Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Inept harmony in David Bowie - and good stuff in The La's and Duran Duran

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The harmonization of the chorus of David Bowie's single Ashes to Ashes is simply inept - turgid, glutinous, suffocating (against the meaning of the words). From 1:00:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMThz7eQ6K0

But actually the harmonization is pretty bad throughout, there is a sense of the whole thing collapsing under the weight of sheer thickness of texture .

At times, indeed, it is almost as bad as Brahms (heh).

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Contrast what good harmonization can do: The chorus of The La's on the phrase, which is also the song's title: There she goes - this is the only thing that makes the song memorable, and the only thing that makes the chorus good is the way that the harmony opens out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZXLLMbJdZ4

(Actually, the way that the lead singer moves into falsetto as the melody rises is another positive element.)

Or Duran Duran's Girls on Film - when, again, the title-chorus is good almost purely because of the harmony (from 0:50):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWYA9BvxMso

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Conclusion: Good pop songs are not just about melody and rhythm - but harmony sometimes comes into it too: just think of the Beach Boys or The Beatles.

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4 comments:

  1. You need to take into account the mood Ashes To Ashes intends to convey: The lyric "Hitting an all-time low" provides a clue. It's meant to sound weary.

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  2. @Anon (Please use a pseudonym) - Yes, I was taking that into account. Incompetence is incompetence. A writer may legitimately depict boredom - but not by merely boring the reader...

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  3. Actually There She Goes always reminded me of a Beatles song. I always liked the original by The La’s better than the two covers/remakes.

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  4. The harmony on the words "all right now" is the best thing about the original "Jumpin' Jack Flash" -- and the main thing that makes Aretha Franklin's version such a letdown.

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