=== This is an NGADM Round 2 Review ===
Alright, so I wasn't a judge for Round 1 (you already know this), but if I would have your song would have taken my highest score. Or at least tied for it. So I had VERY HIGH EXPECTATIONS. Which is never a good thing for musicians.
And the thing is, I feel like this very very similar to what you tried to do in your first round submission. It's got the same sort of staccato-esque main melody. It's got those obnoxious trap hi-hats (haha, I call them obnoxious, but they don't honestly bother me that much). It's got a solo. The arrangement is dang near exactly the same: build -> chorus -> breakdown/solo -> build -> chorus -> done. The only thing that's different is that you removed all the repetition. (Thank you!) Heck, it even has a very similar chord progression: the first song was based around IV-V-iv and this one has the same, just with a few extra chords to round off the phrase. IT EVEN HAS THE SAME MELODY AS THE FIRST SONG ... for about 3 seconds towards the end. (Actually, this was one of my favorite parts.)
I'm gonna imagine what you will say in response to this. Probably something like this:
"SO IF I DID EXACTLY THE SAME THING THEN WHY DID YOU NOT LOVE IT AS MUCH JOHN??"
Good question! Honestly, I don't really care all that much if your song is insanely unique compared to your past output. I just care if it's a good song. And to me, it seems like although you pretty much did what you did last time, you didn't actually recognize what made your last song so successful in the first place, which was that awesome solo that it had. The rest of the song was good, but the insane solo really elevated it to the next level. The solo in this song was only a few bars long and did not really do anything all that profound, so we're left with the less interesting pieces of your last song, which at best makes up just a good song.
The other change you added was these high range dubstep-esque noises, and honestly, I'm not too sold on them either. Especially in for example the :26 section, it feels like the song is constantly stopping and starting because everything else drops out when the noise hits, and then comes back in when it leaves. It's very jarring and messes with the momentum of the song. (I know this is a genre thing, and just to be clear, I have heard this done successfully before. It just doesn't work for me here, for some reason.) When you get into the more layered section immediately after, they work a bit better, but I have to admit that I still don't really like the timbre or the rhythm. They stand out sharply, but they don't really *add* anything, you know?
I'm going to try to read your mind again. Here we go:
"You just spent like 15 paragraphs criticizing my song. How did you even give it higher than a 0/10?"
Wow, your questions have a really good way of allowing me to segue between parts of my review! Anyways, my bad - my negative stuff has been disproportionate to how much I didn't like this song. Let me tell you about what I liked from this song:
* The solo. Of course I like the solo! (Step already said something about how it was a johnfn-esque solo... is this why I like it so much??) You did a great job. It has pitch bend. It has a great timbre. The note choice is awesome. For such a short solo, I think you ticked all the boxes here.
* The lead back in to the main song from the solo. You nailed this in Acceptance & Commitment and you did a really darn good job again here. Someone once pointed out that the build into the final chorus should always be the best part of the song. Well, I'd say that you pretty much nailed
* 1:45. "WHAT." lol. It fits and it makes me laugh.
* Subtle soundscape details. I love the noise that can occasionally be heard (e.g. 1:30) during the solo - sounds like a LFO slowly speeding up. Adds a good bit of interest to this section. I actually hear this in other places, eg :36, and I like it every time.
* The mix. Huh, somehow I got all the way down here and I didn't even mention the mix. The only possible critique I could find was that MAYBE the xylophone at 2:05 was a little too quiet. Other than that? I think you pretty much nailed it. All the instruments were leveled appropriately and I think that your mix helped the song be more successful.
* The call out to your previous song at 2:33. Great touch to finish off the song.
Anyway, you mentioned that you kind of phoned it in during this round, and I'd have to agree in terms of originality - but fortunately you phoning it in is STILL pretty darn good. Nice work here.