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PD: 2008 US No1 song analysis20 Mar 2009 12:28

Soon to come the brief analyses of 14 songs that topped the US chart last year.



Post was edited on 20 Mar 2009 12:29
1.PD 21 Mar 2009 06:48

I briefly ananlysed the US No1 singles in 2008. First I have to admit that I knew much
lower percentage of the songs then of the 1988 or even the 1958 US No1 hits.
This must be two major causes:
- many of these singles were not heavily rotated in the local (Hungarian) stations.
- Many of these singles failed to draw my attention enough to get sticked in my memory

Let's see now the songs one by one:

Low - Flo Rida featuring T-Pain
Major key, 4/4 meter
This song has no chord progression. It repeates a hook synth tune throughout the song.
The verses start with recitative tune flashing into triads for moments. The second
half of the verse is the only melodic part of the song (appearing 8 times in the song).
The rap sections are "just another"-category. IMO the secret of many rap song is that
if you passed the rap sections, nearly any melodic tune creates a rapture.

Form:
Intro | verse | verse | Rap | Rap |
      | Verse | Verse | Rap | Rap |
      | Verse | Verse | Rap | Rap |
      | Verse | Verse | outro


Usher featuring Young Jeezy - Love In This Club
Major key, 4/4 meter
The backing of the song repetaes this chord progression throughout:
I > iii > vi > IV
This is mainly the doo-wop cliche where the V is substituted by
its relative minor chord (iii).
The form is also predictable with the cycles and the Bridge.

Intro | Verse | Chorus |
      | Verse | Chorus | Bridge-Rap |
      | Verse'| Break  | Chorus-outro |


Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love
Key: Major
Meter: 4/4

Another song with a turnaround chord progression:
I > vi > IV > V
which is jazzyfied up a bit. The form is generic with a predictable middle eight:

Intro Verse Verse pre-Chorus Chorus
link  Verse Verse pre-Chorus Chorus Bridge (8 bar)
                  pre-chorus Chorus-chorus-tag-outro


Touch My Body - Mariah Carey
Major key, 4/4 meter
The chord progression is something like this:
VI > VII > i which is played throughout the whole song.
The form is predictable:

Intro - Verse - pre-chorus - Chorus (AA) - Chorus
        Verse - pre-Chorus - Chorus - Chorus
        Verse - Chorus - Chorus - outro AAAAAA


Lollipop Lil Wayne
Minor key, 4/4 meter
Another chord turnaround which is combined with a simple scalar synth hook:
i > III > VII > VI

Intro - A - Chorus BB - Verse CCCC-CCCC-CCCC
            Chorus BB - Verse CCCC-CCCC - "Title-Chorus"
            Chorus BB - Verse CCCC-CCCC-CCCC
            Chorus BB


"Take a Bow" Rihanna
Major key, 4/4 meter
Another cliche-progression:
I > V > vi > IV 
 As a trick chord the bVII chord closes the verses and the Bridge as well.
B - phrases : ii > I/3 > IV

AAAA'| AAAA'| AA' | AAABB' |
     | AAAA'| AA' | AAABB' | Bridge (8 bar) |
  AA'| |          | AAABB' | B


Coldplay - Viva La Vida
Major key, 4/4 meter
Another turnaround song. The doo-wop cliche is shifted resulting an open
harmonic shape at both end of the phrases.
IV > V > I > vi

The form is simple:
Intro (AA)| Verse (AA)
  Link AA | Verse (AA) pre-chorus (AA) - chorus (AAAA) | interlude (AA)
          | Verse (AA) pre-chorus (AA) - Chorus (AAAA) | aaab AAAA |
                                       | Chorus (AAAA) | Outro AAA...


Katy Perry- I kissed a girl
minor key, 4/4 shuffle
The chord progression is based on contrapunt between bass and guitar (shades of
"Parallel Universe" by RHCP.
 
 gtr : 1 - 6 - 5 - 3 - 3 - 3
 bass: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 6 - 5
       i>VII/3>III>iv7>VI> V+

We have pedal bass in the middle chorus.

|| Verse (AAAA) | Chorus AA - A - A ||
 | Verse (AAAA) | Chorus AA - A - A | Bridge (BBC)
                | Chorus AA - A - A |

We have a text-book Bridge with open harmony.
B: VI > v > i > VII ... iv


Rihanna - Disturbia
minor key, 4/4 meter

1 - 3 - 6 - 6-5: vocal
1 - 3 - 7 - 6  : bass
i >III>VII> VI

The same progression as in Lollipop which dominates the whole song.
Creative detail is the dissonance between lead vocal and bass (6th vs 7th, 5th vs 6th).
This very subtle dissonance nicely undersores the title. The yncopated hook reminded me of Seal's "Killer".


Intro | hook (AAAA) | Verse (AAAA) | pre-chorus (AAAA) | chorus I(AAAA) title-Chorus (AAAA)|
      | hook | Verse'| pre-chorus | Chorus - title-chorus |
      | hook | Bridge (8bar) | Chorus - title-chorus | Outro (hook)

B: 4 > 6 > 7 > 4> 6 > #7 > 7 >
The chorus phrases start with the title-word which is very familiar for me.
Not just from "Back Chat".
The song reminded me of "I'm Blue" (Eiffel 65). Its hook could be easily mixed over Disturbia-hook.


