Those who know me know that I'm a little bit of a nerd when it comes to being an avid music fan. I love learning about the process behind the making of a song or an album because when you know something that you wouldn't know simply from using your ears, all of a sudden, you start to listen differently. Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" suddenly becomes more impressive after finding out that the choir in the chorus is actually just Smith's voice layered 20 times. We listen to Grimes' "Go" differently after learning that she had originally written it for Rihanna...and it's hard to wrap our heads around the fact that stunningly produced "1 Night" by Mura Masa featuring Charli XCX was mostly just recorded in the producer's bedroom without proper monitors. That's why I'm particularly excited about this feature. When I interview an artist, I always take the opportunity to bombard them with questions about gear and songwriting, and now, for our special Middle 8 series, we get to have artists walk us through the thought process behind our favorite songs.
For this edition of Middle 8, we talked to charming pop princess Betty Who
about her confident single "Human Touch" (which I was extra excited about since it's one of my personal favorites). It's a sensual pop song on the surface but boy oh boy, if there's one thing I learned from this encounter, it's that so much detail goes into writing lyrics.
"We had a bunch of different versions like 'I just want a human touch,' [or] 'I just need a human touch.' ... If it's 'I just need' then I sound desperate, and if it's 'we just want' then it's too dismissive ... We ended up with 'we just need a human touch' because it was global ... We all just to be close to each other." Yes, that one vague verb has the ability to change the entire tone of the song.
"I was in LA with Peter Thomas and our friend Kyle and the three of us were messing around ... We were talking about a guy I used to date," she told us when we asked where she was when the writing took place. "There's a trumpet sound in the background and it's literally Kyle playing a mouth trumpet. It's not an actual trumpet ... He edited and made it sound like it's an actual instrument. So now every time you hear it you'll be like 'that's Kyle being stupid,'" Who admitted. When you hear the song, you know exactly what she's talking about, and she's right. Now whenever I listen to the song, the sound that was once hidden in the distance now pops into the forefront and makes me think, "Kyle!!!"
It's no secret that a lot of work goes into making a song, but sometimes getting specific details about the process makes you appreciate it that much more. So let Betty Who spill more lyrical secrets and guitar chords in our latest Middle 8 and gain a whole new level of respect for the already amazing song.