Archive for category Song Geek
Masters of the singable lyrics, this single of Dionne Warwick’s has been covered by at LEAST 30 other artists.
1) “Get enough germs to catch pneuomonia”, always makes me laugh!
2) dovetailing the end of the bridge into the last verse “That is why I’m here to remind you….what do you get when you fall in love…” Brilliant!
Okay, so maybe the “so for at least” gets a little sideways in the prosody department, but otherwise, this is another great example of Hal David’s effortless lyric writing (sounds that way anyway).
Just a few more, and we’ll step away from Hal into new territory.
Until next time…
I debated on interrupting my Hal David series for a week or so, but made the executive decision to discus what I call a “big deal”, at least in the music production world.
You should’ve heard this song by now, either through your top 40 radio station, or via the Internet Explorer ad. (see above if you haven’t).
For awhile now (over a year at least), in the magazines and web discussions I read, people have named “drums and bass” and “wobble bass” as one of the most important and influential music trends going on in music right now.
Knowing the genre has dominated this discussion for so long, I was curious whether and when this really dark (IMHO) sound could ever translate into the mainstream.
This song by Alex Clare is this FIRST example that I’ve found that really hits it head on, both with the sound AND the atmosphere of the track. But of course, it doesn’t hurt that Alex could probably sing the phone book and make it sound killer!
I mean, yeah, Selena Gomez hinted at this genre with the bass chosen for her track “I Love You Like a Love Song”. But that was still basically a dance tune with a wobble bass in the chorus.
It still remains to be seen if the true spirit of “Drums and bass” can make a steady influence on the top 10 or not.
What do you think?
Is this sound is here to stay? Or just a flash in the pan?
And secondly, will Alex Clare stay in “drums and bass” world for awhile, or venture into other sonic territory in the future?
Shoot me a comment and let me know!
This song was such a smash, it was NOT ONLY a #1 for four weeks on Billboard, it also won the Academy award for “Best Original Song”.
Simplicity, prosody, it’s all there.
And let the record show, Ray Stevens turned this song down when he was asked to sing it.
(okay, am I the only guy who wondered what this song had to do with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” at all?? Truly seemed like a “square into a circle” “cram it in there” job to me)
Until next time…
You know, at some point in this blog, I’m going to address the sheer INSANITY of Burt Bacharach and his odd metered melodies, particularly in the context of POP music!
But since we’re saluting Hal David here, listen to this chorus from the famed “I Say a Little Prayer For You” and how effortless the words dance over that melody.
No vowel is out of place; every accent lands where you naturally would speak it (“prosody on steroids”, as I spoke in a previous post…).
Lesser men (and women) would fall flat on their faces with this. (Well, maybe just me…)
Oh yeah, and don’t forget to just listen to Aretha. One of a kind…
Until next time…
With the passing of the great lyricist Hal David on September 1st of this year, I thought it was time I do a little informal survey of his work.
Pat Pattison can speak on the subject far better than I, but I can say that the prosody that flowed from Hal’s pen against so many Burt Bacharach melodies is simply incomparable.
We’ll start with this sweet classic “What the World Needs Now”, with the one-of-a-kind Dionne Warwick, and go from there.
BTW, I didn’t realize she said “no” to recording it first! It was Jackie DeShannon! Further reminder to not be set back by rejection!
Until next time…
This is classic! It wasn’t until I read David Foster’s autobiography that I found he wrote this with Maurice, which really makes sense when you listen to it.
(Ben, were you the one who reminded me of this??)
Foster is a master at the slick mod. Maybe sophisticated is a better way to put it. Either way, here’s how it plays out:
Intro and verse:
Prechorus (“Something happened along the way…”):
B flat to F/A to D min to G min to F
E/F# to E to B/D# to G# min to C# min to B maj 7
(this is NUTS when you consider going a #4 or tritone away in a pop song; jazz, sure, but a big pop hit??)
then BAM AGAIN to the Chorus (we haven’t talked about common-tone modulation, but this is a GREAT example of one…):
C min 7 to
F min 7 to
B flat min 7 to
D flat over E flat
A flat minor (whoa!)
B major over D flat
F # major 7 (hold on…)
A flat minor 7, B flat minor 7,
C minor 7!! (starts the sequence again!)
I may cover the last chorus modulation on a later post, but this thing is amazing!
Until next time!
Well, I had planned on discussing irony (or sarcasm) in music lyrics on a future post, but the news just made it more timely than anticipated!
(fyi, I was going link to the song, but the language, wow, I can’t feature that here…)
Nicki says she was being sarcastic, so of course, it was every one else’s fault for not understanding her.
