Kermit vs. Jason Mraz

…and other covers that make counterproductive changes.

From: Dan

To: Ian, Doantam

Ian will quickly identify his favorite chord in Kermit the Frog’s version of “The Rainbow Connection” as the secondary dominant (F#) in the chorus:

[Bm]          [E]          [C#m7]     [F#]
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection
    [Bm]        [E]         [A]
The lovers the dreamers and me

Here’s Kermit rocking the VI:

Jason Mraz, who re-popularized this song recently, changed the F# to a more predictable F#m, which should make Ian crazy:

Both versions are in A. Note that in the Jason Mraz video they clearly used random cuts of his hands strumming, so his hands don’t line up with the chords. But the chorus is clearly Bm E A F#m in the JM version, Bm E A F# in the Kermit version.

From: Dan

To: Ian, Doantam

Willie Nelson totally dropped the secondary dominant also:

Actually, I can't totally tell if Willie Nelson plays a major or minor there. He's playing softly and mumbling the melody.

From: Doantam

To: Ian, Dan

I'm actually only familiar with the Jason Mraz version, so this is very interesting for me. So in this case the F# is the secondary dominant of the Bm?

From: Ian

To: Dan, Doantam

Wow, I already hated Jason Mraz for no reason, having never even heard him, and now I have reason to. He actually sounds great, but why would someone replace a cool chord with a boring one? Why?!?? I don't understand the mindset that would cause a person to do a thing like this. Kermit even sings the A#! This is even more inexcusable than Limp Bizkit playing the Mission Impossible theme in 4/4, because at least they can say they wanted it to be more danceable or something.

From: Dan

To: Ian, Doantam

Normally I only use "secondary dominant" to refer to the major II (as the V of V), but in this case, because it resolves to the ii (Bm), and because the ii (Bm) is featured so prominently in this song, I'm willing to call the major VI (F#) a secondary dominant.

Ian also knows that the ii is my least favorite chord in the major scale, but I find it to be non-dull in this song.

A rule of thumb for me is that the ii is the only chord in the major scale I'll never ever play without the 7 (as ii min7). Soooo dull, and almost nothing bad ever happens by adding the 7 here.

Another note on this song... Kermit changes keys after the second verse, Jason does not. I appreciate the effort on Kermit's part, but it's a particularly gratuitous key change IMO. Good key changes to me are either transparent or at least pleasant... this is just a lyrically awkward shift up a half-step.

Perhaps my favorite chromatic key change of all time happens in Macy Gray's “I Try”. It happens at 2:50, but I'd listen to the whole song to best appreciate it. That's a well-executed key change. Mmmmmm.

From: Ian

To: Dan, Doantam

I use secondary dominant to mean the V chord of any of the chords in the original key (except the tonic, of course). It has to actually be functioning as the V chord too, so I don't consider a II chord that doesn't happen before or after a V a secondary dominant.

That Macy Gray key change is okay I guess, but it's just the same half step key change that everyone uses. I agree that she sings over it well, though. For me it's pretty hard to top Total Eclipse of the Heart. Let's say the song starts in A minor. Then the chorus is in G, which isn't that remarkable except that the part right before the chorus is sort of in Eb. I say sort of because there hasn't really been an obvious key change, the song has just meandered there from Am (through C).

From: Dan

To: Ian, Doantam

And Alone (Heart). That's a key change too. Not a surprising change in tonality per se, from Bm to Em, but really well-executed. I'd say almost totally transparent if you're not listening for it. Part of what's clever is that when they change to Em, each phrase still ends on the D and hangs there a while, so you're still very comfortable in the new key.

From: Dan (like two years later)

To: Ian, Doantam

Reviving a very old thread, about how disappointed I was that Jason Mraz left the coolest chord out of his version of "The Rainbow Connection".

Here's the broader trivia question here: what covers can you think of where a really unique musical tidbit in the original was omitted from the cover?

Another one that comes to mind is the Mission Impossible theme from the Tom-Cruise-era movies: they did a 4/4 version of the best-known 5/4 song of all time. I've heard Ian bitch about this one before. (Eds. note: holy shit Ian bitched about that in this very thread.)

I'm also pretty sure I heard Bon Jovi do their own cover of Living on a Prayer without the big key change. Maybe it's their Unplugged version? Also, remember when "Unplugged" was a thing?

From: Doantam

To: Dan, Ian

Having been inspired by some after work acoustic rock, I went back and listened to Kermit's version. So the only thing I really hear clearly is Kermit singing the 3rd of the F# (which is an A#).

Is that how you're hearing the chord is the F#? Or are you listening to the background music?

From: Dan

To: Ian, Doantam

On the A# alone, in the key of A I'd guess F#, since a Bb in the key of A would be especially awkward. But yes, the strings et al seem to suggest that as well. Actually the main algorithm I use in this case is "play all the choices until one sounds good", where the choices given the melody are mostly Bb and F#.

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