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© Rainer Jensen/dpa/Corbis
Pop encompasses so many different forms and styles that the question of what constitutes a ‘classic’ pop vocal sound can be a rather open one. Fortunately, whether it’s ‘80s power pop, ‘90s ballads or modern club bangers, there are a few things you can do to instantly capture a powerful pop vocal sound that would be right at home in any era - and on any chart.
For the most part, pop songs are designed to be heard through radios and huge speaker stacks - systems not known for their dynamic range. In other words, if you’re mixing a powerful pop song, preserving the dynamic qualities of the vocal is less important than it would be in many other genres.
What’s more important is getting a sound that’s big, forceful and unmistakable, and that can stand up to busy, compressed pop production. This is easier said than done - especially when you consider that pop backing tracks can run to dozens of different elements, all of which need to make room for the vocal.
Many chart hits today involve the vocalist being Auto-Tuned, corrected and artificially backed up until there’s almost nothing of the original left. We advise staying away from that sort of thing for the most part, but sometimes it can be a good thing to make your track’s vocal sound ever so slightly artificial.
That’s why Auto-Tune is so popular, after all, and why doubling and delaying vocals to create a metallic sound can work so well for this kind of production.