If you’ve listened to Drake and Future’s new song, “Life Is Good,” then you’re probably already thinking “Song?” You mean those two songs that share a title and a music video and a release date?” And I’d agree, you have a good point. It feels less like one cohesive track, and more like two loosely related interpretations of a similar idea, written and recorded independently, and then fused together as an afterthought. That’s not to say the song is necessarily bad. It just, to me, feels disjointed.
It’s not the inclusion of the beat change that turns me off of the song, it’s the structure and execution of it. There’s nothing inherently detrimental about a change of feel. In fact, it can often be a compelling narrative device. So what is it about the “Life Is Good” change that (for me) falls flat?
In my opinion, if a song is going to change the vibe up dramatically, it should do one of two things: 1. the change should be an evolution- a step forward, not sideways, or 2. The change should be a step so far sideways that it illuminates characteristics of both parts that would have otherwise remained in the backdrop.
All songs evolve. It’s a benchmark for good music that a song escalates start to finish. But some songs escalate with such unprecedented ferocity that it constitutes a complete change in the song. The quintessential example is Queen, in Bohemian Rhapsody and all over A Night At The Opera. This kind of change, executed properly, almost gives you a sense of familiarity with the artist. It says, yes, I know I glossed over a couple steps there, but we have this rapport, you get it, I have faith that you’ll catch up.
Basically, it scraps every unnecessary formality of musical transition, and then it scraps some of the necessary ones. And what you’re left with is a song that moves from point A to point B so quickly that your head is spinning, but that kind of fun, runners high type spin, and then it rewards you handsomely for even trying to keep up.
The other kind of change is a bit different. It’s not necessarily an evolution at all, but a fundamental shift in feel, instrumentation, style, or anything of the other foundational components of a song. Kanye uses this kind of change often; dark, sinister instrumentals and rhythm oriented vocals open into vast, full band hooks, cathartic in their massive density and devastating on their melodic presence. In these cases, the abruptness of the change can enhance the effect of the song, the contrast compounding the emotional impact. The existence and immediate proximity of each part enhances the other, highlighting their differences in a new light, and heightening the impact of the song as a whole.
In the case of “Life Is Good,” the change doesn’t feel like an unprecedented yet welcome evolution, nor like a fundamental change in the tone of the song. In fact, despite differing in tempo, are otherwise fairly similar. To me, the change in no way enhances the listening experience of the song. It just feels like a brief preview of two different songs, arbitrarily pasted together.