As a mix engineer, most of the time you’re endeavouring to deliver a product that’ll work well at a wide variety of listening levels. It’s not uncommon, however, for mainstream pop mixes in particular to be mixed specifically for lower-volume playback, pushing the lead-vocal/hook levels, mix compression, and general brightness to ensure maximum brand-recognition even for listeners hoovering an Afghan hound — the penalty being a blisteringly fatiguing listen at anything like party-grade volumes. This D’Angelo song, however, is the polar opposite, a mix that only really offers up its riches once your windows are beginning to rattle, and which’ll blow out your subwoofer long before it ever gets abrasive.
And once you do crank the dial there’s so much to enjoy — not just great basic sounds for the intimate chamber-music strings, improvisatory spanish guitar, and gossamer harp glissandi, but also tons of lovely background details which give a sense of fresh discovery with each new playback: the subliminal tremolo guitar at 1:34; the french-horn and clarinet licks at 2:22-2:38; the damped snare flam at 2:59; the electric-piano fill at 3:11; and the mad string slides at 4:01. It may demand concerted listening, but there’s no question that it rewards your efforts handsomely.