twitter: @stevetan|
|Vimeo: threesixtyphoto||Vimeo: stevetan|
Click here to read more about how Steve was able to make my floating head move so perfectly along with Jean-Claude Van Damme’s body.
(Click to enlarge)
Recently, one of my creative works went viral over the internet. In one week, “Pop Danthology 2012” reached over seven million views.
The success of “Pop Danthology 2012” has meant so much to me.
From a very young age, I was a gifted artist. I created things simply because I could. It gave me joy to see my ideas come to life. Life was simple and happy back then and I was a very nice boy with a pure heart.
As I grew older, however, life became more complicated. I experienced a lot of emotional pain (it did not help that I was born with extreme sensitivity). I was taken advantage of, rejected, invalidated, criticized, cheated, betrayed, and disrespected. I grew into a very untrusting bitter person with an inflexible mentality of survival.
All the pain accumulated inside of me and I did not know how to handle it. Having been raised by Asian parents, I was taught to distract myself from my pain by keeping myself busy. I then started using art and music to escape my pain.
I became addicted to this form of escape. My workaholism in the arts took a toll on my health and my relationships. I toiled through many creative projects that I had absolutely no interest in. I made myself sick of what used to give me joy.
When art and music failed to distract me from my pain, I moved onto other forms of escape and developed a whole new set of different destructive addictions.
After hitting rock bottom, I finally decided to give up everything that I was addicted to, including art and music. I spent a year dealing with my pain and finding healing and inner peace. It was a tough year because my brain and body continually urged me to fall back on my addictions. But I was able to stay on the right track with the support of a caring community, professional help, and my faith in a higher power.
“Pop Danthology 2012” was the first creative project I worked on, not out of my need to escape my pain, but simply out of my desire to create art for art’s sake.
It was amazing when my art went viral! All of a sudden, all the pain, anger, distrust, insecurity, anxiety, and unforgiveness that I had remaining inside of me disappeared. Not one ounce of negativity was left inside of me. I was full of joy! My joy led me to make peace with members of my immediate family that I had cut out of my life.
I have no idea where I will go from here. But even if no big opportunity comes my way as a result of this success, I will still be so happy and grateful for what this event did inside of me.
Thank you so much to all of you who shared my video. To you, it may have just been a simple act of passing on a cool video to a friend. But to me, it meant much much more than that!
Once a year, I try to make a seamless musical mix (“mash-up”) of the year’s top pop songs. This is not a quick and easy thing to do. Making a mash-up is like completing a huge puzzle (not every piece goes together). Fortunately, my brain was made for these kinds of puzzles. The whole process takes me about three whole months.
FIRST MONTH (GATHERING)
This is my least favourite part of the process because it feels so unproductive. All I do for one month is gather my ingredients (vocal parts, instrumental parts, video clips, etc.). Like Jiro, the master sushi chef I wrote about in my last blog post, I sacrifice my efficiency to get the best ingredients. I search all over the internet and use my sensitivity to compare all the different versions of the same puzzle pieces. If good quality audio parts are not available on the internet, I will then make my own audio parts (using audio engineering techniques like phase cancellation) as a last resort. I then start compiling an organized list of the best puzzle pieces.
This is what my list looks like from A to C
[ Song Title (Part) - Key - Tempo ]
SECOND MONTH (PLANNING)
Once I have all my audio parts, I then start planning out a way to fit them together. Audio parts must be in the same key AND in the same tempo in order to fit together. But it is not as simple as digitally manipulating all the tracks to one key and tempo (though many other mash-up artists do this). If vocal parts are pitched more than one semi-tone from its original key, the vocalists no longer sound human (they either sound like chipmunks or like king Xerxes from “300”). The tempo of instrumentals cannot be changed too much either. In order to find the perfect key to work with, I make a key chart.
[ the numbers above refer to the number of songs in that key ]
Looking at this chart, I can tell that C minor is a great key to work with and F# minor is a terrible key to work with. In the end, I decided to use four different keys and three tempo changes.
THIRD MONTH (ARRANGING AND MIXING)
In the third month, I finally get to work on my favourite part of the mash-up making process, arrangement! This is the part when I get to have fun putting my puzzle pieces together. The part that feels like work, however, is the very technical part of mixing. I must adjust the volume and EQ of about 150 individual audio parts. I get very OCPD about mixing because everything just sounds so imperfect and messy to me. This is the part when I listen to Rihanna sing the line “Shine bright like a diamond” on loop, over and over again, as I make my changes.
Hope you enjoy it! It was a lot of work! For an entire month, I went to sleep every night with ringing in my ears :p
Q: Is it easier to make a mash-up of pop music because it all sounds the same?
A: No. I can just as easily mix the Beatles and other “more complex” music. Different time signature does not make a song less easy to mix. All you have to do is find another song that is in the same time signature. Mixing live classical music can be a little bit more challenging only because of its inconsistent tempo (those inconsistent conductors!). Quantizing can easily fix this obstacle (I use “flex view” in “Logic Pro” and manually compress and stretch the audio for classical music). The biggest challenge I can think of would be mixing songs that are using completely different scales. So mixing western music with something like classical Arabic music or Gregorian chant would be challenging. But even those can be mixed after changing the pitch of some of the notes using tuning software. Mixing pop music the way I do is not all that simple either. I mixed together the music of “We Are Young” and “Brokenhearted” between 2:29 and 3:00. After putting them in the same tempo and key, “We Are Young” has the chord progression F, Dm7, Gm7, A#, C while “Brokenhearted” has the chord progression F, Dm, A#, C, F. Do you notice how only the first two chords work together? I had to find the parts of “Brokenhearted” that played the bass notes without too many other sounds, copy that sound to all the down beats of the instrumental of “We Are Young,” and then use a professional tuning software called “Melodyne” to change the individual notes of the bass to match the chord progression of “We Are Young.”
Q: Why put in all that time and effort in something that you cannot earn any money from?
A: I do it simply because I can. That is what I believe separates us passionate artists from the rest of the world. That is probably why the term “starving artist” also exists haha.
Q: What did you use to make this mash-up?
A: MacBook Pro (Computer), Logic Pro (DAW), Melodyne Editor (Pitch Correction), Final Cut Pro (Video Editor)
Q: Where can I download the mp3?
Q: Can I play this on my radio show, during my DJ set, on my wedding, etc.?
A: Yes, you at least have my permission. But I’m no lawyer. So you might want to check first before playing it on something that you are making money off of :p
Q: Why is Taylor Swift and other big artists of 2012 missing from this mash-up?
A: I extracted some of the audio parts of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and really wanted to use it. Unfortunately, the tempo of the song is too different from the tempo of the section of my mash-up that is in G major (the key that Taylor Swift’s song is in). The key is also too different from the key of the section of my mash-up that is roughly around the same tempo. If you did not hear some of 2012’s hit songs, it is simply because I could not find a way to fit them in or the audio parts that I had for them were in such poor quality that it would have compromised the quality of my mash-up to include them. Also, 2012 was not a big year for Britney Spears and Lady Gaga. Please check out Pop Danthology 2011 to listen to them.