Text Painting in Post Malone’s Circles

Text Painting in Post Malone’s Circles

– Welcome, everyone. My name is Asaf Peres, this
is another Top40 Theory video. Today I wanna talk about the
song “Circles” by Post Malone. “Circles” was written by Post Malone, along with Billy Walsh, Louis Bell, Frank Dukes, and Kaan Gunesberk. Produced by Louis Bell, Frank Dukes, and Post Malone. Mixed by Manny Marroquin, and mastered by Mike Bozzi. Specifically I wanna talk about the use of text painting in this song, and how it’s set up. I’ve made a couple of
graphs about text painting. One was about Ariana Grande’s “Breathin'”, and the other was about “Good
for You” by Selena Gomez. So, the purpose of this video is not to give another example
of what text painting is, but I really want to focus
more [on] how it’s set up and the level of detail that goes into it. Because that goes to a larger point I try to make in a lot of my content, I feature a lot of techniques, but, more often than not, it’s
not which technique you use, but it’s more about
the attention to detail and how you get whatever
it is you’re trying to do to be as effective as possible, and I think this song is
a prime example of that. So, with that in mind, let me dive in. The moment where the text
painting happens in “Circles”, it happens right here in this pre-chorus, right in the middle of the pre-chorus. So let me play that for you first. ♪ I still hear the echoes (the echoes) ♪ ♪ I got a feeling ♪ – So, it’s pretty straightforward, you have a lyric that says,
“I [Still] hear the echo,” and then that’s repeated
by literal, sort of, sonic echo. So there isn’t much to explain in terms of the technique itself, but, like I said, I want to talk about how it’s set up to be as effective as possible. So, one really important
detail to take note of here is that the text painting
itself is very faint. That echo, if it was just in isolation it would be very easy
to miss as a listener. Let’s listen to that. ♪ And I still hear the echoes ♪ ♪ The echoes ♪ ♪ I got a feeling ♪ – Right, it’s very low in the mix, it’s in the background,
lots of reverb, low volume. Very easy to miss. So what the writers and the
producers of this song do is they prime you, as the listener, to hone in and really hear it. And the way they do that is this: Like I said, the text painting happens in the middle of the chorus, and this third phrase over here, that third phrase is
preceded by two phrases that are melodically identical,
or nearly identical to it. But on top of just having
an identical melody, these phrases are structured in a way that’s designed to prime
you to listen to the specific part of the phrase
they want you to focus on. And let’s see how they do that. Let’s listen to the first two phrases. They’re melodically
identical, and not just that, they also take on the
same lyrical structure. So, the text painting here is the echoes and the echo is naturally a repetition. Each of these phrases has word repetition in that exact part of the phrase. Let’s listen to that. ♪ You thought that it was special ♪ ♪ Special ♪ – That’s one time. Here is the second time. ♪ But it was just the sex, though ♪ ♪ The sex, though ♪ – That really effective priming, like using that word
repetition, that tells you this is what you’re supposed
to be listening [for], and when the next phrase
starts in the same way, you are going to be
really paying attention to the important part of the phrase. But, it goes even beyond that. In order to really put a spotlight on that part of the phrase, the second part of each
phrase is made very distinct through several means. The easiest thing to
notice is, rhythmically, it’s very different from the
first part of the phrase. The first part of each
phrase is all eighth notes, then the second part
goes to quarter notes, there is a rest in between, another two quarter notes. You can also notice that
the notes are different. The first part of each
phrase is only the note C, it’s an eight note run on the note C, whereas in the second part of
the phrase, the notes change. They go to E and D. Metrically, the important
part of the phrase hits on the strong hyperbeat. This is the strong measure, this is the weak measure. Let’s listen to that again. ♪ You thought that it was special ♪ – Right, and you hear that the special is on the strongest beat, and what happens before is a pickup. And lastly, and this is something
I’ve talked about a lot, there’s a type of hook, and
this falls into that group, in which, to make it as
effective as possible what you do is you isolate
a couple of syllables. Two syllables, three
syllables, four syllables, and make them the core of your hook. And then to lead in to that, you have a denser, maybe faster, maybe less singable melodic
fragment, or melody. I like to think of it as fueling the hook, or, when it keeps repeating, I like to think of the fueling
