Love Song

…the Doctor of Rock returns from IR.

From: Dan

To: Ian

What I do know is that Sara Bareilles is fantastic, but what I don’t know is what key this verse is in:

I have the verse as Gm → Bb → Dm → F:

[Gm]Head under [Bb]water
And they [Dm]tell me to breathe
[F]easy for a while

Do you hear that as vi → I → iii → V, or ii → IV → vi → I? I.e., if you start right from the beginning, do you hear it in Bb or F, and when are you sure? Do you think it matters that the Bb is really Bbsus2? (I can’t think of a Isus2 off the top of my head…)

Or does it matter that at 1:00 the chorus kicks in as Gm → C → F → Bb:

I'm not gonna write you a [Gm]love song
'Cause you [C]asked for it 
'Cause you [F]need one
You [Bb]see

I’m so conflicted here. Did it just change keys or not? To me at this point it totally feels like it’s in F, but the C feels sort of like a II, which would imply not-F, or that the C is where it transitions from Bb to F. I can’t decide. I need a personal assistant to make decisions like this for me.

Incidentally super-cool something at the end of the chorus: Dm → G → Bb → C… that wasn’t a typo, it’s a G major… which doesn’t really clear anything up wrt key…:

If [Dm]all you have is leavin' 
I'm 'a [G]need a better reason   
to [Bb]write you a [C]love song to[Gm]day

This is a really good song. I put Spotify on “pop” sometimes and it’s super-frustrating how much of it is Drake and Bieber, and it’s so good when something like this comes up. So then I say “well I should ride this good-pop thing for a bit”, so I click on the artist (Sara Bareilles in this case), and…

This is also a really good song, with no interesting chords at all. But there’s something a little interesting in the fact that if the chorus is:

I → vi → IV → V

[Bb]Say what you wanna say
[Gm]And let the words fall [Eb]out         
Honestly [F]I wanna see you be brave

…then the verse is:

I → I → vi → vi → IV → V

[Bb]You can be amazing
[Bb]You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
[Gm]You can be the outcast
[Gm]Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
[Eb] Or [F]you can start speaking up

Firstly, that’s a six-measure pattern in the verse, which is only marginally less surprising than three-measure patterns.

But it’s also twice the rate of chord changes, though not double-timing in the traditional sense… other songs that follow this pattern? Verse as c1 c1 c2 c2 … cN cN, chorus as c1 c2 … CN (yes that’s right, newsflash, I’m a f’ing nerd who likes compact notation)?

Vice-versa (verse the same pattern as chorus but twice as many changes in the verse) would be insane. That can’t exist. Does it?

Sara Bareilles and Meghan Trainor are on my short list of artists that still come up in the Spotify “pop” category (which implies “active pop artists”) that are listenable. Really, everything else comes up has so little… content.

I tried to make a playlist called “current pop that is listenable”, where I added songs that fit the bill:

Spotify – current pop that is listenable

…but Taylor Swift’s well-publicized absence from Spotify is really putting a kink in this plan. I tried “start playlist radio” from here, thinking “big data and machine learning” would make me an awesome playlist, but it was just all Drake and Justin Timberlake.

Speaking of Justin Timberlake. Is it weird that Justin Timberlake’s music is so unlistenable? He’s so talented. What’s going on there? How could a dude who can this: the same dude who chooses to do this:

My first guess was that it had something to do with having sex with actresses, but then Wikipedia says he's already married to an actress, happily by all reports (I really need to catch up on my Us Weekly), so he can't just be making horrible music to impress actresses. No idea.

BTW, the Doctor of Rock is back from injury! Four months sans guitar due to the inappropriately-named "baseball finger"... I made my first legitimate diminished 7 chord tonight, which I've mentioned many times is the most satisfying chord on guitar, but also requires Bending of All the Fingers.

[Eds. note: I know I had "baseball finger", and in the title of this post, I said "IR" instead of "DL", which is an inconsistent metaphor, since MLB uses "DL", while the NFL uses "IR". The reason I did this is that baseball is terrible. Like more terrible than the Spotify "pop" chart.]

From: Ian

To: Dan

Re: current pop that is listenable: Jar of Hearts. Totally cheesy but the chord progression feels very Dan.

[Eb]And who do you think you [Bb]are?
Running around leaving [Cm]scars
Collecting your jar of [Ab]hearts
And [Abm]tearing [Eb]love apart

You're gonna catch a [Bb]cold
From the ice inside your [Cm]soul
So don't come back for [Ab]me
[Abm]Who do you think you [Ab]are?

From: Dan

To: Ian

I agree, Jar of Hearts has a good chord progression, and by "chord progression", I mean IV → iv. Although (a) Spotify wouldn't call this "pop" because it's from 2010 and (b) this is one of those songs where I'm waiting for it to start the whole time. I like good chord progressions, but I also really like loud guitars, and things happening. I think I'd really like a hypothetical Guns n' Roses version of this song. I thought of GnR specifically because the video reminds me of the Don't Cry / November Rain / Estranged trilogy.

[time passes...]

OK, I just watched those videos and they're still awesome and I'm back in middle school. Estranged is easily the best of the three, but they're all awesome. And while I'm on the topic of GnR, Locomotive might just be the best hard rock song ever, in close competition with Anthrax's Only. Although for all the love I heap on GnR, I can't name a specific GnR chord progression I like off the top of my head.

From: Ian

To: Dan

I could have sworn Jar of Hearts was from the past year, but no, everything on the Internet clearly suggests I'm wrong.

GnR has some reasonably good minor chord progressions during solos. There's the i → VI → V →  iv, in the Sweet Child O'Mine solo:

...and the i -> V -> iv -> III -> VI -> VII -> i at the end of November Rain:

Although when I write these out they look boring, so I guess it's mostly just Slash being awesome on top of them.

From: Dan

To: Ian

November Rain moves from C to Cm. That's something. Although it's sort of Layla-esque in its medium-randomness. Maybe less random than Layla, but not really a carefully crafted key change.

But yes, it's mostly Slash being awesome, and the best rhythm guitar arrangements rock has ever seen. Listen under headphones. It's f'ing incredible. Izzy and Slash are the collective Good Stuff.

Baby got a locomotive... baby goin' off the tracks...

From: Ian

To: Dan

Since I didn't answer the original question, I do not hear any key change in Love Song, but the chords are great. The ii chord is the chord of the 2010s, especially when followed by IV instead of V. And that major II at the end of the chorus is nice.

One other thing Brave does is in the post-chorus it switches the order of vi and IV:

[Bb]Say what you wanna say
[Gm]And let the words fall [Eb]out         
Honestly [F]I wanna see you be brave

That was I → vi → IV → V...

[Bb]I just wanna see you
[Eb]I just wanna see you
[Gm]I just wanna see you
[F]I wanna see you be brave

...and that was I → IV → vi → V...

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