“Beautiful” unfolds like a collision of eras and Aerosmiths, opening with a grind of guitars as brutal as 1973’s “Train Kept A-Rollin'” and a grunting, barking rap from Steven Tyler, before shifting into a soaring melodic chorus closer to the sweeping radio hits they’d perfected by the early Nineties. It was co-written and co-produced by Marti Frederiksen, a close collaborator since Aerosmith re-emerged as a major act in the MTV era.
“He can take a fart and make it a chorus,” Tyler says of Frederiksen’s skill at the Pro Tools monitor. And bassist Tom Hamilton calls him a challenging creative partner, “because the guy thinks and works so fast. He goes for it.”
“Beautiful” emerged during 10 days of songwriting sessions at Frederiksen’s home studio in Los Angeles, where guitarist Brad Whitford came up with the song’s foundation in an unusual chord pattern. “They were like jazz changes. It was odd,” says Whitford, and Frederiksen suggested they model the chorus after Slash’s melody line in Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”
After basic tracks were completed, Tyler didn’t add lyrics for six months. “He had no idea what he was going to do lyrically or vocally, but it was such an interesting piece of music,” Whitford says. “Every time we’d put it on, it was just awesome. It could have been an instrumental.”
Tyler eventually scatted melody ideas over the track and began to see the song in cosmic terms. “My thought was that would be a future song – like something they’d listen to on the way to Mars,” Tyler says. “What’s rock & roll going to be like in 20 years from now when they’re doing that?”
Tyler’s daughter Mia joined him on harmony vocals on the big vocal melody, a section the singer says was difficult to nail down. “That was the hardest,” he says. “I stayed up night after night with that one, and finally when I sang, ‘Beautiful, we’re free again, we’re out of here . . . ,’ it’s like when you have an orgasm – you’re free. It just worked.”