Why more pop songs should end with a fade out


A lot can be said about Rihanna and
Drake’s hit song work. It completely owned the charts in 2016. Its dance hall
beat and endless repetition were the ultimate example of where the sound of
pop was going. It did everything most top forties hits were doing – except for one
thing – it faded out. Let me start by making a confession here, I used to hate
when songs faded out. it felt like a cop-out. A lack of creativity. A boring
anti-ending to a song that I otherwise really loved. It turns out that this is
the wrong opinion. The fade out is misunderstood and under-appreciated.
There’s an art to it. A science to it. And when executed correctly, the fade out
makes a song feel like it’ll live on forever. This chart, which is pretty cool,
shows the number of songs that had a fade out on the Billboard top 10 from
1946 to 2016. It was made by this guy. My name is Bill Weir and I’m a writer –
mostly about music and specifically about technology of music and history of
the music technology. So the chart starts in 1946 but the story of the fade out
actually begins in 1918. Gustav Holtz was conducting his world-famous piece “The
Planets” and he devised a unique way to convey the distance of Neptune – at the
time the farthest known planet in the solar system. So he wanted to create the
sense of almost unimaginable distance and the mysteriousness of the cosmos. He
had the women’s choir offstage in a room and he instructed a stagehand
to slowly close the door to create the effect of it fading out and going off
into the distance. People loved that, it went over huge. I mean
today we take the fade out for granted, but in 1918 it was like a whole
new whole new sonic adventure for them. In the early days, the fade out was a
novelty. It was really only used to convey real-world scenarios like
distance and space. That is until the 1950s and 60s when sound recording
wasn’t just used to preserve a live performance, it became its own art form.
The fade out quickly became a creative and functional tool for record producers.
Functional, because radio deejays demanded songs be three minutes or less.
If the album version was longer producers would typically cut a shorter
radio-friendly version that faded during the chorus. Fade outs were also used to
fix flubs here’s the full waveform for strawberry fields forever. You can see a
really long fade out and then it suddenly starts coming back. George
Martin, the Beatles producer, wasn’t crazy about the percussion towards the end of
the song and so he faded the song out. But then he hears all the great music
that happens after the fade-out that the Beatles continued to play and he hated
to waste that so he faded back in. Not only is there an art to the fade out,
there’s a science to it also. Here Susan Rogers. To do a fade properly you have to
do something called chasing the fade. So we know from the Fletcher-Munson
curves that our ears don’t perceive frequencies of sound equally when played
at the same volume. if you’ve got the speakers cranked you’re hearing
approximately equal levels of bass mid-range and high-end. But as soon as
you turn the level down, it becomes really hard to hear the high highs and
the low lows, but you can hear the mid-range very well. If you lowered everything
equally the singer would just be hanging out there all by themselves. You can hear
that on Prince’s “Slow Love” which Susan worked on. The fade out became so ubiquitous that
by 1985 all top 10 songs of the year had one. But there’s something more to the
fade out than being another fashionable trend in music. When psychologists
studied how different types of song endings affected our experiences with
them, they found something pretty amazing. The researchers, they had a group of
subjects listen to the same song but two different versions, one with a
fade out one of the cold ending and they had them tap along to the beat of each
version. If a song had a hard ending, participants on average stopped tapping
along to the beat 1.04 seconds before the end of the song. If it had a
fade out they’d stop tapping along to the beat 1.40 seconds after
the song ended. In a sense that song was living beyond its physical self in the
mind of the listener. That might help explain why The Beatles
7-minute “Hey Jude” has a fade out that’s about as long as their entire early
singles. “Hey Jude” was released after The Beatles stopped touring, they didn’t need
to perform it live. Well until they did this one TV performance. It’s my pleasure
to introduce now in their first live appearance for goodness knows how long
in front of an audience the Beatles. It took at least 12 takes a lot of editing
and a visual fade to black to recreate the same epic fade out of the recorded
version. The fade out was such a long-lasting
record making tool, it was used in some of the biggest hits for decades, but its
future isn’t looking so great. Yeah I mean it’s kind of sad because the
fade out’s demise is kind of a replication of the
effect itself in that its actually literally fading out in popular music,
and so slowly and gradually that I think most people don’t even notice. There are
plenty of songs over the last few years that would have been better served with a
fade out like Gotye’s “Somebody that I used to know” It just suddenly ends and
they they threw at Tom or something in there they just went boom and it sounds
so pasted on to my ear. Bruno Mars’ “24k magic” and “That’s what I like” have abrupt
endings to when they sound like they could fade out forever. Pick any number of songs these days and
those pasted on endings are the norm. Want to know what work sounds like with
a hard ending? It’s terrible. The fade-out it turns out, is important and often
necessary. It’s a tool in a record producers arsenal that makes us tap our
feet along even after our ears perceive the very last notes. And I hope, just like
the ending of “Strawberry fields forever” it comes back. It’s hard to say whether
or not the fade-out will actually be as prominent as it was 30 or 40 years ago I
just look at the Top 40 today and only three songs had legitimate fade outs that I could find. could find. Those three songs are
actually really good hint for the next earworm episode. So go listen to the billboard top 40. Try to find those three songs. And let me
know what you think the next episode is gonna be about.

