Kimbra is a singer from New Zealand. Her first album came out in 2011, and in 2013 she won two Grammys for her collaboration with Gotye, the multiplatinum hit song "Somebody That I Used to Know." In this episode, Kimbra breaks down a song from 2018 called "Top of the World,” a song she also made in collaboration—this time with artists Skrillex and Diplo.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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start hiring now, with a seventy five dollars, sponsor job credit to upgrade your job post at indeed dot com, slash song, Exploder This offer is valid through March. Thirty first go to indeed dot slash song exploder to claim your seventy five dollar credit before March thirty, first, indeed, dot com, slash song, terms and conditions apply, need to hire. You need indeed Kimbra, is a singer from New Zealand. Her first album came, Two thousand eleven and two: thirteen. She won two grammys for collaboration. She did with Gautier for the multi it's on somebody that I used to know in this episode can breaks down a song of hers from two thousand eighty eighteen called top of the world collaborations part of song too coming up Kimbra traces, how musical experiments she made with Skrillex and with Diplo ended up getting. formed into different parts of this song,
they mean winning. Miss Kimbra. Out of the song, happened at scarlet studio we may backs. the Coachella and then you know we talked about hanging out cause. We were both living in the same part of town. In L, a he invited me if it was studio and we were just like listening to beats together, I was playing them some of my demos. He was playing me things. He had and pulls up the speed, This almost sale, it's like a trance beat, I might be, This is a really sick and I started just moving along to it and I guess I just started singing along one one, one, one one one one one just kind of made this noise of my mouth like a kind of low- I guess almost to redo or something you know quite textural and he's like
sick lists recorded on the beauty of Skrillex working with him, as he so fast, and he just presses record and I'm singing it into the mic at the computer or we start layering it at that point, I wasn't really thinking about what the song would be about, or even if it would be. For me, I mean a lot of the time when you riding with especially with DJ's. You don't aware that stuff's going to end up so it didn't get very far in terms of arrangement. That day, we decide the kind of sit on it for a bed. He had it on his computer. So he pulled it up with a bunch of people who are coming through a studio. I remember him texting me be like Yo Anderson Pack really digs it like he's going to put someone down and and with VIC Mensa and he's going to try something- and I was like oh that's done like does. I love that idea of making something and then just letting it kind of go out into the universe and see where it flies, but.
I think it was always assumed that if a rapper ended up taking the track that I would be involved, you know I love to work with artists and collaborate so considering I can already had this presence on the song. With this ominous backing vocal, I assumed that I would write some hooks and maybe someone would take the verses but nothing. It really does. I lived with any of the other wrappers, and so I started to kind of experiment with it myself in own, might save I'm studio and trying different approaches. I started to feel like. Maybe this was a moment that I could try to go all the way on and relax? He was I came in. He should go for it
because I knew there were a lot of rappers trying ideas on this song. It sparked an idea in me to kind of try my hand at like a more rhythmic way of singing. You know I've done a lot of cathartic full voice singing on my records, but with a beat that is so hypnotic and so sort of monotone, or it didn't really feel like the right song to get highly melodic instead of flourishing and kind of doing lots of trills. That felt like it needed a very urgent, almost protest like approach and the vocal to find a way to meet that energy of where the track was going. So I approached him more like a spoken word, you know, but there was no real lyrics at that point, so I did gibberish vocals over it just kind of mapping out certain pockets that gap in Congleton is a producer from Texas. He came on
Lord, when the song was just drums and drawn and me kind of doing gibberish over the track. I can see to be the person that kind of helped me pull all the puzzle pieces together into something cohesive and he was the first burst put a drop on the song like add the eight eight and a snare which totally changed the feeling cause. Now, all of a sudden you could life really bumped to the song in the groove. It was heavy. You know blasting it in the studio. We were like this is hot I had a habit on this. Album of taking bike rides through New York City and who learned about myself on this album I needed. its of danger. I think, to tap into my spontaneous lyrical brain. I be sitting my studio and men had an initiative mulling over lurks sitting that listening to the track, China decipher my own jabbering. What is the song about
I just couldn't ignores hitting walls they frighten sooner, but I gotta By can you know I will limit, would be terrified to know not wearing a home in on not just going through New York City, with my Iphone in my hand, right with the beat playing and if you know said, I hang in there trying to flock but to sing to myself right so to get the groove and my body as I ride through Manhattan. crazy man, so many lyrics came that way It was something about putting myself in that place of my legs. I admire you know the traffic of Manhattan like there was this it's been really immersed in the city and it's the city of ambition, so that innocent place of striving started to come out of the song. You know this this kid who dreams of getting out into the world and little by little the song side of the peace itself together. This kind of assent to the top. The top of the world, or this kind of striving for power, and like a film right in Egypt, beginning middle an end, so I wanted each
