By Diego B. Gonzales
In the world today, creating and sharing music has never been easier. While the price tags on items like instruments, studio equipment and software may be daunting to up-and-coming artists, tools to create great music can be found on any standard smartphone.
One of the best examples of an artist who makes the most out of smartphones comes from Steve Lacy. There is documentation that Lacy produced many songs off his 2017 EP Steve Lacy’s Demo on his iPhone. On this EP was his song “Dark Red,” his most popular song with over a billion streams on Spotify. Lacy also used his iPhone when producing the song “Pride” for Kendrick Lamar’s 2017 album DAMN. Through using such simple and accessible means of music creation, Lacy can still create deeply emotional atmospheres in multiple songs that have had mainstream success.
In 2020, rapper Drakeo the Ruler released Thank You for Using GTL, an album where he recorded all his vocals over the phone while in jail. The album title is a reference to the
GTL Telecom Service is a company that’s used in many correctional facilities across the country. Assisted by production from West Coast producer JoogSZN, Thank You for Using GTL is an impressive and even critically acclaimed rap album that shines in its production and lyrics despite its heavy obstacles.
My favorite example of how smartphones can enhance feeling in music is also the least well-known example on this list. Recorded in a living room, YouTube user, Moon Drop45, sings a cover of The Intruder’s “Come Home Soon.” The barebones production value adds so much to the performance; the echoey and muted chords paint a cloudy and dreary scene, perfectly matching the bittersweet tone of the song. While the original version of the song features a blaring and high-register vocal performance, Moon Drop45’s performance is in sharp contrast. The lyrics are sung with a low and gentle voice that trades performative vocals for those who can be heard as more honest and intimate, pushing a focus on the song’s vulnerable and desperate lyrics. The cover was posted to YouTube in 2019, but Moon Drop45 will occasionally reply to comments left on the video since then, thanking the positive comments that people have left.
With more and more tools coming out, music production is onto a new technical frontier. Artists in any tier of success should realize that thrilling and meaningful atmospheres can come from even the simplest means of production.
Written by: Danielle De Lucia