After brainstorming several different topics/themes, I have a couple really interesting ones I wanted to touch upon before I do the more ‘standard’ ones:
This week: ‘Structurally interesting’ songs
Next week: ‘Groundbreaking’ songs (songs which either started careers which weren’t expected or changed reigning trends)
When we think of a typical pop song, it normally goes something like this:
Middle 8/’Break down’
Chorus x 2
Typical examples include Katy Perry’s Firework or Morning Musume’s Love Machine.
The following are examples which break this pop mold, or have a different genre-typical structure altogether:
Examples: Spice Girls’ Wannabe; Matsuura Aya’s Ki ga tsukeba, anata
This is slowly becoming more common due to the pressure of creating immediate hooks and keeping listeners before they change the radio station. The examples listed above have added a chorus to the beginning, while still retaining the rest of the typical pop structure—still unexpected, though.
Example: Ishikawa Sayuri’s Tsugaru kaikyo, fuyugeshiki
Tsugaru kaikyo, fuyugeshiki: Verse A//Chorus A//Verse B//Chorus B//Chorus B
Enka, or Japanese blues, isn’t as old nor as traditional as people expect it to be. The genre started around pre-war Japan, and solidified itself afterward. Enka has a chorus (or at least a refrain), and is usually structured as a triplet of verse-chorus structures. Personally, I find it hard to categorize as you can’t quite pigeonhole it using instruments (enka regularly features electric instruments, string/brass instruments, and although uncommon may have some instrumental post-production), and the singing style is becoming more commonplace in crossover/regular pop hits. Most people categorize it by subject matter and the aim for the song to be “nostalgic.” More details to come in later post.
Chorus at the end
Examples: Hamasaki Ayumi’s M and HEAVEN, RADWIMPS’ Ame no hi ni kiku
M: 1/2 Chorus//Verse A//Bridge A//Instrumental Break//Verse B//Bridge B//Chorus A//Inst. Break//Chorus B//Chorus C//1/2 Verse
HEAVEN: Verse A//Single Line A//Verse B//Single Line B//Inst. Break//Bridge//Chorus A//Chorus A//Chorus B//Single Line A
Ame no hi ni kiku: Verse 1A//Verse 2A//Verse 3A//Verse 1B//Verse 2B//Verse 3B//Verse 4A//Verse 4B//Bridge//Chorus x2//Lead-out (In which verses with the same number are similar in structure)
Again, this structure is slowly becoming more common, at least in the Western world. With Hamasaki Ayumi’s hits, they’re slightly different—a portion of the chorus appears in the beginning of “M,” while it goes straight into the verse with “HEAVEN.” A point of interest: “M” was Hamasaki’s first composition (under the pen name “CREA”) after dissatisfaction with what was being composed for her. This results in a majority of her next two and a half albums (I am…, RAINBOW, [mini album] Memorial address) being mainly composed by her or a pairing of her and DAI (from Do As Infinity).
Meanwhile, “Ame no hi ni kiku” is sort of what I considered the “Japanese version of Biology” (below) from the way the song sounds like three different songs in one. Between the first 3 verses and second 3 verses, we see a slight tempo shift faster, then another increased tempo shift into the Verse 4, then a penultimate tempo shift faster, with the final instrumental slowing back down. My personal interpretation for this song is because of its title (‘Listen to it on rainy days’), it’s meant to mimic the pattern of rain going from a drizzle, to a steady rainfall, then to a downpour/storm, then back to a drizzle.
Example: Girls Aloud’s Biology
Biology: Hook A x2//Verse 1//Verse 2//Bridge//Chorus//Hook B x4//Hook A x2//Hook B x4
Finally, the genius of Girls Aloud and Xenomania: “Biology.” One of Girls Aloud’s most well-known songs, the structure of the song itself was quite easy to dissect when using “Hook” and “Verse” separately, but the real magic of the song comes in its instrumentation: in multiple interviews with various people (including the girls themselves), it’s pretty much a consensus that “Biology” is a combination of 3 different songs. This is arguably the most structurally daring song the girls have released, and the song has been credited to shaping early ’00s Britpop.
I’m sure there are other songs I’m missing; please feel free to share as I love music recommendations!