earth to represent a different stage of the journey started. The innocent ambition and then little bit of Sinister influence dusted, the edge into the song, something in the feels a little darker, as someone becomes more and more the sorted with this feeling of power, this lust for success, I wanted it to be. Character that was Nelson Jr, Can we delusional on this section see me until it see me or billboards and banners see me why pick offences now I really wanted to actually take home the feeling of what it might be like to become kind of drunk on your own sense of self importance and kind of falling into space of blindness. You know where you've led people to believe one thing and you're, not sure if you believe it anymore, and there's a moment in the song where the vulnerability kind of comes through, and it asks you know, it's crazy, undefined brand new. It's amazing! I got high on a view, but tonight I'm feeling tired and alone. Dear Lord, I hope we didn't go wrong and it's crazy and fan brand new
It's amazing how few tonight, I'm feeling tired and long I hope we did and go wrong when you're at the top. Do you look back and wonder you know. Was it all worth it? by the fourth verse this character is now close to losing its mind? You know it feel like a god. I think I'm winning That's my fears. I committed feel a god, It's really fun to use vocal effects to play into the theater freely and that is a big part the song. So in the second verse of the song when it says he far, yeah misty lack any treasure I picked up. The spoken lyric, a fourth and get this kind of new harmony that enters, though he misty lack any ketchup, and even I'm not really singing, it's sort of sin, listing a note which isn't really in the scale at all of the song, which creates
alien feeling and a sense of kind of subtle invasion, and it is a little sinister. You know it gives a kind of he tonality, he seems to lack any treasure. Mucosa could care for search on my I'd have to I was definitely super aware of the political climate when I was writing this and as a new Zealand or living in America watching how people rise through a campaign right, how they start, but just like their signs out on the wide picket fences and Ivan reference them in the lurch. Guenaud see me on television on billboards and banners. Why pick advances like you know, there's something again admirable about this kind of journey of ascension and making yourself no end to the world and is being very interesting to witness how things turn, how things twist, how things turn nasty once they started with such good intentions, how things warp at that point? it is a break from this incessant spoken chant of the main character.
I wanted to contrast the spoken word with something a lot more melodic it was doing a few demos for Diplow at the time and mandible had the song we are working on for a korean Addis seal, and I wrote this focal and I had this really hookey section, We're texting. One day mean like hey, I'm missing back to that demo and it's like I CL going to use it. You know He's kind going down a different role with the album, and I think for now is just in limbo. Like is it Cool, if I use it, I could really work with the song solemn recording at the mummies I go for it. I had to do a bunch. we pitching like to get this kind of vocal chant into the right key, but the great thing that happens when you're doing basic pitch shift work is. It starts to take on the quality of a sample
terrible sounds all over it and pops and everything which is totally an aesthetic, kind of became something that sounds like a kids. Chong I really liked the contrast of, like a heavy tough beat with this euphoric time to both you fullest. Until these melodic aspects now which felt good, but I needed. Is it to follow that? You know I needed the cord to actually speak to that right now everything was droning on one not so this is the first, part. You know where I started to call in favour musicians of mine Lars home, Fit who plays in a bank Java jazz is from Norway and listen, We can. We were working on the song together. He was the first person to kind of suggest
a cordial movement under the song. That progression. You here is something that lies first played out at my place and had an when the vocal China is going on my knees up. We have cool, said actually sit under meet that and move around that so that you can get more emotion from these words and they We got on the profit the profits and analog synthesizer from the late seventies. Early eighties the prophet and played around with kind of a sound that would be really ferocious on the song write, something that would jump out of the speakers were just flicking through presets. We found this insane prophet preset
Brown wrote so finding the sound gave us this like new character that would kind of burst out of the. speakers when we got to the end of the song. We both agreed that it would be so fun to kind of give it why final climax, you know, take it to in cords that suggested an arrival or I guess the final ascension. You know if this is the story about a character who rises to the top and is eventually blinded by it's kind of singular pursuit of one thing, but we have to do that. Musically
so he started playing along these chords and moving the baseline underneath the vocals and felt really exciting. I think it would beat them back, then, the EU and and instead of the baseline, just moving on the downbeat of every kit of the drums and now started to be preemptive. mix the whole thing kind of feel quite urgent and exciting. The bases are jumping ahead of the Beatles doing these new flourishes. That's. Why the chords come in at the end over the final vocal chant, we pray in the gutter is like martyrs, be followed. You said to me: this is the
crowds of people who invested all their trust in this I don't? U known so to be emotional way. the it's my favorite moment of the song in a way because the production gets so thick and wide, and then she comes right back to that very kind of micro, primal place of just the drums and the vocal so. Urgency is pushed onto the song before your collapses and falls to pieces Well, they built me out to be beaten. That's the final sentiment of the song. It's from cheat a build me up to be beaten to prepare. the songs, a cautionary tale. We wewa to be, of course, empowering. But it's a warning. to you know it's a siren starts
place of innocence, but winds up space of delusion. It's a space where we have to ask a few questions like am I really fighting for the right thing here, but price will I pay to attain it? viable one go I like to ask those questions because I see it in myself. I see my own desire to be larger than life to exceed my wildest expectations, but I also see like a disconnect that can emerge from that as well. We've all tasted power revolt, tasted that feeling of being able to be above others and its enticing. Isn't it. and now here is top of the world by Kimbra in its entirety.
A condition, painting speed at any time and again in such a way tat. I could not see me because of the good work we can. We visit so
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Transcript generated on 2022-03-27.