Fantastic article. I did not know Serban Ghenea’s role.
The act of squeezing an arena’s worth of information into an audio file doesn’t belong to Max Martin, or to his protege, Dr. Luke. (There’s no question, however, that they are the best at it.) Their secret weapon is their mixing engineer, Serban Ghenea, who has mixed over 100 #1 songs, from Ke$ha’s “Timber”, to Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse”, to Pink’s “Raise Your Glass”. His mixes have no notches, no joints, no seams. They are the aural equivalent of a glassy wall.
But wide open spaces don’t magically bestow sophistication on performers. Sometimes, in fact, they do the opposite. Witness Robin Thicke, strutting around in a Beetlejuice suit and inviting the mockery of Western civilization with last year’s “Blurred Lines”. No one blames Pharrell’s backing track, a perfect, glittering retool of Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up”, for the silliness, the hashtags, the unpleasant whiff of horny-high-school-principal. The music, seemingly made only of cowbell and Pharrell’s shit-eating grin, is sly, sexy, and playful in all the places that Thicke is oafish, obvious, and clumsy: Sometimes a gorgeous sports car simply points out the inadequacy of the person driving it.