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Opinion

The end: Why songs no longer ‘fade out’

The cold ending, or when a song ends abruptly, is the opposite of the fadeout — when a song’s last few lyrics or notes slowly decrease in volume until the end.

Manny F. Pagsuyuin Jr.

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Have you ever noticed that pop songs these days always end abruptly? They never seem to fade out like songs from the past.

The fadeout used to be the norm in recordings. But things have changed. Why has the fadeout faded away?

The cold ending, or when a song ends abruptly, is the opposite of the fadeout, or when a song’s last few lyrics or notes slowly decrease in volume until the end.

The fadeout was common practice in the 1950s and has been the standard way to end songs until recently. Check out 1985’s year-end Top 10 songs — not one of them has a cold ending.
Even more so in the 90s, and especially in the last 10 years.

The fadeout developed in a song’s recording process in the studio. Artists, such as Stevie Wonder, have a tendency to just keep playing as the song ends, relying on the sound engineer to “fade out” the master control of the song’s volume.

The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” possibly has the longest fadeout, lasting a whopping four minutes, which practically takes more than half of the song’s total running time of seven minutes and 11 seconds.

There are times when sound engineers would fade out a song that has become too lengthy. This was done under the supervision of the record producer and, of course, the recording artist.

Lamentably, the fadeout has slowly disappeared from recordings. / PHOTOGRAPH SOURCED FROM THE INTERNET

Many have wondered why songs fade out in the first place. The most common reason is time constraint. As pop music lorded over radio, record producers found the fadeout as a good way to shorten songs — thus leaving more time for listeners to hear more songs.

Radio station programmers also wanted to play more songs in a given hour to have an edge over other stations.

If most instances, singles are short, while their album versions are longer.

Music Servicing companies like HitDisc used to supply radio stations with bi-monthly/monthly subscriptions of music on CDs containing radio versions or radio edits of popular songs, tailored to suit their programming needs.

Lamentably, the fadeout has slowly disappeared from recordings. Listen to songs released in the 2010s and most, if not all, have cold endings.

The only song with a fadeout that I can recall is Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ 2013 hit “Blurred Lines,” perhaps in keeping in step with the old-school feel of the song.

Could the reason lie with the introduction of new technology, where producers can remedy mistakes easily and utilize “better” endings? While some unfairly say that fadeouts were a “lazy” way to end songs, today’s skip culture has made us simply click on the next song, impatient for it to fade until the end.

It could also be that the fadeout has lost its “fashion” appeal, like an outmoded piece of clothing that no one wears anymore.

Maybe we’ll see the return of the fadeout, maybe not. Only time will tell.

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