Thursday, May 2, 2013

The System - Excellence In Pop Music

by Rain San Martin

I had recently read an article in Keyboard magazine that mentioned The System had come out with a new album, System Overload. The synth R&B pop members David Frank and Mic Murphy are mostly known for the 1987 hit, Don't Disturb This Groove (LP Version). The two also become a dynamo production team, and David Frank worked with artists ranging from Chaka Khan to 98 Degrees.

The last I checked the original version of The System CD is running over $90 on Amazon; the single is available however as an MP3.

Now in 2013 they released  System Overload.  I was blown away with the classic 1980s style of songwriting merged with modern synth and aggressive vocal production of the 2010s.  I would put them in the progressive pop category due to the technical complexity of the arrangements.

My take away on the analysis of The System's music for songwriters to emulate is to value the study of classical music (David Franks' background is described below), to embrace new technology, and incorporate classic song structure in your writing (intro, verse, chorus, bridge, ending).

Here's an excerpt from David Franks' Myspace bio:

"The keyboardist found work playing in bands around New York, affording him the opportunity to invest in the emerging MIDI music technology. He bought an Oberheim OBXa keyboard synthesizer, sequencer, and drum machine. Through these revolutionary synchronized instruments, David Frank created a one-man electronic rhythm section."

"David Frank is an American music producer, composer, classically trained pianist, and founding member of the 1980s R&B group The System...Frank's expertise in recording studio technology gave the material a sound that many felt was ahead of its time. Indeed, the heavy use of synths and electric percussion was a step beyond the dance-influenced flavor of the previous album, and Murphy's soulful vocals gave the songs a definite R&B flavor."

Though I have remained a fan of modern pop dance hits I feel we are lacking in the craftsmanship of the golden era of 1980s MIDI production. Pop music can be as ornate and detailed as classical music.  Let's take the extra time to write bridges and transitions just as the production giants did in the past, giving the track a chance to become a timeless classic.


Rain San Martin is a Multimedia Composer and Digital Artist living in Fort Wayne, IN with husband Sage and two children.

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