The "Baby" Project, Part 3: Indie Rock

The “Baby” Project, Part 3: Indie Rock

Bieber goes indie rock. You liked him before he was cool, right?

I’m not going to lie to you folks. Halfway through recording the third installment of The “Baby” Project, I started to get sick of the Justin Bieber hit song that I’m paying tribute to. I’m reminded by this exercise that I am a big fan of interesting harmonies and chord progressions, and to say that this song lacks either of those things is an understatement of epic proportions.

So to keep things interesting, I’ve taken the opportunity presented by my genre of choice for this installment–indie rock (or maybe alt rock? If you have a better genre label for this music, let me know in the comments)–to get a little more creative with the arrangement and to highlight the subtle yet important countermelody in the chorus:

(MP3 Download)

I’m referring to the “high-low, high-low, high-low, high-low” countermelody that’s played on the synth in the original and on both piano and synth in this version. I won’t blame you if you haven’t noticed it until now, but listen to the original again (I know you want to) and focus on that part:

I honestly think this is one of the many small, unique things about this song that, taken together, propel it past “run of the mill” generic pop tune into ultra-platinum hit. “High-low, high-low, high-low, high-low.” It provides a steady platform upon which the busy melody and drum parts can rest, and it sits at a higher register than those parts, thereby cutting through the rest of the noise and giving the song much of its unique sonic fingerprint. It’s a small work of musical genius, and it deserves the time in the spotlight I’m giving it in this rendition and analysis.

Also of note in this rendition: I’ve axed the Ludacris rap almost entirely. I did include “When I was thirteen/I had my first love” at the end so it wasn’t entirely omitted, but no more than that. Some of you may be relieved, others may miss it, but I had two good reasons for cutting it: one, it’s too distracting and takes any rendition of this song directly to “camp” territory, and two, it would have made the whole longer than I would have preferred, given the song’s slow tempo. That being said, I’m open to bringing it back, but please do let me know how you feel about it in the comments.

And let me know what genres should come next! I’m pretty sure I’m going to end this with a Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” 60’s pop version, but I’m not sure when that will be or how many other versions will come before then. So get your suggestions in now while you can!

Previous Installments of The “Baby” Project

20 Comments on “The “Baby” Project, Part 3: Indie Rock”

  1. Daniel K. #

    Death metal? Mid 90s-style emo? Prog rock? Theatrical pop/rock, a la Queen?


  2. Steven #

    Aw, you’re getting sick of this song? It shows in your voice this time around. Maybe that’s just the Indie Rock voice you’ve got on. But in actuality, the high-low thing has made this the best one yet, especially the hidden away rap line. Your artistic licensce is really vastly improving my mood on the song from total garbage to somewhere between generic pop-rock cash cow and shred of optimism for the world of music. You know, kind of like when you hold a hair in your fingers. It’s hard to see, but it’s there.


  3. Mike #

    I think 50’s-style pop (think early Beatles) would be a no-brainer. The I-vi-IV-V chord progression in the intro gets you halfway there.


  4. David #

    Great work again. Hmm, I’m not sure about the genre though; it sounds more Hoobastank than Animal Collective – no offence. Thus, not too indie at that. I would’ve loved to see you let it loose on that outro, perhaps going into a double tempo climax as in a song like Arcade Fire’s ‘Une Année Sans Lumière’ (or ‘Wake Up’ from the same album). I mean, when one says ‘indie rock’ they’re my main reference point nowadays. My point being: it’s a Bieber song, you should allow yourself some artistic freedom to fit more congruently with each genre. And yes, that does mean dropping the Ludacris cameo – so thanks.

    It’s sweet to see that Motown wall-of-sound thing happening, I can’t wait. But actually, perhaps that theatrical pop/rock version (mentioned in the first comment) could be even better. I mean, a 6-minute ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ version would really allow for some awesome transitions, vocal harmonies, children choirs. It might be the only way to catharsis your way out of this thing without losing your sanity. In any case, Lee, my thoughts are with you for taking a big one for the team here.


