At a Glance
Primary Instrumentation, Tone & Mix
Hit Factor Assessment
Why it’s a Hit
Artist: Arcade Fire
Song/Album: Ready To Start/The Suburbs
Songwriter(s): Arcade Fire
Grammys 2011: Performance
Chart Position: #25 Billboard Rock Song
Sub Genre: Alternative
Tempo: Mid/Up (~190 bpm)
First Chorus: 0:50 (20% Into the Song)
Intro Length: 0:30
Outro Length: 0:34
Primary Tone (Electric/Acoustic): Electric
Primary Instrumentation: Electric Guitar/Synth
Lyrical Theme: Relationships
Primary Lyrical P.O.V: 1st Person
Title Occurrences: The title occurs 7 times within the song
Section Length (Length of each individual section within the song)
Here we see relatively moderate to short verse and chorus sections (landing at 0:20 and 0:15 respectively), with the exception being the double 3rd verse. The intro is quite long in comparison to other hit rock songs, clocking in at 0:30. The bridge and outro sections are quite long in comparison to other sections within the song as well, landing at 0:32 and 0:34 respectively.
Structure Timeline (Shows when each section hits within the timeline of the song)
Total Section Analysis (Total time consumed by each section and its percentage of the total song)
Viewing the total time allocated to each section within the song, the verse has a moderate edge over the chorus, comprising 31% of the total song. The chorus follows at 23%. Keep in mind that “Ready To Start” doesn’t contain a “typical” chorus in the sense that the song’s title doesn’t appear in the section, and it’s overall length is quite short in nature, especially relative to the other sections within the song (clocking in at just 0:15). It’s interesting to see that the intro, outro and bridge all comprise ~13% of the song, and all are one-time occurrences.
Momentum/Intensity Factor (Evaluation of the intensity of each section within the song timeline on a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being the most intense)
The song kicks off with bright snare hits, coupled with the synth drone and guitar. At 0:09, the up-front bass guitar kicks in and the drums shift to a more driving, full beat, bringing the momentum up significantly.
At 0:29, the momentum is brought down a notch as we go into the first verse. The levels are maintained throughout the section, before being brought back up slightly with the increased intensity of the chorus at 0:50.
The momentum of the chorus is maintained through the turn-around, before being brought back down going into the 2nd verse at 1:10. Once again, the levels are stable throughout the section, before being brought back up during the 2nd chorus and turn-around sections.
We run into our first real noticeable change in momentum during the first part of the third verse, which is characterized by a more minimal beat than during the previous two verse sections (similar in nature to the song’s intro). At 2:10, we enter the second half of the third verse, with the intensity now on par with the chorus sections.
The same level of momentum and intensity are maintained from the 2nd half of the third verse all the way through the onset of the bridge, occurring at 3:10. Once we hit the bridge, the overall momentum takes a significant dip, characterized by the “mechanical” nature of the synth, solo kick and sparse vocals. The intensity then starts to grow throughout the section, ultimately peaking at 3:42 before launching into the outro, which sees the intensity level on par with that of the chorus. The false ending at 4:12 brings an abrupt, sudden end to the song.
- The intro in “Ready To Start” does a great job of instantly establishing the urgent and intense vibe that is present throughout the entire song.
- It instantly grabs and holds your attention from the onset.
- The melody is unique enough where it acts as an “identifier”, meaning that as soon as you hear the first few seconds of the song, you instantly know what song it is. This also works well in fostering memorability.
- The vocal phrasing works well against the music. Simple, memorable, short and to-the-point.
- The vocal delivery jibes perfectly with the dark tone of the backing music.
- The groove established by the drums, bass and guitars does a great job of locking the listener in.
- Notice how the 4 individual vocal lines are broken up by the instrumentation during the first and second verses. This technique works well in enabling the listener to better absorb each line, and also aids in keeping them engaged because it provides diversity between vocals and backing instrumentation.
Though definitely nothing “extravagant”, the turn-arounds are very effective in resolving the chorus with the down-strum guitar and bass, coupled with the left panned piano. They also work well in setting up the sections that follow.
The chorus within “Ready To Start” differs in nature from the majority of choruses present in hit (and not hit) rock songs in the sense that it doesn’t contain the song’s title in the section, and that it doesn’t feature prominently within the song (from a length perspective – it clocks in at just 0:15). That being said, there are two highlights that we should take note of:
- The nature of the guitar and bass lines coupled with the synth drone, left panned piano and “airy”synth swells further accentuate the dark, intense vibe of the song.
- The vocal phrasing and delivery jibe well with the tone of the music, further enhancing the emotion.
- The bridge does a great job of bringing the momentum down to provide some sonic diversity in what’s a pretty linear song. It does this while staying on track with the overall vibe that had been established up until that point.
- The build during the section works great, taking the emotional factor to new heights before peaking and launching into the outro section.
Virtually identical to the second half of the intro (now with the addition of vocals), the outro does a great job of bringing the song back to where it all began. The abrupt, false ending leaves the listener wanting more, and is a great psychological technique for increasing the chances for repeat listens.
In taking a look at the waveform above, you can now see from an audio perspective what was being discussed in the momentum and intensity section of the report. The levels are pretty much linear throughout the entire song, save for the intro and bridge sections. Normally I’m not an advocate for the use of heavy compression, but in “Ready To Start”, it actually works in the song’s favor. It gives it the song that dense vibe that helps in accentuating its dark intensity.
Compares the song being analyzed to all songs that have entered the Billboard Rock top 10: Q1 – Q4 2010.
The key elements present in “Ready To Start” are in-line with Q1 – Q4 2010 top 10 Rock hits EXCEPT:
- The song structure differs greatly from the majority of hit Rock songs.
- The first chorus occurs much earlier (0:20 / 8%) in the song than the average hit Rock song.
