We already knew that Billie Eilish’s What Was I Made For?, taken from the Barbie soundtrack, was written when inspiration struck after a period of writer’s block, and now the star’s brother and producer Finneas has been breaking down the Logic Pro project for the track and revealing a little more about how it came together.
In a video published by Variety - a pilot for a new series called Behind The Song - Finneas takes you deep inside the track, which he says ended up being written in little more than half an hour once the initial idea had fallen into place.
The piano part, it turns out - arguably the song’s most important instrumental element - is a recording of an acoustic upright with the felt pedal engaged (hence the slightly muffled sound). There are separate tracks for the piano hammer and room mics, with the latter providing additional background texture.
Next up, the vocals, which are double-tracked and panned hard left and right in places. Finneas also draws our attention to some very quiet harmonies; subtle but effective.
On to some of the more creative elements, and Finneas reveals that he used affordable lo-fi plugin SketchCassette ($36) to create the broken toy-like melodic ‘blips’ that follow the vocal at times. With its ‘hand-drawn’ interface, Aberrant DSP’s effect looks as characterful as it sounds, and takes inspiration from the days of old-school four-track recording.
Other mix details include some Mellotron parts and four additional tracks from Mark Ronson, who’s credited as a co-producer, some heavily processed vocal ad-libs, and a dash of very subtle percussion on what Finneas describes as “impact notes”.
It becomes clear that what initially sounds like a pretty sparse mix is actually stuffed with detail that you don’t necessarily notice but would miss if it wasn’t there, which pretty much sums up Finneas’s mixing philosophy.
“I’m always trying to hide stuff,” he says. “If you’re thinking about it then I have failed, but if you’re just absorbing it then it’s a success.”