100 comments

Love fake-out fade outs like the one in Strawberry Fields Forever? Here are 25 more: https://open.spotify.com/user/joeposner/playlist/3Sm4iaifHeN1UQrWYWUIiy -joe

I think they stopped using the fade out in songs, because back when they were doing it it became a super cliché. So it didn´t sound fresh at all, Just outdated.

fadouts are the worst thing that can happen to a song. they ARE so stupid and a big ending it way more fun and creative.

Fade out is sometimes a way of just ending a song without doing a "proper" ending. I've done it on a couple of songs. It's definitely not suitable for all genres. Dance music needs a beat for the DJ to mix with but I totally agree that some tracks just calls for a fade out. Like the Troutman song. Didn't work as well on More Bounce to the Ounce because it tends to suit slow and (for a lack of a better word) dreamy music more, but I understand why he did it. How else would he have ended that song?

hahaha jusy saying something doesn't make it true. : ) The 'Work' version with an ending is no more terrible than the song itself. literally nobody would say this example sounds 'terrible'. You're just quickly making these wild claims to bolster your argument. Some songs should fade BUT theres absolutely nothing wrong with endings.

There's an interesting piece that explains why the economics of music today may be helping kill the fade out. https://qz.com/quartzy/1438412/the-reason-why-your-favorite-pop-songs-are-getting-shorter/

comparing a song like (t)work and saying the other pop songs should end with a fade out is just wrong. I mean nowadays pop songs, most of them are plain trash

i s'pose fade outs are fine for radio hits and tracks on albums designed to flow from one another but yeah, the issue is with live performances- if you plan on performing your radio single live ever, you better figure out a way to end it on stage that doesnt sound like crap

Especially with an ascending chord progression, with the song continuing to build— the fade out will make it seem the song goes on forever— such as Harry Nilsson's "Remember". It's supposedly a Christmas song, but doesn't touch on anything except a feeling of spirituality… Also, we get to hear what a special voice he had. He sang circles around his friend John Lennon… We miss them both.
King Crimson songs have no ending, and don't fade out— they simply stop.

Do you have any info on the (6 year long?) trend in music and in advertising of using multiple voices (5-50 or so) in a big chorus of OOhhh OOOhhh and so on and on and on and on in endless combinations? It is softly in the background of 50% of commercials and since I avoid FM pop radio I can only guess about 50% of music. I don't mean just pop but now country music has it too. I don't know what it's called but I have named it Soccer Music because it sounds like a songs' recording was interrupted by a nearby soccer game with the fans all chanting together. The kick drum is always on all four beats and acoustic guitar and then OOh OOHH oh we oh we ahh ahh Ohh or some crap like that. It's a kin to the Millennial Whoop which is "a musical sequence repeating the fifth and third notes in a major scale". This Whoop is often the choice of these "Soccer" fans who hang out in every studio in America. I'm tired of it for sure but mostly because I'm so alone on it. No person I know in my life has ever noticed it or ever heard any reference to it. It's as if it isn't happening and I know that men and women in the business of sound engineering must have a name for it in order to request of one and other that they continue to use… it… whatever they call it. It's likely playing at the gates of hell.

As a professional video editor, I hate fade-outs for a different reason: they are hard to use properly in a video-edit. A proper hard ending is way more effective usually.