    • JosephFM #

      It’s really like the late-80s/early-90s “college rock” subtype of indie, which would basically be alternative rock (since the only difference is whether it would have been played on mainstream radio in 1994 or only on college stations).


  5. Wordsmith #

    I agree with Steven – this is my favourite yet, particularly because you allow the genre to define the redefinition of the the song. Particularly giving the rap a back-seat – I’d be disappointed if you dropped it entirely, but a cameo is a great way to pay tribute without having to awkwardly shove in the whole thing. And the high-low was a fantastic emphasis.

    I’m hoping we see some more theme-and-variations before we hit the WALL OF SOUND (which will undoubtedly be fantastic!) I’m still hanging out for some kind of jazz/big-band/swing-type arrangement, but I’ll take anything. These are all entertaining and manage to make me stomach such saccharine pop to the point where I almost… appreciate… it. O.O


  6. Joel #

    yeah, I second the motion for a glam-rock version a la Queen. Or: Renaissance madrigal?


  7. Lee OTI Staff #

    I think if I do a glam-rock Queen-esque version of “Baby,” I’m going to take much more artistic liberty with the song. Change the chords, possibly the melody too. I can do that one time, right? For my sanity’s sake?

    The wall of sound version will be as faithful to the original as possible, though.


    • Daniel K. #

      I believe that would be acceptable.


      • Gab #



    • Jason V #

      Do it for all! There is no crime in that!


  8. David #

    Maybe something like a dance-pop version? or perhaps ska?


  9. guy #

    Do a noise version.


  10. cat #

    Indie Rock is definitely a good genre for you. But nothing can rescue that chorus. It gives me a headache and the repetitiveness is harder to bear in a simple version. Which is why people need to stop singing Lady Gaga on auditions!!! (Sorry, I’m in UK X Factor mode.)


  11. Jason V #

    Mark! way to go! I am how ever a little jealous of you stealing my idea, I’ve been meaning to do the exactly same thing for the past while. anywho I think that you should expand your horizons a little, and try one of the classical genres. Baroque, Classical, or romantic or even modern age sound track such as heard in movies such as lord of the rings. I personally think that the Classical would be the best because it could be presented as a opera piece, with a full orchestral score! Possibly in a different language that would be historically correct such as German (good),French(better), Italian(best!).


    • Steven #

      Jason, just do your own classical thing on Noteflight, and then maybe you’ll get a nod from Mark, and he’ll include it in the next part or something. It can’t all fall on to Lee… Mark Lee… to represent everyone’s favorite musical genres. I still agree with you that Mark should get out of the Rock sub-genres, becuase it will get rpetitive fast. But I also call out to all the musically talented OTI’ers out on the interwebs to take this project into your own hands and make a 60’s style rendition of “Friday” and let the world see it on YouTube. Is that so hard?

      P.S. Anyone know where I can get the sheet music for Friday? (sort of just kidding, but if anyone does know that would be great. Thanks.)


      • Timothy J Swann #

        Lee, Mark Lee – is a double 0 agent now?
        Also, I’ve sent him a version that imitates Brian Eno.


  12. Jason v #

    Steven. Wow! >:( way to be really obvious to everyone else that you and I know each other. I’d also like to say that I can’t because I don’t have the music software (as noteflight is insufficient) to do this and second of all I would be coping and therefore plagiarizing marks idea. also I would like to point out that you just turned the sacred OTI comment listing into another one of our countless, pointless, overthought arguments.

    Btw to everyone else, if you want a free, easy to use, but very limited music notation program go to


  13. Lee OTI Staff #

    A few things to address:

    I am absolutely open to others contributing to The “Baby” Project, precisely because I’m most comfortable in the guitar-based rock mode and need some help if the project is going to be more ambitious with its genres.

    Email me at [email protected] if you want in on the action.

    Tim: I’ve listened to the Brian Eno version you sent me and do plan on including it in a future edition.


    • Timothy J Swann #

      Cool, I was hoping to encourage them to create a Baroque version. I love Baroque versions!


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