Tuesday, April 30, 2013

of Montreal - "Requiem for O.M.M.2" (2005)

The chorus of this song has a pretty simple harmonic vocabulary of diatonic chords (I, ii, IV, and V) plus one blue chord (bVII), but the melody is quite unusual. The fact that it sounds fairly natural is remarkable and somewhat mysterious.

The first two phrases revolve around D#, the third of the scale. It's an odd tone for everything to be centered around because it's not a part of the ii (C# minor), IV (E major), or V (F# major) chords that we are hearing.

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The third phrase starts off on D# once again, but has to slip up a half-step to E when the A major chord is thrown in to avoid a tritone. E is a part of the A major chord, but the phrase goes up a pitch and then descends to B (a longer note on a strong beat), which is not.

The last phrase emphasizes D# on the downbeat once again over C# minor.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bruno Mars - "When I Was Your Man"/Justin Timberlake - "Mirrors" (2012)

Two current chart hits. The Mars song subverts rhyming expectations when line two of the verse doesn't rhyme with line one. This is nice in itself, but nicer still when he goes the extra mile and a half by (also unexpectedly) rhyming line three with line one and line four with line two.

The fifty-one second chorus in the Timberlake song strikes me as something utterly extraordinary. Its length, of course, is outrageous, but what a construction the entire thing is. There are two parts to it, but both occur over the same chord progression. The composers shape the sense of two distinct parts out of melodic configurations.

The first part consists of what are essentially eight lines of text, with line five rhyming with line one and line eight rhyming with line four. Lines six and seven involve a single, extended melody and are essentially one long line.

In the second part, you finally get the refrain line twenty-five seconds into the chorus. This section is more melodically concise, has more immediate rhyming, and repeats the refrain line at the end, creating a sense that it's truly a sort of chorus on top of a chorus.

As if all of this weren't enough, there's a combining of lines five and six as one long melodic passage, echoing the similar event in the first section even though these two parts are otherwise melodically distinct.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Three O'Clock - "When Lightning Starts" (1983)

I believe there's a ninth chord in this song on the dominant of B major. When played by barring the top three strings on the ninth fret of the guitar (if that is indeed what guitarist Louis Gutierrez is doing here), it's as though you're just extending the IV chord that precedes it by adding the sixth (E, G# and C#) or like the ii chord.

The bass outlines B-A-E-F# throughout both the verse and the chorus. A is played underneath a V/IV (B7) chord, so that makes for unusual stuff happening in two out of only four chords that are played for much of this song.