Deconstructing 'Centuries' By Fall Out Boy (Produced by Omega and J.R. Rotem)

At a high level, Fallout Boy appear to be taking a page out of Drake's promotion manual by releasing a single WELL before a new album. This is an interesting tactic that can work for  two reasons: 1) Helps the artist stay in front of their fans minds, and more importantly, media social feeds; 2) Starts to generate excitement, speculation and discussion about their new album. It can also help them land tv/radio promos talking about the new song and album to further build interest and hype.


This life cycle of this promotional tactic usually ends when the albums full blown marketing campaign gets set in motion. 

Thus a few months ago, we were introduced to Fall Out Boy's (FOB) new song ‘Centuries’.  Almost immediately right after the track went public, Instagram used it to show off their new hyperlapse technology, by sync'ing the promotional video to the track on Youtube, which was the exclusive location to hear it 'on demand' for a few weeks. 

As a side note, branding has become much more evident and popular within the music community, than what I've seen in the past. The main reason for this, is that it's a fun and effective way for brands to push their product to a specific demographic that a particular type of music is popular with. Music has, and always will have, the clout of 'cool'.

Take SXSW 2014 for example, it looked like Dorritos and Mountain Dew threw up over Austin and am willing to bet their sales soared due to those placements. Synch licensing and branding partnerships can be (and SHOULD be) another stream of revenue for an artist...if the collaboration makes sense. Like the touch faucet commercial and the drummer from Wilco. Cool idea, as they had him play a 'beat' with various sized faucets by touching them, but at the same time, you've got to wonder how Wilco's fans took to the promotion and feel like he may have sold out for this, as it has no association with the bands voice and image (in my opinion). So although I strongly encourage all musicians to consider taking steps to make this part of thier revenue stream, please...please ensure you do it right and only get on board with a brand that makes sense for you as a person and musician. Now, back to business....

Coming off their last album ‘Save Rock And Roll’, which I personally thought was one of their best albums in regards to songwriting and production (and it also doesn’t hurt  to have Butch Walker behind the helm), FOB ‘Centuries’ needed to be a very strong step forward and not backwards. As much as older fans want them to go back to writing a punk-pop album, although I can’t say for sure, I highly doubt that we will ever see another album in that genre. They played that music very well, and now need to focus on their careers which usually means branching out the musicality on follow up albums.

II first learned about this song from a blog newsletter and was quick to check it out. The first thing I notice was the sample that opens up the track (which I talk about more below). There’s something to be said about leading off with your good foot, and this sample was a strong way to start this song. The ‘sample comes back throughout the track multiple times, and the vocal harmony plays off it a bit (since they are in the same key), but basically just uses it for transitions. After first listen to the production, I had thought they brought ol’ Butch back in, but was surprised that they didn’t, as the track is polished as all hell and very clean.

Musically and lyrically, turns out that Stump originally came forward with the song while FOB was on the Monumentour with their friends in Paramore. In an interview with Kerrang!, Wentz described the idea of the song as a "David vs. Goliath story", stating "We wanted to write a song that empowered people who are a little weird". Hence the treatment for the music video.

RockSound.tv asked Pete Wentz about how the track came together, and he noted,” Well, the way things usually evolve with us... we’ll write a bunch of stuff, and when it gets cooking, we’ll bring it to a simmer! When things really start happening, we want to get some momentum building. We’re always writing. With ‘Centuries’, we were on the Monumentour with Paramore, Patrick [Stump, vocals / guitar] came forward with the song, and it just seemed very timely. It felt like the time to really get things going, and we’ve had the pedal to the metal as far as writing goes. So in a sense, the song created its own timeline.  It’s not like we have an album done yet or anything. The way the song  came out was very feral. We just had to build a plan around it. Now we’ve got to finish writing the album, and go on to record it.”

So that’s pretty much it regarding the back story, a dude comes up with a riff , the band develops, and in the end you have a great pop/rock track that has already seen various TV, commercial and movie synch placements.

The overall song structure breaks down like this:
 
Section Time (min:sec)
Intro/Pre-Chorus START - 0:06
Chorus (A) 0:07 – 0:27
1:06-1:27
2:06 - 2:27
3:11 - END
Chorus (B) 0:28 - 0:38
1:28-1:38
2:28 – 2:38
Vs 1 0:39 - 0:59
Pre-Chorus 1:00-1:05
2:01-2:05
3:00 – 3:09
Vs 2 1:39-2:00
Bridge 2:39 – 2:59
 
*Note how simply this song is written, as there are really only four main parts to this track. Sure there are some sounds, notes, FX, etc. that might make a repeating section more interesting. However, it’s common to see simple chord progressions and song structures resulting in powerful and catchy songs!* 

Intro/Pre-Chorus
Section Time (min:sec)
Intro START - 0:06
  • As mentioned above, this track starts off with a sample of the hit 90’s track “Tom’s Diner” by Susan Vega. But instead of just ripping the sample, they were able to get Lolo to come and re-track the vocal melody. -- As a side note, FOB's hommies in Panic at the Disco ran into an issue when they tried to use a Fiona Apple sample for their hit song 'Miss Jackson' which was originally going to be called ‘Bad Apple’. Fiona refused to let them clear the sample, so they had to go another route and again reached out to Lolo to help sing the hook. Note that obtaining a mechanical license to cover a song IS COMPLETELY different than obtaining permission to sample a song. The latter is A LOT harder. --
  • At the end of the sample, a small amount of feedback and a reversed instrument are used to build up energy as the track transitions into Chorus A.

