Billie Eilish has quickly become one of the biggest names in pop music. Her playful, edgy style makes her stand out in the crowd, and her hit “Bad Guy” is the perfect example of her unique appeal. The 135 BPM chart-topper is minimalistic in its arrangement, but comes to life with the layering and textures of each sound.
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The kick drives the track forward by playing every quarter note, which is also known as a “four on the floor” pattern. We layered an electronic kick with an acoustic one to get the same thickness of the original. This gives us the best of both worlds — the punch of the drum machine and the room and character from the acoustic. We used Kit 6 in the DrumMachine and the Room preset in GM-2. Roll off the high frequencies with an EQ to make it sound darker, and add some reverb for a roomier feel.
“Bad Guy” has a fair share of percussion, which we recreated with the SPC and some audio loops. The snaps play the role that a snare normally would. They are layered in a way that gives the beat texture and accents. The pre-chorus introduces a shaker that plays between the kicks and snaps. In the chorus, we get another percussion layer that plays sixteenth notes. We recreated this by using a maracas loop shaped by an EQ that only leaves the mid frequencies.
We used the VA Synth with a basic one oscillator patch in the mono legato mode to recreate the bass. Apply some distortion, EQ away the high frequencies and boost the low end to give it the same dark, strong sound. In the chorus, the bass gets more distorted. We layered it with a couple of distorted synths to get the same effect. These synths are panned left and right to widen up the sound.
The lead synth is the staple sound of the track. Love it or hate it, it makes a strong impression with its cartoonish, silly character. We used The Wub Machine, since it has everything we need for this sound, a mono square-wave with some glide. The glide helps the notes transition by bending the pitch. However, the glide only happens on certain notes, which can be automated. Then, just apply some reverb to complete the sound.
Billie Eilish’s vocals are what truly make this track great. She uses a lot of layering with vocal harmonies and different tones to thicken up the sound. The vocal effect for when she sings “I’m the bad guy” is a brilliant use of a tremolo. A tremolo modulates the volume, and if you turn up the speed of the modulation, it results in the fluttering sound you hear in this song.
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