Luke Cyca .com

Estelle's “American Boy” mastering is shit

This is an incredibly catchy song, but how did it make it to market with such poor audio quality? It distorts throughout, but not in the warm way... more in the no-regard-for-digital-full-scale way.

I decided to investigate in Pro Tools...

American Boy waveform

Yeah. Except for the intro, the whole thing is pegged. This is what the channel strip looked like most of the time...

American Boy channel strip

Now I understand that this is sort of typical of the music of our day. There is the so-called loudness war and every mastering engineer wants their track to have the highest possible RMS so that it sounds really loud. It's a tragedy of the commons.

But this isn't even the same thing—it's way worse. This song isn't just compressed and limited, it's actually clipping. A lot.

Here's a zoomed in portion of the song at 2:51 (2:27 in the video version above) where it kind of breaks down and Kanye does his thing. Totally clipped.

American Boy waveform @ 2:51

Seriously. wtf.

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Luke Cyca .com