Chorus (A)
Section Time (min:sec)
Chorus A 0:07 - 0:27
  • If you listen carefully, the reverse instrument build up pitches down, until it’s muted a few seconds into this section.The prominent instrument in this section is the piano which is used to introduce the chord progression and melody of the track.
  • The bass (which sounds like it has some distortion that can help bring out the instrument harmonics and sit in the track nicer) follows the piano note progressions.
  • The vocals match the melodic piano notes until the vocals set up to the hook (which is the name of the track…go figure) and varies slightly to signify this point of the song.
  • At right around 0:17 seconds, there is a cymbal hit and half note claps are introduced.
  • Backup vocals are also brought in for the lines “And just one mistake, is all it will take”, which makes sense due to the imagery of this line and how it relates to the track.
  • At the very end of this section, use a ‘vinyl record slow down’ effect that is very popular in EDM and rap genres. It’s well used here as before the next rocking section comes in. Chorus A is strategically used as a build, and the sound effect drops everything, but the payoff comes in…another song dynamic tactic utilized heavily in the EDM genre.

Chorus (B)
Section Time (min:sec)
Chorus B 0:28 - 0:38
  • So now we get the payoff, drums, bass, guitar, vocals and background vocals. Feels super energetic right? You can thank the two preceding sessions for building the energy, as well as what I would call the ‘shotgun’ snare effect that makes the snare huge and ring out.
  • The instruments are not doing anything amazing here but replicating the main melody set up by the piano in the previous section (aside from a few guitar notes/slides in between changing chords)
  • Pay attention to the snare tone, it sounds like rim shots every time…all the time. Since this is a driving song, that snare tone makes sense.
  • The interesting thing here is the use of what I like to call ‘tribal vocals’, creating a melody of nonsense words and sounds, and this is exactly what Stump is doing here.  “Hey-ey-ey-ey-ya, oh hey-ey-ey-ey” This is a tactic used by various musicians as they know that these sections are immediately infections and create sing-a-longs. If you’ve not heard this song, I want to you take a full listen through it once, and then tell me what vocal melody that first pops to mind. I’m willing to bet that 9 times out of 10, it’s going to be these tribal vocals. Plus, their super fun to pull off live and you really don’t have to be a great background singer to be an effective part of the overall sound.
  • The last lyrics of this section is “Remember me for centuries”…again, using the song title in the lyrics.

Vs 1
Section Time (min:sec)
Vs 1 0:39 - 0:59
  • The verse is introduced with a cymbal hit, and the drums follow a very similar kick/snare pattern as they did in the choruses while the rhythm guitars switch it up a bit and play quarter note staccato strums.
  • For the first half of the verse, the bass drop out and then comes in the second half, effectively utilizing the layering technique to again, help build dynamics. The way the bass comes in is clever as it accents with the drum hits and choir vocals essentially masking (to the average listener) it’s introduction making the second half of the verse much more powerful filling out the low end.

Pre-Chorus
Section Time (min:sec)
Pre-Chorus 1:00 - 1:05
  • Now we hit the Pre-Chorus and bring back the sample that was introduced in the intro, and the claps introduced in Chorus A.
  • What’s most interesting about this section is how a majority of the instruments drop out. The bass, the guitar, the drums…and pretty much all we are left with are vocals, sound effects and clapping. This allows the track to build momentum, again, sort of like an EDM drop does.
  • One new instrument (or sample) that we’ve not heard yet, which is introduced in this section are the snare hits. These particular snare hits have a different tone that the main snare, so it’s fair to say that this is either a sample or the snare EQ’d, compressed and plug-in affected to make it sound like a rap genre snare. Check out about 11 seconds into this Lil’ Wayne song and you can hear the similarities. The rap genre uses (or used, as you don’t hear it much anymore) to help build dynamics in their tracks. It’s always interesting to me to hear the rock genre utilize very similar tone techniques as other genres.
  • Finally, the sound effect, which I’m assuming is some type of synth raising in pitch, is brought in to further drive the energy upward.

Chorus (A)
Section Time (min:sec)
Chorus (A) 1:06 - 1:27
  • Chorus A is brought back in to stabilize and get the listener ready for when everything hits in Chorus B.
  • Notice how low the volume of the claps are, and how they progressively get louder as the section progresses. It even sounds like their EQ is automated to bring up more high end frequencies.
  • The piano is brought back in to accent the vocal melody.
  • The guitar is strumming the chord progression of the chorus, while the bass is accenting every hit with the kick drum. However, notice how the kick drum pattern slightly changes during the second half of this second. It’s not major, but makes a difference.
  • Then the sound effect we heard in the Pre-Chorus is brought back and the record stopping effect is again utilized with a pause…right before the full on Chorus B hits.