- The song has a pre-chorus (where the majority of hit Rock songs do not contain a pre-chorus)
- The song does not contain a solo, where 65% of top 10 hit Rock songs do.
Does the song flow in a cohesive manner? “Ready To Start” is a well constructed song, changing up sections frequently to keep the listener engaged in what is pretty much a “linear” song in regard to momentum and intensity fluctuations.
How does the production stand up in maximizing the songs impact? The production was very effective in accentuating the dark and intense vibe of the song. The use of heavy compression actually worked in the songs favor in giving the song a “dense” feel, further expounding the songs simmering intensity.
Does the instrumentation and sound maximize the vibe of the song? As with the production, the music and tone work quite well in establishing and accentuating the dark vibe of the song. From the gritty overdrive crunch of the guitars, to the dull overdriven sound of the bass, to the synths and effects, they all work in perfect unison in creating an effective sonic landscape that supports the nature of the lyrics and vocals.
Do the lyrics serve the song and jibe with the vibe of the music? There are many interpretations to the lyrical meaning of “Ready To Start”, ranging from a love breakup to a business/work issue, to doing what you want as a band when it comes to writing and putting out music that you believe in. One thing that all of the interpretations have in common is that it deals with some type of RELATIONSHIP, and overcoming any adversity associated with it. The end result is moving forward in your own direction, doing things your way. I think the last section of the song sums it up:
“Now I’m ready to start,
I would rather be wrong than
Live in the shadows of your song.
My mind is open wide and
Now I’m ready to start.
My mind is open wide
And now I’m ready to start.”
Vocal Delivery: 9/10
Does the tonality and phrasing of the vocals maximize the songs impact? Win’s vocal delivery works in perfect unison with the music in conveying the dark, intense emotion of the song to the listener.
How easy is it to remember this song after you hear it once? Unfortunately, “Ready To Start” doesn’t contain any sections that provide a great payoff for the listener. There is somewhat of a payoff during the chorus, but it isn’t anything that really stands out to make the listener go “wow!” The bridge provides somewhat of a payoff as well, specifically due to the increasing levels of intensity throughout the section, but again, it doesn’t really bring the song to great heights.
Does the song provide the listener with a strong payoff (i.e. a hot chorus)? Unfortunately, “Ready To Start” doesn’t contain any sections that provide a great payoff for the listener. There is somewhat of a payoff during the chorus, but it isn’t anything that really stands out to make the listener go “wow!” The bridge provides somewhat of a payoff as well, specifically due to the increasing levels of intensity throughout the section, but again, it doesn’t really bring the song to great heights.
Does this song have its own unique vibe when compared to other songs/artists in the genre? Arcade Fire definitely have their own sound and vibe, and is identifiable as such to their audience. “Ready To Start” has the Arcade Fire sound. That being said, there really isn’t anything else specifically about the song that gives it a unique flair in comparison to other modern alt/rock songs currently out there.
Longevity: 9/10 (Artist), 3/10 (Genre)
Does this song have what it takes to stand the test of time? Will it become a staple of the artist’s repertoire? There is probably little doubt that “Ready To Start” will feature as a highlight of Arcade Fire’s career. However, when compared to other great modern Alt/Rock songs that stood and will stand the test of time, “Ready To Start” will most likely be considered just a footnote. It’s a good song – no doubt about it. There just isn’t anything overly special about the song that will enable it to hold its own amongst the greats.
- It’s a solid, well constructed Modern Alt/Rock song.
- Sections change up frequently, helping to keep the listener engaged.
- The nature of the vocals, music and overall tone work great together in accentuating the dark, intense vibe of the song.
- The song lacks a substantial payoff for the listener.
- The lack of prominent changes in momentum and intensity gives the song a linear feel (save for the intro and bridge).
- The song lacks in originality, and will most likely not stand the test of time.
Overall, “Ready To Start” is a very good Modern Alt/Rock song. However, these days, having a “very good” song just doesn’t cut it. A song today needs to be “exceptional”, coupled with effective marketing if it wants a chance to hit #1, or at least break into the top 10. If “Ready To Start” had more of a payoff for the listener coupled with more shifts in intensity and momentum, it could have potentially reached the top of the charts.
Its supporting album, “The Suburbs”, was a hit (reaching #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200), though none of the three singles released, including “Ready To Start”, ever made it into the top 10, both in the US and abroad.
“Ready To Start’s” highest chart position was realized on Billboard’s U.S. Alternative Songs chart, hitting #16. It only reached #25 on the Rock Songs Chart. That being said, it was the song chosen to be played at the Grammys right after winning Album of the Year, and was also played at the Brit Awards, where they received the Best International Album award.
- Change up sections frequently within your song to help keep the listener engaged if the momentum and intensity levels are linear in nature, as was with “Ready To Start.”
- Once you figure out what you intend the vibe of your song to be, make sure that your vocals, music and overall tone work together in creating an effective sonic landscape that will draw the listener in and keep them emotionally engaged. This is something that was well done in “Ready To Start.” Also – make sure that the overall tone jibes with the lyrics.
- Remember that your audience needs, and deserves, a great payoff within your song. Listen objectively to your song from your audience’s perspective. Is there a section within your song that will take them to an emotional high? If not, you may want to consider a re-write. A lack of a good payoff will severely hamper chances for repeat listens and the overall success of the song. “Ready To Start” did not possess any great payoff’s for the listener, and as a result, the song didn’t even make it into the top 10.
- Take the time to develop an effective intro for your song. Remember, you want to INSTANTLY engage the listener and wrap them into your song. You also want your intro to be interesting and unique enough where it serves as an “identifier”, enabling the listener to instantly connect with your song the second that they hear it. This will serve to further accentuate the memorability factor of your song.