The "it" factor - what makes you enjoy a track?

dmgtz96

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This is less of a trance discussion and more of a music discussion in general, but I'd like to hear your opinions.

When I listen to (most) music, it falls into two categories:

1. Music that is okay on a first or second listen, but I wouldn't actively hear it again or put it on a playlist.
2. Music that I hear again, and again, and again, and I put it on playlists and actively seek more music like it because I've gotten obsessed and... you get the idea. The kind of music you could put on repeat all day the day you discover it because it's a damn masterpiece (to you).

For me, a lot of post-2000 USA/British pop falls in bucket 1. Heck, I'd go as far to say that some really big tracks from recent times like Daft Punk's Get Lucky and Luis Fonsi's Despacito also fall under bucket 1. They might try to be different or use different genres (ex. a reggaeton backbone for Despacito), but in the end they are cut from the same cloth and feel just like regular USA/British pop with the 4 chords and all. To put it simply, this stuff feels heavily manufactured.

Meanwhile, I can listen to some R&B or hip hop and feel like there's something else, like a "soul." (R&B and hip hop are just example genres, but they could happen in other genres, too). I can hear Black Beatles (the mannequin challenge song) and feel like these guys probably had a lot of fun making their track. They're experimenting, putting a few good ideas out there, and are obviously passionate about this one track. Sicko Mode from Travis Scott, one of the most popular melodic rap songs from this generation, oozes with innovation and feels like it's pushing the boundaries of its genre. The first half of this is fine melodic rap, but the second half feels oddly experimental. Sicko Mode currently has 855 million views on Youtube.

But what is that something else? There's no clear definition, other than it's an "it" factor. Further, the current articles about the "it" factor, from pulsemusic [1], r/popheads [2], and a sask article [3] define the "it" factor for the artists themselves - not for the music!
Based on my experience listening to BTS (Korean boyband)'s discography, I could tell that their earlier work had something drawing me in, but their recent work feels cold and manufactured. I would argue that the "it" factor is related to the exciting creativity from an artist's early career, and that is prone to get lost as the artist matures. Once your music starts sounding professional-enough to debut, yet you are still early enough that your sound is not diluted by 100% professional/commercial influences, that is when an artist can have the "it" factor. We've seen this in trance, too, where some of the biggest names' best productions occurred when they were still experimenting and developing their sounds. You could say that early Armin and early Ferry Corsten's productions totally have the "it" factor.

So, what is the "it" factor for you? What is that special something that draws you in and has you listen repeatedly to a track that you like? Feel free to comment - I'd love to hear what you think!

[1] Pulse Music boards thread with the same topic
[2] reddit popheads thread
[3] saskmusic article

Examples of "no it factor"

Doja Cat - Say So
Daft Punk - Get Lucky
BTS - Dynamite
Luis Fonsi - Despacito

Examples of "it factor"

Rae Sremmurd - Black Beatles
Travis Scott - Sicko Mode
Kali Uchis - Telepatia
Saint Jhn - Roses (Imanbek remix)
BTS - What Am I to You?
 
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Bluemoon

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Orginality is what makes me enjoy music. Sure you can enjoy similar stuff within a genre but only for a certain amount of time before it dont triggers the same emotional responses within your brain anymore. Atleast for me its like that.

Songs i loved 10 years ago i cant even listen to today, because either the artist himself followed in the exact same track for his next 10-20 songs and it eventually got boring or he got copied endlessly. Ofcourse with some exceptions though and those are the real golden songs.

When it comes to pop music though i find that most of the mainstream stuff has no feelings. I can like pop music but it needs to trigger something for me, and most of it dont. Its hard to say what is the trigger though. For example my girlfriend i feel like she only listen to music because of what they are actually singing about, the lyrics. While me im completly different, they could sing about two cans of coca cola if the drive/mood/flow in the song is good. Also i really like when songs take a suprising twist, for example goes from one energy level to a higher energy level.

Here is an artist from my country called Girl In Red. Shes a lesbian singing about being lesbian and how much she loves girls in most of her songs lol. A topic that really dont interest me, but i do like her music. Its original, it has feelings, and also she good with switching the energies up a notch.


Im not a big fan of the rap stuff, but then...ah so cool ^^


 
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jetflag

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the "it" factor you're describing delves into the (meta)physical and philosophical question of what consititutes Qualia.
So basically the internal (and subjective) component of sense perception arising from in this case hearing by the sum of or the individual musical parts.

It is arguably the most important thing in any experience, simultaneously the least understood. We have no idea how qualia works, objectivly.

So with that being pretentiously and pseudointellectually blurted whilst nobody asked for it...

here's what often makes ticks the "it" factor in a song for me. note: there are exceptions to any set of rules, but usually if a song tags multible of these boxes it tends to pleasantly stick so to say.

- the song has to be well structured: Pattern recognition is a key aspect, things like the sequence of chorus v refrain, well working counterpoints etc.
- the song has to be well produced: annoying frequencies are for instance usually a turnoff for me, (even though i often clumsy/lazily produce stuff myself that does and I never end up fixing it)
- the (individual) sounds have to compliment and/or supplement one another:
- the song has to have a clear concept and excecution of that concept: (so if the concept is to make a poppy feel good track, death metal drums usually aren't the wisest choice say.)
- there has to be some level of maturity/intelligent complexity in at least one aspect of the song: can be conceptual or technical, but simple on all aspects usually doesn't do it for me/ bores me.
- Really sticky songs for me also have an important element of what i call the dreamy factor: can be anything from an Enya vocal, to a Tycho chord progression, to a System 7/famous unknowns psychedelic electric guitar with massive delay or a lush Vangelis esq pad etc.
 