Chorus (B)
Section Time (min:sec)
Chorus (B) 1:28 - 1:38
  • Nothing new here from the first time this section played in the track, aside from the transition to Verse 2 using the vinyl slowdown effect on the guitars.

Verse 2
Section Time (min:sec)
Verse 2 1:39 - 2:00
  • So the first half of this verse is an exact replica of Verse 1, with different lyrics. However, the second half of this section develops into a different vocal melody, the bass is very sparse, and some of the guitar hits are muted.
  • A reverse ‘ghost’ type of effect is used to bring the snare hit back in after the melody holds out the word “amnesia”. I like this effect, and typically use it on vocals and not instruments. However, it does add another element, or layer, of interest.
  • Typically, in popular music, the verses are used to tell the story and the chorus is used to drive the point of the story home. Therefore, it’s common practice to keep verses somewhat identical instrumentally, so that you don’t distract from the vocals. However, in non-popular music, depending on the structure of the song (as there are many) the verses are sometimes used to introduce a key change or to take the song in a different direction melodically. If you’d like me to send you some examples of this approach, give me a shout.
  • There are also some subtle panning and delay vocal effects used in the second half of this section, but nothing too crazy, which is the typically the point with background vocals.

Pre-Chorus
Section Time (min:sec)
Bridge (A) 2:01 - 2:05

Chorus (A)
Section Time (min:sec)
Chorus (A) 2:06 - 2:27
 
 
Chorus (B)
Section Time (min:sec)
Chorus (B) 2:28 - 2:38
 
  • Musically, nothing new happening here that didn’t occur initially in these sections. Again, we’re looking at a pop/rock music, so this shouldn’t be a surprise.

Bridge
Section Time (min:sec)
Bridge 2:39 - 2:59
  • OK, now time for the Bridge. Playing to the rollercoaster of dynamics built into this song, the Bridge is another build up.
  • A new instrument, the acoustic guitar is brought into the mix, hitting every quarter note of the melody, matching the bass notes and the kick drum (which is only in the second half of the section).
  • The most special thing about this section are the vocal effects. The instrumentation (I believe) was specifically sparse to allow enough sonic room to fit in all of the effects that are going on and creating an amazing atmosphere. There is a shit ton going on, reverb, delay, some crazy processing (maybe tremolo and EQ) that is making Patrick’s voice waver and thinner. Freakin awesome!
  • The second half of this section brings back the claps.

Pre-Chorus
Section Time (min:sec)
Pre-Chorus 3:00 - 3:10
 
 
  • Various instruments of the previous Pre-Chorus are still present, however we now don’t have the rap snare hits and the section is now twice as long.
  • At the end of the second half of this section, there is a short bass fill (nice work Pete Wentz) that then dies off into just the sample which we heard at the very beginning of the track.

Chorus (A)
Section Time (min:sec)
Chorus (A) 3:11 - 3:33
 
  • Can you tell what’s different about this part of the Chorus that hasn’t been played the entire track? You got it! The snare drum is present, and it’s not just the kick driving the beat. If you've read my previous ‘Deconstructing’ posts, you know that the last chorus is typically the biggest…some might call it the money shot. FOB doesn’t really do much to make it that big (instrumentally), but the snare does make a big difference and gives the listener something to jam on for the entire Chorus section.
  • There are also pauses at the end of the first chord progression (filled in by some guitar strumming string mutes), and the rising pitch sound effect and pause brings in Chorus B.

Chorus (B)
Section Time (min:sec)
Chorus (B) 3:34 - END
 
  • Again, nothing new, but ending the song off right.


Questions, comments or general feedback? Is there a particular track you'd like me to deconstruct? -- AE|Beats 

Below are some videos showing you how to play the track on piano and guitar, as well as they lyrics.
 

3 comments

  • The Gothics

    The Gothics

    Hey, so I'm playing a keyboard for my new band with a lead singer, a few backup singers and a guitarist. That video helped a lot and I will for sure use that for our cover centuries. Thank you very much

    Hey, so I'm playing a keyboard for my new band with a lead singer, a few backup singers and a guitarist. That video helped a lot and I will for sure use that for our cover centuries. Thank you very much

  • Alexander Ellis

    Alexander Ellis

    You bet, thanks so much for checking out the post! If there are any particular songs that you or your friends need some more of a production insight to, just drop me a note and I'll look to see what I can do. Cheers~AE|Beats

    You bet, thanks so much for checking out the post! If there are any particular songs that you or your friends need some more of a production insight to, just drop me a note and I'll look to see what I can do. Cheers~AE|Beats

  • D.J. Minter

    D.J. Minter 642 Boger st

    Hey look i'm looking for someone to take me in as a singer i'm in 6th grade but if u could ever access me on google doc i'm 12154759 we can discuss this i would really LOVE to become a part of a group so think about it.

    Hey look i'm looking for someone to take me in as a singer i'm in 6th grade but if u could ever access me on google doc i'm 12154759 we can discuss this i would really LOVE to become a part of a group so think about it.

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