Oh man, this one. I actually had a tricky time judging this.
Also, full disclosure: I can be a bit dry and blunt in my reviewing on occasion. I don't have any ill will or anything towards you and I'm not trying to be mean, just trying to be straightforward about how I scored things. :) Oh, also, the "not-so-good" list will be far larger in volume of writing at minimum, just because I have more things to say about things that can be improved, such as how and why.
-Right, so. You got massive bonus points for acoustic instruments, not gonna lie there. You were one of the few people who used them, and you used them to great effect.
-Excellent mastering for the most part, with some minor caveats.
-Very nice placement of your instruments overall. They were used to great effect.
-You have some fantastic drum fills in the second half - as someone who used to do percussion work in a marching band and helped with other bands, I appreciate this to a huge degree.
-Horns. Guitar and piano are fairly common in music, but... horns? Not really. That's actually quite huge.
THE NOT-SO-GOOD: Just three main things here, really - not actually all that much.
-Let's tackle composition first. It's probably the smallest and most forgivable thing, actually. This is just that your music is fairly linear. It goes up progressively until about 2/3 to 3/4 through, then goes down a bit at the end and stops, with a single breakdown at about 3 minutes in. This is kinda weird as you have a decent 4-minute length, but if you're going to make it this long I would recommend having a bit more of a first climax to establish yourself and a breakdown closer to the middle instead of near the end.
-Second main thing kinda ties into the third but not perfectly so I'll address it separately. Your mastering needs some work. Mainly, your sounds are competing for space, particularly in the higher frequencies. Their sounds start to muddle together and get a bit fuzzy, so some detail is lost. If you let the instruments breathe, you can have them be far more expressive - this is important in climax sections. One thing I would recommend is reducing their volumes until they're all at 80% or lower before doing final mastering. I've found that lets them all have decent headroom to balance out in that final step. ...on a slightly related note, your song doesn't have much bass. It's not necessary, but you might want to lower the bassline a little bit so that you can fill up some of those lower frequencies.
-Final thing is kinda funny considering I'm personally not the best at it. Singing and intonation. I could not really listen to your lyrics (not that I factor the poetry part of a song into a music review, but even so) because there were some flaws in the intonation. These are actually EXTREMELY common flaws, so please don't feel bad about them. Mainly, a lot of your singing has a similar tone and consonants aren't pronounced. Generally with singing clearly, you need to enunciate things like Ts, Cs, and... well, S more strongly. The "k" sound can become indistinct with "S" and "T". It's not as important with regular speech and solo vocal practice, but becomes far more important with other distracting instruments - those sounds need to be spot-on or they can become indistinct and messy with mixing.
THE RESULT: 8/10
This song is solid. It really is. The flaws that are pointed out are not song-breaking and don't harm it to a huge degree. There is one thing that's more intangible bringing it down, though - it needs... more. It's hard to say exactly what more it needs, but a big part is that this isn't being scored just for normal listening, it's for a contest. As a normal song, it's top-notch. As a contest piece, it doesn't showcase your skill and flexibility as a musician in being expressive over larger scales. I guess it mainly just needs more unique, standout features that show you can do more than normal - that's what transforms a really good musician and piece into a fantastic one, particularly for a contest. :)
Thanks a bunch for the very useful review! All good points. It's really nice to get a critical outsider's eye. I won't comment on all of your notes individually, but suffice it to say I agree on pretty much 100% of them. I'll keep it all in mind for the next round.
Love your lyrics. Love your mind. Love the chord variations you threw in, the Trombone was a NICE touch. Really about the only things I have to say about this piece, is I can't hear the snare at all, ONLY on drum fills, could've used some more particular eq'ing and mastering, but other than that, WELL done. ;)
Thanks so much for the kind words and the feedback! I've never had people comment on my lyrics before but I feel like I'm getting to a point where I'm starting to be able to reach people with the words ( a whole new emotionally threatening territory for me!) as well as the music. This isn't the first time I've heard someone comment about low snare volume on one of my tracks though - rest assured I'll work on pumping it up in the future.
I LIKE THE MESSAGE IN THIS PIECE.
No, seriously, though, thank you. I consider myself a very happy guy, but I think everyone has times when it's a struggle to just keep your head up, especially when you feel isolated. If this song can help just one person through a tough time like that then I'll be happy.
This is god-like. I would normally wish you luck but now I'm 100% sure this will pass. Sweet!
Thanks so much! I'm hoping it will. I don't see too much pop music on NG so I'm not sure if this is the right crowd for it, but I'm hoping the judges like a break from all the sweet electronic and classical music I hear in the KO round so far.
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