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Inside Track: Justin Timberlake’s ‘Say Something’

Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Henri d’Armancourt & Guillaume de la Villéon
Published April 2018
By Paul Tingen

Henri d’Armancourt (left) and Guillaume de la Villéon at d’Armancourt’s Velvet Underground Studio in Paris.Henri d’Armancourt (left) and Guillaume de la Villéon at d’Armancourt’s Velvet Underground Studio in Paris.

Performed live and filmed in a single take, Justin Timberlake’s ‘Say Something’ is one of the most ambitious music videos ever made.

Just before Christmas last year, French sound engineers Henri d’Armancourt and Guillaume de la Villéon spent five days in Paris mixing a new single for Justin Timberlake. They received little feedback, apart from a request to come to New York — and when the French duo duly set up at Jungle City Studios, it turned out that Timberlake and his musical director, Adam Blackstone, had not even heard the rough mix. Luckily for the two Frenchmen, Timberlake and Blackstone reacted with an enthusiastic “Incredible!” followed by “And how did you do it?”

Watching the official music video for ‘Say Something’, the third single from Timberlake’s new album Man Of The Woods, is likely to elicit the same response — at least, once it dawns that the entire video is done in one shot, with the audio recorded live on set. D’Armancourt and de la Villéon acted as sound directors for the video, and later mixed the audio. If you haven’t seen and heard the music video yet, take a moment to go over to YouTube, and prepare some support for your jaw, as it’ll almost certainly drop.

‘Say Something’ is a duet between Justin Timberlake and country star Chris Stapleton. This photo shows the enormity of the atrium at the Bradbury Building.‘Say Something’ is a duet between Justin Timberlake and country star Chris Stapleton. This photo shows the enormity of the atrium at the Bradbury Building.The 6:22 video for ‘Say Something’, featuring Chris Stapleton, is by all standards a tour de force. It’s set in the Bradbury Building in Los Angeles, first made famous by its appearance in Blade Runner in 1982. Both ‘Say Something’ and the iconic Ridley Scott movie make ample use of the building’s labyrinthine corridors, stairs, balconies and elevators, as well as its huge atrium. The music video starts with Timberlake in a small room, pushing buttons on a Native Instruments Maschine controller to trigger samples from the studio version of the song. The real action begins at 1:13 when the sound of an acoustic guitar enters and Timberlake walks down a corridor, humming, passes the guitarist, enters an elevator, and picks up his own guitar.

Emerging from the elevator a few floors up, Timberlake passes a pianist before the camera pans to reveal Adam Blackstone playing bass on the balcony, and then settles on country singer Chris Stapleton, who is on the other side of the building, also singing and playing guitar. The choreography grows ever more complex, with Timberlake and Stapleton walking around, stepping into two elevators, and meeting up, still singing and playing guitar. The climactic moment sees a 54-strong choir join from the balconies. In the vast majority of music videos, there’s little relationship between the audio and what happens in the video; by contrast, the connection between sound and vision is total in the ‘Say Something’ video, giving the viewer an exciting sense of witnessing an event taking place in real time.

High Thèque

The ‘Say Something’ film was directed by Arturo Perez Jr (right), seen here during the shoot at the Bradbury Building with Henri d’Armancourt.The ‘Say Something’ film was directed by Arturo Perez Jr (right), seen here during the shoot at the Bradbury Building with Henri d’Armancourt.The creative forces behind the video belong to...

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Published April 2018