Missy Elliot’s recent single “I’m Better” is a great example of how to use space in music to dramatic effect. The track opens with a tiny rising synth figure, plink, plink, plink, over which the producer Lamb speak-raps the song’s refrain. When Missy enters a single massive kick drum slams on beat one. Surprisingly though, we don’t hear it again for another four bars! What is left, besides Missy’s rhymes, the rising synth figure, and bits of ambiance, hi hat, and snare (on beat three) here and there, is about as pure and unadulterated a space as you will find in popular music. This space pushes us to compute what is going on with the tempo and the meter. Is the tempo 105 bpm or a 52.5 bpm time feel that “spools along nicely at half pace” (The Guardian) Is this track in a 4/4 or 12/8 meter–because, after all, most of Missy’s rhyming has a rolling, ternary feel with emphases on the downbeats (“Man I’m 3000, I’m Andre / Yo Missy talk big I’m so grande / Bruce lee on the beat I don’t compete with / none of these geeks I just rant like I’m Kanye”). That’s the thing about space in music: it can create a sense of perceptual ambiguity that invites you to hear what you think you hear.