Tales From the Top: Recording Pink’s ‘Get the Party Started’ (2001)
For those who fantasize about creating a worldwide smash from the privacy of their basement studio, Pink’s 2001 breakthrough hit “Get the Party Started” - and the rest of her multiplatinum second effort M!ssundaztood - is proof that, even in today’s inner-circle society, pop miracles still do happen.
By Dave Simons
While preparing to record the follow-up to her platinum-selling debut Can’t Take Me Home, in early 2001 Philadelphia’s then 21-year-old pop ace Pink (born Alecia Beth Moore) decided to make a beeline for the Sherman Oaks residence of Linda Perry, the former leader of early ‘90s rock quartet 4 Non Blondes - and, as it so happens, one of Pink’s earliest musical heroes. An independent producer/songwriter and author of 4NB’s million-selling hit “What’s Up,” Perry, who spent most of the ‘90s avoiding the musical mainstream, tried to convince the young singer that she had no business producing an album’s worth of r&b-flavored pop. Pink, however, was not to be denied, especially after hearing a piece of a new dance track Perry had recently cooked up entitled “Get the Party Started.”
“That was the beginning,” recalls Pink. “We ended up recording 20 or more songs between the two of us - right there in Linda’s house, on her furry rug.”
What could have merely been a batch of skillfully assembled home demos turned out to be the foundation for Pink’s chartbusting sophomore effort, 2001’s M!ssundaztood (which has sold 12 million copies to date) and its chart movers “Get the Party Started” and “Don’t Let Me Get Me.” Out of nowhere, Perry, who wound up writing, producing and engineering most of the material without ever leaving the driveway (using a 2-inch Studer and Tascam DA-88, no less), suddenly became a hot commodity, penning additional hits for Christina Aguilera (“Beautiful”), Gwen Stefani (“What You Waiting For”) and various others.
For those who fantasize about creating their own platinum-selling work from the privacy of their basement studio, the Pink-Perry project is proof that, even in today’s inner-circle society, pop miracles still do happen.
“Linda is really one of the most gifted people I’ve ever met,” says veteran r&b mixer Dave “Hard Drive” Pensado, the man handed the job of preparing “Get the Party Started” and other M!ssundaztood tracks for mass consumption. “She was given a really tight budget to do the work, yet when I pulled up the faders on that song after it arrived from her home studio, it was already a hit.”
From his perch inside Burbank’s The Enterprise Studio Cat mixing room, Pensado - who has delivered hits for Aguilera, Jamiroquai, Warren G and the Black Eyed Peas - made sure nothing was left to chance. That didn’t necessarily mean playing it safe, either.
“I think ‘Get the Party Started’ could have been a very sweet candy song with a much shorter shelf life, but in some small way the decisions we made in the mix process helped give it that extra shot of credibility,” says Pensado, who began by running Pink’s vocal track through a basic Sans Amp plug-in. “Just to make it dirtier, edgier, rougher, uglier,” says Pensado. “If you’ve spent any time at all around Pink, you know right away that she’s got this incredible edge. And I really needed to bring that out on the first single. I also put some echoes before each chorus that were slightly out of time but had a nice polyrhythmic feel to them. And if you listen closely to the intro, you can hear where I took the rough instrumental mix and chopped it up using Serato Pitch ‘n Time, with each note tuned just a little different. I stuck it on at the very end as well.”
Whether they’re embellished demos or actual working tracks, Pensado says Pink’s homemade style of success is hardly an isolated case.
“In reality, maybe one-third of the hits I’ve done have originated in the home or home-type studio,” says Pensado. “While there’s definitely some sonic improvements to be made, in many ways there are a lot of things the home guys do that are in fact better than the recordings that come from a big facility. That’s because, in general, the creativity that emerges from a home studio almost always surpasses that of an expensive studio. Never mind the sound quality - personally, I’d rather start with the kind of feeling, emotion and creativity you get on a homemade record like Pink’s. That’s the main thing. Because I’ll make it sound good from there!”
