Painkiller is the latest single by up and coming artist G.Smith.
An electronic humming begins to cut through the environment. There is a slow reverberation of what sounds almost like a car alarm in the far background that chirps along with an LFO. Sudden cuts and jumps of the chords open “Painkiller”, as if G.Smith is shifting samples on an SP-404. The whole backdrop is at first, so simple but it immediately grabbed the listener’s attention due to its unusual nature. This song, like many of my favorites, gracefully rides the line between the familiar and strange. Unique noise bordering on dissonance holds you on for a few more seconds, keeping you wondering “where is this song headed?” Everything about “Painkiller” has this sort of grainy, robotic, dreamlike quality to it. It brings to my mind yellow skies and telephone wire.
Then suddenly, once the scene is set, a low and buzzy kick comes firing in. It is just slightly punchy, with minimal pitch attached to it. Once it hits, it drops off fully and you can almost feel the vibrations tickle your ear and fall all the way into silence. G.Smith’s vocals join here as we lunge into the first verse:
“Hey, it’s a walk in the park / It’s the big and beyond / You were there like a star that’s burning out / And it pulls at your skin, gravity wins again / Did you hear what I said? / Blue and yellow roam in.”
As we pass through the pre-chorus, most of the production drops out and the song is left with a hissy, hi-fi twinkling that highlights G.Smith’s lyrical turn here. Some of the lyrics are almost impossible to make out as they are hiding in the backdrop. Right before the chorus soars and explodes we are “You do a spin then I adore you, I adore you, then I adore you.”
New elements are added to this chorus section which provides stark contrast from the previous, not only lyrically or melodically, but within the drum tracks specifically. There is a fresh, somehow pastoral sound added that reminds of cicadas in the summertime, followed by the sound of what seems to be a woodpecker knocking on a tree at the end of each phrase. Vocally, G.Smith takes a physical step away from the recording equipment and lets her voice explode through the microphone. A sharply-toned and forward-placed sound paints us a grand picture. While difficult to decipher the entirety of the lyrics here, much of it drowned in backdrop, vocal styling, vowel modification, and vocal doubling. Some really fun vocalized/sampled “Yeah!” sounds are also creatively placed which really adds to the overall marketability and catchiness to the piece.
We pass through everything once again, only telling a different part of the story.
“Something I can’t explain / it waxes and wanes / getting used to the dullness of the day. / Dream of something I lack / picking up all the slack / If you itch then I’ll scratch / and we can’t take it back.”
Things really shift when we get into the bridge. At the top of the bridge comes a vocal sample of an adult male plays through the momentary lull in the song where G.Smith steps away, proclaiming, “Everyone else is doing it” and something about things being a “real indicator of how I feel.” Likely a reference to the subject, the song highlights the actions of the person G is so carefully watching over, as they “take the painkiller.”
From there, a potent and powerful electric guitar lead cuts through the scene. The frame of the entire tune replays for us and lets the music really take the lead through the ending. G.Smith utilizes a bit of a-typical pop structure here by avoiding the classic ABABCBB structure. Instead she chose to give us a verse, chorus, another verse and chorus, finishing the song from the bridge, and using it as her outro.
Overall I absolutely love this song, and have worn out the “queue” button on my Spotify, having played it nearly 100 times in the last week. Though sometimes questionable lyrically, I still think “Painkiller” is a valiant piece of work. Catchy, unique, exciting, and strong in terms of production, it has electronic flare with memorable samples.
After garnering attention through her first three singles, G.Smith followed her release of Painkiller with a private two show tour; first playing in Richmond, VA at Strange Matter, and capping it off in NYC at SOHO House.
Watch/Listen to Painkiller: