Words by Matthew Spence:
Behold the battle of musical aesthetics. On the left corner, we have Slowed & Reverbed; on the right, we have Sped Up/Nightcore. Both popular, both DIY compatible, and both are ear pleasers. It’s Captain America vs Ironman, Jordan vs Lebron, Vinyl vs Digital, Me vs My Insecurities. The ultimate showdown to settle is which is superior.
Whether you’ve gotten lost in the Youtube rabbit hole or caught in the spider-webs of Tik Tok, you have most likely stumbled upon: slowed & reverb and sped up at least once. Hell, you might’ve heard one from those quick edits on Instagram. Nothing like an edit of Timothee Chalamet clips while a slow/reverb version of Electric Feel by MGMT plays, a true day brightener. These have become staples of some sort on the music side of the internet. Like Gangbusters, they’ve both stitched themselves into the internets’ musical sweater: clocking in a shit ton of views in the millions on Youtube, several playlists revolving around them, and many people preferring those versions over the original. Why? well along with psychological reasons within the brain (that I couldn’t explain that well) on why we’re drawn to sped-up or slowed. Simply: they’re dope. But which is better? Let’s put on our red “thinking” beanies and try to break them down.
How They Began:
-Slowed & Reverbed
You may also know it as “Chopped N Screwed gentrified” but you can go to another piece to break that down. Stemming back with origins of the late and oh-so-great 90s producer and DJ, DJ Screw, with his signature and impacting “Chopped N Screwed” style of taking a song, slowing it down to make you feel as if you’re sedated on lean. Influential to southern Hip-Hop, its ingredients would trickle down to what would eventually become the craze of the late 2010s and early 2020s. Slowed and Reverbed. Making a slow + reverb song has a scientific formula with 3 steps: Take a song, Put it in an audio editing app, slow it down and add reverb, and then upload it. Well, that’s 4 steps but still. Simple but effective.
Take your fav song and give it helium, and BOOM, you have Nightcore (or sped-up) music. To summarize, Nightcore is a “style of music in which the tempo is sped up and pitched is raised” to paraphrase from Dictionary.com. Now, whoever christened the sub-genre title with its name, didn’t just pick the name out of a hat, it comes from the Norwegian duo of the same name who (go figure) made music with pitch-shifting.
The Upper vs Downer:
-Slowed & Reverbed
Now, I’m not a psychologist or scientist like I stated earlier, but I can say in layman’s terms: It brings out the feels. Unexplainable nostalgia yet triggering light sadness. It brings out feelings of bittersweet connections of memories that never happened or you don’t want to remember. Mainly with songs that already have that melancholic approach or are used for that purpose. Now, what happens when you take a more upbeat song? The one that always brightens your day. Well, it feels like psychedelia clouting your brainwave. Your dopamine is released in rainbows (with a hint of melancholy/nostalgia as well).
Slow & reverb tracks have your emotions levitate while you reflect on the positive or negative of life at that time (more often negative). You’ll end up like the scene from Breaking Bad where Jessie feels like he’s floating after trying heroin. Take the feeling you get when you hear Kid Cudi hum and triple that. That’s what slowed/reverbed brings out.
Here’s a comment from the Blinding Lights Slowed/Reverb that can apply to many:
Sped-Up versions of songs feel like the audio equivalent of a kid hyper on candy. It’s what mentally plays in our minds when we wake up late and rush to get to class (alongside our conscious saying “OH FUCK”). Andrenaline injected into the audio. Hearing a more pitched-up voice sounds more upbeat and chipper, in contrast with the deliriously delivered slowed/reverbed. Taking a song, making it your soundtrack of a peppy daydream… or nightmare.
Again, everyone interprets music differently. Depending on the song, it can make you wanna dance and feel like the main character of a movie/tv show or pause to reflect on where life went wrong. Basically, you’ll either feel like you belong in the show Euphoria or the film 10 Things I Hate About You.[Looking at the tone of the comment section of the same song but a different version is interesting. The difference can be noticeable as one may feel like a community to vent while another can lead towards the opposite spectrum (both are great).]
(Slowed) Surf Curse- Freaks: “this song makes me want to just drive away. away from everything. away from myself and the life I have and just start over. change my name and throw my phone out the window. just have a fresh start. where would I go? no destination. just fucking far away.” – Erin K
(Sped-Up Version) Surf Curse-Freaks: “I used to listen to this song and cry but now I listen to the song and smile”- Blueberry Pancakes
me, grew me, and made me become the strong person i am now.” -seaveysails
The (Landslide) Battle of Views:
Well, due to various legalities involving music, you’re not gonna see too many of your favorite sped-up or slowed versions of your favorite songs on streaming services. If you do, they won’t be there for too long. They’ll take that shit down so fast you’ll develop the Mandela Effect complex. So, Youtube is the place to be to listen to a sped-up version of Foushee or Mac DeMarco songs. Now on Youtube, the view count is pretty unanimous with Slow and Reverb with a bigger following (being that it had a bigger headstart in terms of popularity). For instance, The Less I Know the Better by Tame Impala has over 25 million views, Flashing Light by Kanye West has over 26 million views, Lost by Frank Ocean has over 12 million views, Unforgettable by French Montana has over 30 million views, and just countless more with numerous views in the millions.
Put the two in the ring: who comes out on top? Which is better? Well, the answer is… Judges ___________ We Are. One isn’t better than the other (not necessarily at least), they’re different sides of the same coin. Both serve their own individual purpose of releasing feelings varying from melancholic relief, and nostalgia, putting us in a place to help us through our time of sunshine or gloomy day. They may be under different musical aesthetics, but they give feelings of blissful sedation (musically) that one may need to score their life at the moment.