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dmgtz96

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Orginality is what makes me enjoy music. Sure you can enjoy similar stuff within a genre but only for a certain amount of time before it dont triggers the same emotional responses within your brain anymore. Atleast for me its like that.

Songs i loved 10 years ago i cant even listen to today, because either the artist himself followed in the exact same track for his next 10-20 songs and it eventually got boring or he got copied endlessly. Ofcourse with some exceptions though and those are the real golden songs.

When it comes to pop music though i find that most of the mainstream stuff has no feelings. I can like pop music but it needs to trigger something for me, and most of it dont. Its hard to say what is the trigger though. For example my girlfriend i feel like she only listen to music because of what they are actually singing about, the lyrics. While me im completly different, they could sing about two cans of coca cola if the drive/mood/flow in the song is good. Also i really like when songs take a suprising twist, for example goes from one energy level to a higher energy level.

Here is an artist from my country called Girl In Red. Shes a lesbian singing about being lesbian and how much she loves girls in most of her songs lol. A topic that really dont interest me, but i do like her music. Its original, it has feelings, and also she good with switching the energies up a notch.


Im not a big fan of the rap stuff, but then...ah so cool ^^
The second track has a style similar to Avril Lavigne - Girlfriend. It's the mid-2000s "pop punk" that feels nostalgic today, but even during its time it was really good.
 

dmgtz96

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the "it" factor you're describing delves into the (meta)physical and philosophical question of what consititutes Qualia.
So basically the internal (and subjective) component of sense perception arising from in this case hearing by the sum of or the individual musical parts.

It is arguably the most important thing in any experience, simultaneously the least understood. We have no idea how qualia works, objectivly.

So with that being pretentiously and pseudointellectually blurted whilst nobody asked for it...

here's what often makes ticks the "it" factor in a song for me. note: there are exceptions to any set of rules, but usually if a song tags multible of these boxes it tends to pleasantly stick so to say.

- the song has to be well structured: Pattern recognition is a key aspect, things like the sequence of chorus v refrain, well working counterpoints etc.
- the song has to be well produced: annoying frequencies are for instance usually a turnoff for me, (even though i often clumsy/lazily produce stuff myself that does and I never end up fixing it)
- the (individual) sounds have to compliment and/or supplement one another:
- the song has to have a clear concept and excecution of that concept: (so if the concept is to make a poppy feel good track, death metal drums usually aren't the wisest choice say.)
- there has to be some level of maturity/intelligent complexity in at least one aspect of the song: can be conceptual or technical, but simple on all aspects usually doesn't do it for me/ bores me.
- Really sticky songs for me also have an important element of what i call the dreamy factor: can be anything from an Enya vocal, to a Tycho chord progression, to a System 7/famous unknowns psychedelic electric guitar with massive delay or a lush Vangelis esq pad etc.
That bit about the Qualia was interesting. I'll at least read parts of the wiki article :p
For #2, does that mean you usually avoid dubstep?
I can see #4 applying generally, but of course there will be outliers like Poppy - Fill the Crown. Her fandom wiki lists the genres of this track as "synthpop/gothic metal," which is not something you hear often. It's like a mixture of dreamy pop with metal, which feels really weird but works.
Interestingly, I've noticed #6 more and more in the music I like. I can like pop, but some of my favorites have a dreamy aspect, like this. A lot of the R&B I listen to is pretty dreamy, and with hip-hop/trap I mostly hear the more melodic, dreamy styles.

For me, I would add: "has a strong, noticeable rhythm." I don't tend to listen to ballads/acoustic, but when I do they usually have a strong, repeating rhythm like in this track. A song that is only melodies with no clear, discernible rhythm will likely make me bored.
 

jetflag

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That bit about the Qualia was interesting. I'll at least read parts of the wiki article :p
For #2, does that mean you usually avoid dubstep?
I can see #4 applying generally, but of course there will be outliers like Poppy - Fill the Crown. Her fandom wiki lists the genres of this track as "synthpop/gothic metal," which is not something you hear often. It's like a mixture of dreamy pop with metal, which feels really weird but works.
Interestingly, I've noticed #6 more and more in the music I like. I can like pop, but some of my favorites have a dreamy aspect, like this. A lot of the R&B I listen to is pretty dreamy, and with hip-hop/trap I mostly hear the more melodic, dreamy styles.

For me, I would add: "has a strong, noticeable rhythm." I don't tend to listen to ballads/acoustic, but when I do they usually have a strong, repeating rhythm like in this track. A song that is only melodies with no clear, discernible rhythm will likely make me bored.

#2, lol no not at all, dubstep is usually very well produced, thats not what i mean, A sound can be very harsch by design (brostep, hardcore/speedcore) and still be well produced in terms of eq'ing etc.

concerning rhythm, thats a good one, but for me it would skip all the works by rudi adrian, thom brennan, most of solarfield's so thats a no go for me hehe
 
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SecondNature

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Tracks that i keep coming back to normally have an 'emotional' connection with me,either in melody or vocals....tbh its quite a hard thing to describe hehe.
Same. Having a track moving me emotionally, or also on the dancefloor, is what usually hooks me. For me, melody is a really big deal. If it has vocals, the lyrics also has to hit just right. A lot of Lange tracks come to mind...Follow Me, Happiness Happening, Red Sun Rising, etc.
 

dmgtz96

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This comment on 53 Thieves' After Hours sums it up pretty well:
1620011888160.png


#2, lol no not at all, dubstep is usually very well produced, thats not what i mean, A sound can be very harsch by design (brostep, hardcore/speedcore) and still be well produced in terms of eq'ing etc.
What would be some examples of tracks with annoying frequencies that break point #2? That got me curious, haha