When I would make mix tapes, I loved to fade the next song in while the previous song was fading out, and at the same time try to keep them similar in beat and style as if the song was mutating from one to the other.

What about "Wishlist" by Pearl Jam? It has fade-out on the album that cuts out part of the last verse but when performed live it has an awesome ending!

An excellent example of a very well fade out that this video hasn't acknowledge:
Bruce Springsteen's Im on Fire.

While more songs could have fade outs, they don't need them. Not every song will benefit from a fade out. The Police faded out 99% of their songs and that worked for them, but for most writers it's a tool to be used only when it feels right. American Pop music is mostly poorly arranged as it is so how the songs end is probably irrelevant anyways.

dont listen to this clown don't end songs with fade out specially if you put the best elements on it, xoxo.

Real reason why all pop songs end with fade-out is because they are composed in such a simple way. In order to have right and logical endind,you need to keep that in mind while composing, and that effects musical form. Popsongs arent designed to be complicated, that’s why fade-out is the simplest way to avoid necessity to compose a proper ending. I’m a musician.

I would consider at least Tschaikowskys 6th symphony, 4th movement to have an earlier fade-out effect (the dynamic is ppppp at the end of the piece)

Fade-outs are garbage due partly to the fact that they help create incredibly uninteresting and disconnected albums.

But the advent of digital media and a library's worth of songs at our fingertips is leading towards the lack of listening to songs all the way till their end.

Having a fadeout is just plain lazyness. Its ao much cooler if a song just builds up for the third or fourth time, and then just quits and a highpoint. When done correctly it truly feels like the guitarist just smashes the strings one more time as hard as he can. Its awesome.

No think about that same guitarist that doesnt build up on the end, bit starts to play more and more quiet every couple seconds. It kills the vibe of the song and it kills the mood.

This was disenchanting, and really limits the range of musical expression that should exist in the mind of the viewer… Interesting, but I'd have to know more about intent….

I HATE fade out. Fortunately, nowadays this method of ending songs is not very used as it was in the 90's. I hope it never comes back.

I resently did a showcase and we did six the Musical and the closing number six has this amazing triumphant ending and that number is just meh without it I like fadeouts for some songs so that it's not like a slap in the face.

It makes songs feel like they're cut short and added fillers with repeated lyrics and tune. Feels inorganic

Something that should be considered: Hard endings are hard, brittle pop; things that go good with mood or visual changes in tv and movies. Yes, TV dumbed down music too lol.

no no no no fade outs are the worrrrrrrstttttt jdoaundovyqbd do you know how hard it is to fade out playing live orchestra music haha

Aerosmith songs "Angel" and "Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" are a couple of good examples where the fade out makes sense. It makes them more emotional as love ballads. The lengthy, repetitive nature of the endings to the Beatles "Hey Jude" and the Doobie Brothers' "Listen to the Music" would have made any kind of ending sound abrupt.

Are we going to ignore concept albums or just albums where songs play into each other at all? This is all about popular singles. Of course singles fade out…..

First music I ever had the intention of turning it up towards the end as it faded out was Ozzy's Diary of a Madman. Some killer fade outs on there. Fans to this day wish for a longer fade out on some songs.

How can I trust you folks to get musical engineering concepts correct when you haven't mastered the concept of "opinions"?

Released a track in 2008 with a really thought-out and fade-out that seemed natural to me and after release, the first feedback was "The fade annoys me on all levels". I guess I was lacking creativity.

More pop songs did fade out, not as much anymore today though, I like it but it makes it tough for me to figure out how they ended those songs in live-performances.

The fade out is one of the best techniques because, like the video said, it makes the listener keep singing the song after it has faded. DJ's who did long mixes always used to fade songs no matter if the songs had hard endings or not because the human ear reacts better to a fade out and than a hard ending. It made the transition sound better from one song to the next for the DJs. Slow fades are the way to go.

Sometimes artists introduce a new melody right at the fade out, but the listener gets to imagine it the way they want

I prefer actual ending than a fade out. I also like transitional noise from one track to another because it makes it feels like I’m listening to one long song instead of several songs in an album. Though I guess it’s not that popular because it makes it sound weird when you listen to it in shuffled playlist.

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