Posted Nov 06, 2008
BIg name producers who can arrange and engineer and help WRITE songs with legs and longevity are a rare breed. LINDA PERRY is gifted exception.
Sometimes, seeking out the people who inspire you may lead to some amazing music. DS - another fine
article on backyard production under the radar.
I wish we all can do what pink did but it dont always happen that way.. Whats the chances one of us walking into Linda Perry;s driveway, walking to her door and saying Please listen? We would be arrested.. Pink had to of known someone to have Linda’s attention..
I wish but not happenign again I am sure.. Once in a million
Longshots ? Sure, but you never know if you never ask. Yes, access is a security issue, but you have to show a little intestinal fortitude and have the goods to back it up to make minor miracles like this happen.
I couldnt say it any better myself Lem.. I wish it could happen lol..
fact is she already had one cd out and then she went to linda perrys house so I am pretty sure someone said hey kid you should go talk to her she will fix you up so your next album isnt as ###### as the first one but anyway the fact is that you need money to get anything done you cant just say ok I am gonna make a cd it takes hella money
If the producer/engineer crew doesn’t truly
support the artist and understand the approach of the tunes, NO AMOUNT of money will make a platinum album in and of itself. This is one of the big mythsthat struggling young artists have to outgrow.
Celine Dion and Mariah Carey come to mind when it comes to the so called “Track Record” of big hits. When the material isn’t up to par, that fat production fund can’t make it a smash hit.
There is an equation to a successful album/CD:
1.) Great tunes that contain good melodies, lyrics
2.) Great performances
3.) Production that ENHANCES both the song AND
When any of these three elements is missing you’ve got a DUD on your hands.
Thanks for the comments. I’m a pro “amateur” at home recording. I listened to “Get The Party Started” for inspiration for a tune I was “commissioned by a public school” to write. I ended up with something that sounded like a cross between Bon Jovi, Tom Petty & the Eagles. Go figure! Still, it was a hellava lot of fun doing it. Plus, it actually worked.
Recording and arranging an original song in the studio is a process and journey of discovery in and of itself. What you thought it was going to sound like and how it turned out as a final product may be TWO
completely different concepts. Sometimes its those
tweaks that make it all work out.
Thank you Lem for your honest and professional response to some of the remarks here. Your reply to Jessie is so true. It wouldn’t matter if it was Pink or David Bowie recording the material or where, if those 3 things were not present…no matter who it is….there would be no hit song.If more musicians/songwriter’s were aware of that fact, there would be more than 1 or 2 true hit songs a year out of the thousands that are recorded.
You certainly have that right. I’ve done over 60 projects in my home studio since I built it last year. The learning curve has been high, but I had a good instructor in a friend who produced my last CD at a pro studio. We spent three years on the project and I just watched over his shoulder and asked a lot of questions. When it came time for me to go solo, a lot of the things I learned from the pro studio experience came back to me and I started applying those principles. But when I read about some of the techniques Linda Perry used on Pink’s recording, it totally amazes me. However, the creative process in recording, arranging and producing is on a different level from song writing. Still, it’s a creative process. I love it all. It’s so nice to have the control and not have to worry about dollars and time. Like Confucius once said, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Thanks again for your contributions, Lem. Heck, I think you live “next door” to me in Wisconsin, correct?
PAUL & Company:
Yup—I live outside of LaCrosse,WI. When you’ve got good to great tunes and a production/recording team in the studio that supports the work and there is a solid rapport going, with a band that truly “gets it”—that’s as good as it gets. Glad to read that my four decades in the music biz is finally getting a little respect. An online Blog/Website and Radio Program on NYC sports has called about using some of my tunes for use as theme songs for some of their programs. Will wonders never cease ?
Its been a LONG, difficult and often times frustrating part-time career. If you don’t truly love the journey, the destination is worthless.