Lady Gaga ‘Just Dance’
People + Opinion : Artists / Engineers / Producers / Programmers
Transatlantic number one ‘Just Dance’ was not only a breakthrough for Lady Gaga, but also for her producer RedOne and mix engineer Robert Orton.
By Paul Tingen
Until the end of 2008, New York singer Lady Gaga was barely a blip on the radar of the US media. On its original release, her debut album The Fame, and its first single, ‘Just Dance’, did little to change her profile in her native country, although the single did make it to the top in Canada. All this changed when ‘Just Dance’ finally arrived at the top of the Billboard singles charts in January 2009, 22 weeks after its release.
The song is also the first major hit for featured singer Colby O’Donis and producer RedOne, and the single and album arrived on mix engineer Robert Orton’s desk only a few weeks after he left Trevor Horn’s employment to begin a freelance career in March 2008.
Robert Orton first heard of Lady Gaga and RedOne when his manager, Martin Kierszenbaum, head of A&R at Interscope and CherryTree Records, sent Orton the rough mix of ‘Just Dance’. “I flipped,” recalls Orton. “You can never tell for sure whether something is going to be successful or not, but the second I heard it, it sounded like a huge hit, it was just amazing. That’s how I got involved with that project, and with RedOne, for whom I’ve since mixed quite a few things. I received the file via Digidelivery, which is how a lot of mixes are sent these days. Nobody else was present for the mix, it was just me at Sarm 3. I spoke to RedOne on the phone before and during the mix, and to Lady Gaga afterwards, to get a sense of exactly what they wanted, and I made adjustments to the mix from that.
“I find it really important to listen to the rough mix, because a lot of effort has gone into it. People work their guts out when working on a record to get a really good sound, and the rough mix is one of the last stages of that process. There’s often a lot of attention to detail in a rough mix and you need to make sure that you don’t miss this. It will contain many small nuances that people will miss if they’re not in the final mix. For them these nuances are part of the vibe. There may be problems with rough mix, but it will usually have a good vibe. In my view, to come in and disregard the rough mix is a little bit arrogant. RedOne had done a really good rough mix of ‘Just Dance’, and the label and Lady Gaga liked it very much. There was nothing wrong with it. I was simply asked to take it to the next level.
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