and refueling the hook. So you have the fueling. ♪ You thought that it was special ♪ ♪ Special ♪ – And refueling. ♪ But it was just the sex, though ♪ ♪ The sex, though ♪ – And one more time, refueling. ♪ And I still hear the echoes ♪ ♪ The echoes ♪ – So, all of this works together to really put a big, big, big spotlight on the second part of each phrase and the exact part where
the text painting happens in the third phrase. So, even though the volume is low, the echo is really backwards in the mix, there’s, like I said,
lots of reverb on it, the low volume, everything about it is kind of faint in the background, which is part of the text painting. The songwriters, the producers
really prime your brain, as a listener, to hear that text painting, and to take it in. Whether or not you notice that it’s text painting as a technique, doesn’t matter. But, it’s something that you take in and it’s really effective. So, that’s it as far as the set-up, the internal set-up within the pre-chorus. But I did wanna talk about one more thing that helps it be even more effective. So, as I said, this moment happens in this pre-chorus, it’s the second pre-chorus, or, the pre-chorus that comes
just before the second chorus. One thing that’s important about it is that this section
is unique to the song. It doesn’t have a parallel section. Most pop songs, if you have a pre-chorus before the second chorus, there would be a pre-chorus
before the first chorus as well, and they’ll usually be a
repetition of one another. That’s kind of the convention. Post Malone has a different kind of, what we call melodic math. Usually, in conventional pop songs, again, that follow, kind
of, the Max Martin school. There will be an internal structure that includes two, sometimes
even three melodies, that’ll use AABA or ABAC, and then those sections will be repeated. Second verse will be a
repetition of the first verse, the second pre-chorus will
be a repetition, melodically, of the the first pre-chorus. Post Malone usually does
things a little differently within the sections,
it’ll be very repetitive, so sections will be AAAA, or sometimes eight A’s in a row. In this case, it’s AAAB, but still, very repetitive. But then, each section
is gonna be different, so he doesn’t normally
repeat the same verse with the same melody. Only in the chorus. So, why is it important that this section is unique to the song? Why is it a good thing that it’s not repeating
another pre-chorus? Because, imagine if you
had another pre-chorus with an identical melody. That presents a dilemma that I’m not sure there’s a good solution for. Let’s say you had an
identical pre-chorus here, melodically identical. Okay, so, do you use the same lyrics? Do you use the lyric with the echo? And then do you do text
painting in both pre-choruses? I think that gets into overkill territory. Let’s say you have the same lyrics, but then you only use the text
painting in the second one. That would strike me as a little odd to do it just one of the times even though the same lyric
happens in the first chorus. Let’s say you had different
lyrics in the first pre-chorus, and then you had the
lyrics with the echoes and you did the text painting. To my ears, it would
sound a little bit cheesy, after you already had that
kind of pre-chorus here, and then you had a
similar pre-chorus here, and you do the text painting just at the end of that pre-chorus,
it would sound a little, maybe random is the word
that I’m looking for. So I think by just having it happen in this section, that’s a unique section, it doesn’t have a repeating section anywhere else in the song. The proportions are just right, and it works really well. So, like I said, the main takeaway here, for me at least, is not, “Hey, text painting is cool.” Although, it is, it can be. But, the main takeaway is, look, this is a technique
that can be very effective, but, in order for it to be very effective you gotta really put in a lot of work to highlight whatever it
is you need to highlight, and to prime your
listener to really take in whatever it is you’re trying to do. So, I think I’ll leave it at that. If you enjoyed this video,
and you find it useful feel free to like,
comment, subscribe, follow, whatever platform you’re on. If you have any follow-up
questions or comments, feel free to leave them and I’ll try to reply to everyone, or however many I can. Asaf Peres, Top40 Theory, I’ll see you in the next one.

2 thoughts on “Text Painting in Post Malone’s Circles

  1. These are such great videos for artists. I love the idea of easy to understand theory in pop music rather than analyzing every chord and counterpoint. Also nice thumbnail 🙂 wanted to know if possibly a video on orchestration of these kind of songs could come in the future? Thanks!

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