“Beyond Sexy” originated from a listing for a rhythmic, contemporary pop song, where “sexy” had to be mentioned in the chorus. Because I found the “sexy” guideline to be vastly entertaining and slightly ridiculous, I felt I had to put together and contribute something. The suggested listening was:
David Guetta ft. Akon - Sexy “Chick”
(I found out later that “chick” is the non-explicit version. Apparently “the words that describe this girl without being disrespectful” are, in fact, “Sexy Bitch”. I’ll make sure to remember that one for the ladies, as I’m positive they’ll appreciate me using that in lieu of their names.)
Justin Timberlake - Sexyback
(SexyBack is all one word. This probably changes the whole meaning of the song. He’s not bringing sexy back, he’s bringing a SexyBack, which, as I sit here thinking about it, is probably a proprietary term for your butt, as in, “I’m sitting on my SexyBack™”. Or maybe it doesn’t change the song at all, or is a typo.)
LMFAO - Sexy and I Know It
(If you want witty comments for this one, just listen to the song. This song was molded out of sarcasm, then fired in a kiln.)
As you can see from the suggested listening, they did, in fact, want a rhythmic, pop song where “sexy” was in the chorus. However, the only things these songs have in common are that they use an 808 drum kit, have at least one synthesizer sound, and mention “sexy” in the chorus. (Oddly enough, for both Sexy Bitch and SexyBack, I thought the bridge was the chorus, because it was the catchy part. In researching lyrics, I found that for both songs, the chorus is the rhythmic part following the bridge.) The lack of commonality between the songs meant I was less constrained by style, sound, and genre. In this case, that actually made this song hard to write, as more options were open.
Since all of the songs had an 808 drum kit in common (most contemporary pop uses the 606, 808, or 909), I reproduced the beats of each song, then used them as guidelines to develop my own rhythm. Once I had a good beat going, I developed variations with different hi-hat patterns and interplay between the hi-hat and the toms. I used these different variations for different sections of the song.
For pop songs, aside from the beat, the most important part of the song is usually the title. The title determines the subject of the song and (most of the time) the title is the chorus (or at least part of it). So next, I endeavored to find an interesting title using the word “sexy” that was broad enough to write a song about, and was at least kind of catchy and original.
This brainstorming session resulted in about 2 hours of staring at my computer screen, followed by another hour of Sudoku (websudoku.com), while I listened to those three songs on repeat. At this point, I realized that I really only use the word sexy when I’m talking about my own butt. As a self-described nerdy, middle-upper class, white male, with a Master’s Degree in engineering, almost all of the women I’ve ever met take immediate offense at my use of the term within their general vicinity. The only guys I personally know who have gotten away with using it were very good looking, were in a long term relationship, or were my little brother, Michael. I promptly picked up my phone and texted Michael.
Realizing I could get both Michael’s perspective, and the perspective of a woman who would know proper social use of the word, and we could all have some fun tossing ideas around as a group, I did a group text with Michael and his girlfriend Brandy. This resulted in some great back-and-forth and some really entertaining lyrical ideas:
Classy, sassy, a little smart-assy. She’s a sexy woman!
Damn, she’s so sexy. She’s givin’ me some apoplexy.
And a good title for a country song:
Sexy Never Fixed a Broken Heart
The back and forth was finally jump-starting my brain, but nothing screamed, “THAT’S IT! THAT’S PERFECT!!!” so I also texted my friends, Greg and Chrissy, to pick their brains on the subject. This resulted in my favorite line:
Sexier than (insert food here)
I’m sure this line was meant to figure out a sexy food to compare with, but I was laughing too hard at the prospect of using the line as is.
While having these conversations, I also had the great idea of looking for descriptions of sexy pictures. It turned out that this was not a great idea. Apparently there is a fine line between sexy pictures and people using words to describe sexy pictures. I may have scandalized my internet search history.
Anyway, at some point during the conversation about “food that could be inserted here”, I had the thought, “Oh, well that’s beyond sexy!” Immediately bells and whistles went off in my head and Beyond Sexy was chosen as the title.
The context for the rest of the song came relatively easy after that. To me, if someone is beyond sexy, they are probably also out of reach. This in turn brought up fond memories of going to Charlie Bear, Land of Dance, at OSU, and some friends I had who would just dance by themselves, like they were in a spotlight, and made it work. Occasionally guys would come by, but most would get the brush-off, since we were all hanging out. The rest of the lyrics basically wrote themselves.
A good set of starting lyrics can carry an inherent cadence. Putting notes to the cadence gives melody. From there, I can mess with the notes and cadence until the melody finds a life of its own, Doctor Frankenstein-style. At this point, the melody then determines the writing of the rest of the lyrics to fill out the subject. Eventually a full song emerges.
The emergence of a full song with lyrics and melody was a little strange in this case, because I usually have music in mind or written before trying to fit notes to the cadence. For this song, I actually used the melodies and some orchestral writing conventions to figure out the chords. I then whipped up some synth sounds for the bass, chords, and lead, and threw them in. The very last thing I wrote was the synth lead. At this point, my brain was a little fried, so I just went with something simple, made up of notes that fit easily with all of the chords, so I wouldn’t have to change it too much. Later, it turned out that with the right effects, you can twist a line from simple to really cool.
With all of the parts written and programmed in midi, I arranged them into my ABCABC structure (Verse-Bridge-Chorus), and recorded the vocals. Because most of the instruments were electronic, and the lack of extensive overtones in the sounds I chose allowed the sounds to play nicely together, the vocals were the only part of the song that needed any sort of complex mixing work. This also turned mastering into a basic exercise in increasing the volume of the track as much as possible without distortion.
From start to finish, Beyond Sexy took roughly 5 days.