T.I. - "Whatever You Like"
minor key, 4/4 shuffle
another overrepeated turnaround progression: i > VI > III > VII
with a predictable form:

                  | Chorus (AAAA) |
| Verse (A'A)     | Chorus (AA) |
| Verse (A'A'-AA) | Chorus (AA) |
| Verse (AA)      | Chorus (AA) |

Wiki says: "Whatever You Like" was produced by Jim Jonsin, the producer of Lil Wayne's song "Lollipop".[2] Both songs have similar elements including the lead synthesizers, drum pattern, and a memorable chorus.


Pink - so what
Major key, 4/4 shuffle
The main hook is pentatonic, sonds like classic rock era guitar riff ("eg. Black Nigths")
The chorus progression is the same with that of "Love In This Club":
I > iii > vi > IV

A-AA | Verse AAAA - AA | Chorus BBBB |
     | Verse AAAA - AA | Chorus BBBB |
     | Bridge CC'      | Chorus BBBB | outro BBBB-AA |

We have a predictable bridge except it stays centered around the tonic.


T.I (feat.) Rihanna - Live Your Life
The main hook is taken (non-credited) from a moldavian group'
pop song: O-zone - "Dragos Tea Din" that was a major summers hit
over here a couple of years ago. The "hey-hooo" vocals are also generic details.
The non-ripped off details of the song is anything but memorable for example the
recitative verses.

VI > III > VII > i

AA-AA | Chorus AA | Verse AAAA    | Rap AAAA AAAA |
      | Chorus AA | Verse AAAA AA | Rap AAAA AAAA |
      | Chorus AA | Verse AAAA AA | Bridge AA |
                  | Verse'AAAAAA | AAAA. |

 

"Womanizer" Britney Spears
4/4 shuffle beat
We dont really have a chord progression here as the backing
is based on a single-note sequence in minor mode pepppered with a
flat 2nd degree as a chromatic passing note.
1 4 3 2 2b 1
In later verses the pregression is harmonized while the oscillating
octaves keep the pedal-tone on the 1st degree.

The phrasing is interesting with "3 vs 4" type syncopations.

Intro A | Verse AA | Chorus A - AA |
        | Verse AA | Chorus A - AA |
          | Bridge | Chorus A - AA - A! |

We have another predictable Bridge. When I first hlistened to this
songs I was sure that a Bridge is coming there.
The closinng A! phrase combines both chorus phrases.


Single Ladies - Beyonce
Key: Major - minor (Bridge)
meter: 4/4
The song has a certain acapella gospel feeling.
The Bridge makes a modal switch to the parallel key.
The harmonic backing is not really chordal. The appearing synth motif has a
"Led Zeppelin - Kashmir"-esque sonority.

The melodic 7th is hard to find. The 6th can be found in both m6 and M6 form.


Intro IIII | Verse AAA'A | BBBB CC'CC' BBBB |
           | Verse AAA"A"| BBBB CC'CC' BBBB CCCC | Bridge |
              | re-Intro | CC'CC' BBBB B!BBB |


Index
"Low"   Major 4/4 No chords
"Love in This Club" Major 4/4 I > iii > vi  > IV
"Bleeding Love"  Major 4/4 I > vi  > IV  > V
"Touch My Body"  minor 4/4 VI> VII > i
"Lollipop"  minor 4/4 i > III > VII > VI
"Take a Bow"  Major 4/4 I >  V  > vi  > IV
"Lollipop"  minor 4/4 i > III > VII > VI
"Viva la Vida"  Major 4/4 IV>  V  >  I  > vi
"I Kissed a Girl" minor 4/4 sh. i>VII/3 >III  >iv7>VI> V+
"Disturbia"  minor 4/4 i > III > VII > VI
"Whatever You Like" minor 4/4 sh. i > VI  > III > VII
"So What"  Major 4/4 sh. I > iii > vi  > IV
"Live Your Life" minor 4/4 VI > III > VII > i
"Womanizer"  minor 4/4 sh. 1 4 3 2 2b 1
"Single Ladies"  Maj/Min 4/4 No chords

  

balance:
all songs in 4/4 four of these with shuffle beat.
Major / minor rate: 54% / 46%
The "nominal" performers/vocalists had averagely 20% share in the songwriting.
The dominance of turnaround progressions is shocking. Good songwriting
doesn exludes the turnaround progressions perse (Careless Whisper, Back Chat),
but the absence of anything more sophisticated shows that harmony-wise the
commercial songwriting falled back to the doo-wop level.
There are of course more complex songs, but they cannot sell it as effectively as
songs with repetitive simple harmonies. There was only one song with bVII chord
and one with b2, one with b6 degree. Beside the simple harmony we saw that there were some songwriting
tricks appearing in the songs, but compared to what we saw in Queen songs, the
level is poor.
To make a better impreesion of the contemporary songwriting I'm going to
add some more songs analyses soon or later.


 



Post was edited on 23 Mar 2009 06:03
2.FriedChicken 17 Jun 2009 14:38

Interesting, do you think the frequent use of the 4/4 metrum could be connected to the use of sequencers, which have the 4/4 120 bpm as a default setting?

 

Someone should do some statistics, to see if the percentage of songs in 4/4 grew in the last 10 years or so.

3.PD 19 Jun 2009 05:54

I think that the use of sequencers is partly responsible for repetitive music especially in the electronic dance music.
As for 4/4 and 120 bpm: the sequencers have this default seeting because it was proven to be a popular choice.
And track-composers are also following this trend. The 3/4 meter has not compltly disappeard from today's pop music.
Any examples? None from the top of my head.

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