So the question is, can sarcasm or irony work in a lyric?
Here’s a few examples from pop music history that might help answer the question:
This song really confused people when Randy Newman had this out as a single! Does the guy really hate short people?? Randy says it was a song making fun of the ridiculousness of prejudice. Plenty of people thought it was just Randy being a jerk. Apparently those folks just didn’t listen closely to the bridge.
Keri Hilson explains that this was more of an anthem for all women, and NOT a self-adoring song about how awesome she is. What do you think?
Okay, this is the only real reason I wanted to talk about this subject! In my opinion, THIS is how you pull off irony in a lyric. Unbelievable song, production, feel (yeah, can you tell I love this song??) Even if you’re not sure if Tina is serious or being sarcastic, you’re left FEELING sympathetic for Tina. Again, in my opinion, if you’re writing in 1st person, than the likability of the singer is important.
(and a shout out for my buddy Billy Livsey who played the DEFINITIVE dx-7 harmonica solo on both the demo, AND the final record of this hit…)
The conclusion? Tread carefully with those sarcastic lyrics! (But then again, a little controversy goes a long way in selling records…)
Until next time…
What discussion about key modulations would be complete without a reference to the Beach Boys “Good Vibrations”!
Obviously, I could spend a few posts just talking about Brian Wilson, from both a song perspective, as well as a production perspective, but maybe I’ll come back to that. (And don’t get me started on the gorgeousness of this recording; tape, 1176s, aughhhhhh!)
And for those of you who don’t know, that funny little steel guitar looking thing in the video around 0:31 is called a theremin, immortalized by the Beach Boys in this song, as well as about a hundred horror films of the 60′s and 70′s. This thing takes the patience of Job to play in tune.
Again, I digress.
From a song stand point, repeating the hook over and over would be exceptionally boring were it not for these cool modulations up and up through the chorus.
The verses are in E flat minor/F# minor.
Here’s the chorus progression:
F# (8 measures)
A flat (4 measures)
B flat (4 measures)
The honky tonk piano section after chorus 2 hangs in B Flat, then moves to E flat, back to B flat.
THEN the breakdown progression:
It ends with a dominant F ( F 7 ) which throws us all back to:
then DOWN to
then Down to
F# up to
A flat up to
B flat down to
and stays there until the end. Whewwww!
Truly a great example of using the mod to keep interest in a song from lagging.
Until next time…
Yeah, I know, it’s been more than a few weeks! Sorry to leave you hanging, all 2 of you.
BUT, the good news is that I keep stumbling upon some fantastic key modulations within some classic songs, thanks to my wandering up and down the produce aisle.
Today’s example is brought to you by the great Cliff Richard.
And just as a tangent, this guy has been in the business a LONG LONG TIME! He shows up in Geoff Emericks’ book on the Beatles (“Here There and Everywhere”), but I only knew of him in the 70s, particularly when this song came out.
Now this song has a couple of things going on harmonically that are pretty cool, including the pedal tone bass in the chorus progression (hanging on the 1 chord, while every body else moves around in the progression) to the 4 with a 6 on top, and the 5 with a 6 on top in the pre chorus.
But we’re interested in the mod: in the chorus, which starts in C, but then heads to A, a minor 3rd LOWER!
Now it only does it for 4 bars.
But the set up is this:
C dom 7 to
C over G
G over A
D over A
voila, mod to key of A!
Now if you’ve been following along, that’s a similar mod to Celine’s mod at the end of “All By Myself” where she goes UP a minor 3rd. Semisonic also went UP with the instrumental a minor 3rd.
But this going down thing, crazy!
Sorry to ramble on, but this really is a favorite.
Consider this device when your chorus is getting a little long in the tooth, but you’re not quite sure about introducing a new melodic motif.
(as a side bar, I’d really like to see Ben Folds perform in this get up; gotta love the 70s!)
See you next time!
Well, most of you care I’m sure.
But, as you saw on the previous post, MOST of the songs in the top 20 just don’t mess around when it comes to when stuff happens.
Miranda Lambert’s intro was over 20 seconds (hers was a crazy 37 seconds long! but then again, she’s Miranda Lambert!) And Lady Antebellum’s was 28 seconds.
All the others were 20 seconds or less, with the average being 14.86 seconds (if you throw out Miranda’s and Lady A’s intros).
Then, when you consider the chorus, it’s truly a case of “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” with most of these.
The average was 46 seconds for the chorus to hit from the start of the song.
As always, there are always exceptions. But it’s always good to keep these kind of details in mind when writing!
Until next time!