This review covers the pop track Clean Bandit – Rockabye (Feat. Sean Paul and Anne-Marie).
This track was released in 2016 as a single.
The track starts off with some chopped vocals and some rap vocals at the very beginning. It also name drops the artists involved in the song which is generally cliche for the better part of a decade.
After that, the track features some general vocals with a very minimalistic string component. This is followed up with some rap vocals occasionally overlaying the track. While an interesting way to start the track, the rap elements pretty much interrupts any kind of musical flow that the general vocals try to achieve. As a result, it almost has that loud mouth ruining the moment feel to it even though in many other musical circumstances, they would be perfectly fine. As a result, the track would have been better off just removing the rap elements in this part of the track if it wants to gather any kind of momentum.
After this, the chorus is filled with allusions to a nursery rhyme. If you were to remove all other parts of this song and just stuck to this, this may seem like a pretty decent, if risky idea. The reason it is risky is because the lyrics can seem either tired and worn or simply extremely uninspired. The problem here, however, is that when you combine it with the other elements heard thus far, the lyrics wind up being out of place and clunky. The rap elements discuss overcoming adversity, but the beginning of the chorus simply features allusions to the nursery rhyme. While I can see this as an attempt to be creative with the lyrics, the two sections of the song never really work together in any way because there actually isn’t anything connecting the two concepts.
Moving onto the latter portions of the main chorus, there is a lot going on here. First is the chopped vocals which was popularized in general electronica in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. I personally don’t have any real problem with this in and of itself, but by now, they should be embedded in something to retain that unique sound. In addition to this, there is some pitch-bending going on here. while I wouldn’t normally have a problem with this, some of the pitch-bent chopping sounds so out of place, I actually had to listen to this part multiple times to make sure I wasn’t imagining something that was completely out of place. In the end, the sound is rather awkward.
In addition to this, the rap elements return and overlays this part of the chorus. They have a rather Jamaican rap sound to it which does give them a chance to give a rather unique flavour to the overall track. Unfortunately, the repetition of the title really did them very little justice. Ultimately they made them sound like they were sloppily added in because market research told the producers to put them in.
A lot of these elements could work separately in this part of the track, but putting them together all at once ultimately proves to be a mistake. It’s kind of like saying ice cream, french fries, ketchup, and banana’s all taste good, so let’s put them all together and see what happens. What you end up is an unappetizing mess. What I hear in this case is a musical mess of elements that may sound good separately, but sounds terrible when put together in the same moment.
From here, the track goes into a verse which is strictly the rap portion. This is probably the first time in the whole song the rap not only adds value to the track, but actually makes some kind of sense. If you think back to what the rap elements said in the beginning, you get a continuation of theme here. Even the backing music makes sense because you get that subtle tropical sound. With that hint of Jamaican, it all makes quite a bit of sense musically. My only real complaint is that it can be a little hard to understand some of the lyrics, but it’s otherwise a decent part of the track.
The other vocals make a return to finish off the verse. Since this is separated out from other elements, it actually not only works in and of itself, but actually manages to make the track flow from the rap to the singing.
Once the track heads into the chorus, there is the repeat of just how much the lyrics in the main chorus make absolutely no sense. The problems with the second part of the chorus also persists.
The track then goes into the next chorus. It goes from a track with a pronounced beat to a track with slow string. Nothing is actually added to transition the track from one section to the next, so what you are left is a jerky transition. In fact, even a stereotypical reverse symbol would have made the transition better. The fact that there is literally nothing to lead the track into the next verse is completely puzzling to me from a music production standpoint.
On the second part of the verse, the problem where the rap elements are not only dotting the sound randomly, but they also include random shouting. It’s certainly possible to make shouting work for the track, but there is absolutely no flow to them.
After the final chorus, the track suddenly breaks into some sort of classical string sound which seemingly comes from nowhere. After a few seconds, they just get cut off almost at random. This makes the end of the track seem unfulfilling.
Generally speaking, there are a fair number of elements going on in this track. While some elements may work standing on their own, the way they are put together makes this track a terrible listening experience. It’s as if the producers looked at some sort of marketing database, plucked chop vocals, rap music, pop vocals, minimal, and a classical violin quartet and smashed them together. It’s as if the producers just thought that by slapping everything together, it would tick every box for a hit track as far as the marketing research is concerned with little concern for how the track actually sounds. As a result, what I hear is a very clunky mess.
Even though there are a few moments that actually work in this track, listening to this track just for the first verse just doesn’t justify the raw torture of listening to the rest of it. There’s little attention paid to transitioning, and elements are just randomly dropped in. At the end of the day, because of a lack of any real musical direction, this is just a bad track to listen to. Definitely not recommended.