9 Production Glitches in Popular Recordings

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We’ve all made mistakes. Missed punch ins, bad edits, a vocal tuning glitch. If you’re like me, then you’ve probably painstakingly edited and reedited a track once, twice or a hundred times because something wasn’t just right.

Well, as a reminder of the futility in perfectionism, here’s a list of glitches in popular recording found by the members of the subreddit /r/ProductionGlitches. Even with mistakes, it didn’t stop these songs from being approved by the label—or being well received by their audiences.

I’m sure many of you have heard most of these songs yet never heard any of these glitches. Let that be a testament to stop scrutinizing over every minor detail. An alternate title for this article could be: “Mistakes… Eh… You can leave them in sometimes.”

M.I.A. – “Paper Planes”

MIA is an english rapper who in 2007 had a top 20 song called “Paper Planes.” The song is a sample heavy dance, rap ballad that uses a sample from the 1982 song Straight to Hell by The Clash.

If you’ve heard this song then you probably know what the catchy chorus sounds like…. But did you hear that pop right before every chorus? It sounds like the result of a sloppy edit. Once you hear this you cannot un-hear it, so if you like this song you may want to skip this one.

Christina Aguilera – “Beautiful”

Regardless of what you think of Christina Aguilera, this song is truly… well… Beautiful. In 2004, it won her a GRAMMY for “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance” and was nominated for “Song of the Year”.

According to the song’s writer, Linda Perry, the vocal you hear on the radio is the demo version they made when trying to decide if they wanted Christina Aguilera to have the song.

This is probably why the click track may have been just a tad too loud. Because of the leakage from the headphones and the large amount of compression on the vocals at 3:43, you hear the click track poking through.

Adele – “Hello”

I’m sure everyone reading this has heard “Hello” by Adele. It’d be quite the accomplishment if you live in this world and managed to avoid it this whole time.

You’d think with a multi million dollar production for one of the biggest artists in the world vocal tuning mistakes wouldn’t happen. Well, that’s not true because that’s exactly what happened on Adele’s most popular song at 3:22.

These kinds of overzealous vocal tuning glitches are common over at /r/ProductionGlitches, where you can find similar alerts to more glaring glitches on famous tracks by the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Panic at the Disco and more.

Dark Side Of The Moon Master

Can you hear that? Does that faint orchestra sound like it’s playing a familiar tune? That’s because it is… You can actually hear the orchestral version of the Beatles “Ticket to Ride.” This glitch is probably the result of a bad bulk eraser job by a not so diligent assistant.

John Denver – “Rocky Mountain High”

That’s right, one of the two official state songs of Colorado has a bad punch-in.

John Denver was one of the best selling acts of the 1970s, selling over 33 million albums. A lot of engineers take for granted the luxury that DAWs provide for things like punch ins. Tape machines could do punch ins but they weren’t always reliable. It was especially difficult when punching out as some machines would leave a small gap due to the distance between the heads.

Although punching wasn’t as easy then as it is today, it doesn’t mean engineers didn’t have to do it. The only difference is then there was no undo button. You can hear the bad punch on the lyric “he climbed” at 1:31.

Radiohead – “Separator”

Thom York must like his headphones really loud or maybe he prefers to keep one ear of his headphones off. Whatever it is, there’s a ton of drum bleed in the delayed vocal tracks on their song “Separator”. It sounds like it’s a completely different drum part, so I assume this was the original drum part that was eventually replaced. It’s hard to hear without headphones as its only in the right channel at 1:40 and 2:40.

The Who – “It’s in You”

Maybe not the most popular The Who, song but I’m still not sure how these edits got through. You don’t even need to listen closely to hear these as I’d consider them some of the worst edits on this list. At 0:25 and 0:28 you can hear the sound of an assistant yelling an expletive. Okay, not really, but you can hear two atrocious edits.

Metallica – “One”

Metallica’s One was the the third single off their fourth album ….And Justice for All. If only it was still possible to have a 4 minute and 58 second song radio edit make it onto the Top 40. Being one of the biggest bands in the world had its privileges. The guys were provided the luxury of a huge budget and unlimited amount of time in the studio and they certainly took advantage of it.

Lars Ulrich’s drum tracks were assigned their own dedicated 24-track tape machine. According to producer Flemming Rasmussen, each song used three 2-inch, 24-track tape reels: One reel for the drums, one of the guitars and bass, and one for everything else. Despite all this luxury and attention to detail, mistakes still happen. At around 2:51 you can hear what sounds like the tom gate closing a bit too early.

Aretha Franklin – “Rolling In The Deep”

I’m using the word “popular” in the title generously here with this submission as it’s a cover of an Adele song that I’d never heard before seeing it posted on /r/ProductionGlitches.

I feel bad even doing this because Aretha Franklin is such a legend but it almost sounds as if someone set the autotune with the vocal track muted. I’m not sure who was in charge of this one or how it got past Aretha and everyone else involved.

This isn’t as much a glitch as it is just bad production. No specific times needed for this one, the autotune is terrible throughout the entire song.

Taylor Swift – “Change”

Like with the Adele, this is another major production. While it’s hard to imagine how this one slipped through cracks, it’s much easier to figure out why this glitch happened. You’re almost done editing the last 16 bars of the song.

It’s been a long night in the studio and you’ve been painstakingly editing drums for hours. You’re almost done! “Hey, I found a good 4 bars I can use for the outro.” Copy, paste, paste, paste… PERFECT! Not exactly. Listen to the snare hit on the first beat of every 4 bars starting at 4:05.

For more like this, see 10 Mistakes Intentionally Left In Classic Recordings by Michael Duncan here on SonicScoop.

David Silverstein is an audio engineer who works at Sabella Studios. You can find more of his writing on his blog, Audio Hertz.

  • Matt

    The Beach Boys song, “Wendy”, you can hear a cough during the instrumental solo section if you turn it up a bit.

  • LP

    Tool’s “Aenima” album is one of the best sounding rock albums ever in my opinion and got me into engineering in the first place. But in the song “Jimmy” there’s a really obvious click in the first downbeat of the drums. Could never figure out how that made it through on such an impeccably edited and produced album.

  • andrea

    in Enigma’s first album “MCMXC a.D.” between Callas Went Away and “mea Culpa” you can barely hear a horn playing from I don’t know which jazz record, anytime I listened to it I thought it was there for a reason and I loved it
    , now I think it is probably one of these kind of mistakes lol

  • Taggart Snyder

    Yep, I remember my friend pointing it out to me in grade school when we used to listen to Endless Summer constantly. (I think that was the album it was on) Maybe it’s just my old ears or the crappy headphones I listen to at work, but I just can’t hear a lot of the “errors” listed in this article. :/