When recording vocals, a lot of the time the aim is to deliver maximum excitement or maximum emotion or maximum [fill in as required], so what I found so interesting about this performance is how it deliberately goes in the opposite direction, starving the performance of energy in order to communicate the lyric’s undercurrent of relationship fatalism. For a start, it sounds like Grace just doesn’t have the strength to open her mouth properly for the vowels – something I always associate with James Arthur, but in his case it feels like he uses the technique more to suggest emotional repression rather than emotional exhaustion.
But on top of that, she’s often barely enunciating, as if she just doesn’t have the will left to do so. Probably the most obvious example is that completely missing end of the word “change” at 1:19, but there are lots of other instances where the consonsonts are characteristically softened and elided, such as when “ends the same” is transformed into “en se sae” at 0:11. Clearly part of this is a function of the accent she’s singing in, but I think there’s more to it than this. Lily Allen, for instance, uses a very similar accent, but you only have to listen to something like ‘Smile’ to hear how it’s possible to deliver lyrics with greater clarity than this. Now, I’m not suggesting that what Grace does here is wrong, by any means, because Allen’s laid-back swagger wouldn’t have been nearly as appropriate for the lyrical content of this particular song.
Another aspect of this production that’s very instructive is how the sustained synths that play almost throughout the whole song are momentarily dropped out to highlight key section boundaries. Most notably, the pads mute for four beats before the first chorus (at 0:32 under the word “this”), for three beats before the second verse (1:07), for two beats before the second chorus (1:29), and for four beats before the final chorus (2:14). And in addition there are a couple of moments (0:55 and 2:36) where just the bass component of the texture drops out, again enhancing the arrival of a new song section – in this case the post-chorus synth hook.