Beyond an uneasy sense that Professor Green is making Eminem the subject of a pastiche, the thing that really seems odd about this track is the vocal balancing, because I can’t really fathom the thinking behind it. Sure, the chorus’s vocal hook is good and loud, which is fine, but why is the lead rap then so much further back in the mix by comparison? Given that Emeli Sandé’s vocal is already setting a limit on how ‘big’ the backing seems (by comparison with her level), it feels, to me, like Prof Green could have been quite a bit higher in the mix without making Sandé seem any smaller, which would have really improved the lyrical intelligibility. (His vocal projection isn’t helped by the rather muffled vocal tone either — less low mid-range and a bit more 1-3kHz would probably have worked a bit better.) Perhaps keeping the rapping lower in level was meant as a ruse to make the chorus vocal pop out more by comparison, but I’m not convinced.
On a more positive note, Sandé’s opening vocal is also worth a careful listen because of the nice way in which the level of the main quarter-note echo is being adjusted in real time. Following the end of the first phrase, for example, the echo of “sing” is clearly audible, but there’s nowhere near that level of delay effect while the dry vocal signal is in the mix. Had the delay not been adjusted in this way, it would either have obscured the vocal, dragging it back into the mix, or it would have been too low in level to make a real statement between the vocal phrases.
Returning to the the strong scent of Eminem here, the specific track that really came to mind was the recent single ‘Love The Way You Lie’, featuring Rihanna. Running these two mixes up side by side is an interesting exercise. For me the Eminem track does a much better job of projecting the rap lyrics, not least by delivering more energy into the midrange via a definite prominence around 1.5kHz. On the other hand, putting the two productions’s choruses side by side, I think I probably prefer Professor Green’s – it just feels warmer and fuller, without losing any significant ground in terms of vocal transmission. (And while you’re listening to that Eminem track, check out the ‘it’s like the end of 8 Mile all over again’ extension bar at the end of the last rapped verse. Good clean fun!)