Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website. Gary is the author of several songwriting e-books that will get you writing better songs. Read more about them here.
When we write music, we often find ourselves fixated on the melody, chords and lyrics. But it’s the controlling of musical energy in Regina Spektor’s second single from her album “Far” that captivates and keeps listeners focussed and hooked. Add to that the way verse ideas are balanced with contrasting elements in the refrain and instrumental break, and “Eet” is a song that succeeds on many levels.
Here is a formal analysis of “Eet”:
Though in Db major, the vocal melodies created for the song are largely pentatonic, positioned between the dominant notes of Db major, avoiding the 4th and 7th notes of the key. In general, the vocal lines consist more of ascending patterns than descending ones, but during the instrumental break descending patterns largely predominate. This kind of contrast is crucial to the form: vocal ascending lines moving generally from the 6th note of the scale upward, and instrumental descending lines moving from the tonic note downward.
There are some lovely harmonies in this song: The opening Bbm includes an added Eb note, and gives the impression that it’s a sort of inverted pedal (a note held through several chords.) But in fact it’s the Db of this chord that acts as a sustained note through several chords, and adds delicious dissonances throughout the verse.
In the instrumental break, pedal notes still abound, but this time they’re in the bass, and this bass pedal contributes a pleasantly airy effect to this section: Db Dbmaj7 Gb/Db Db It’s a perfect demonstration of the basic principle of “whatever you do to one section, find a different way of doing it in another.”
The symmetrical form of “Eet” (material from the beginning reappearing at the end) is supported by the carefully controlled energy. Spektor uses octave displacement of the melodic lines (“You spend half of your life..” versus “It was so easy..”) to help build energy, as well as instrumental backing and rhythmic pulse. She shows how easy it actually is to control the energy output of a song: add instruments and make them louder when you need to build energy, and reduce to simple piano accompaniment when you want it to dissipate. But without that fluctuation in energy, the song, I believe, would die.
One of the hallmarks of great writers is their ability to create something beautiful and engaging with very simple materials. “Eet” is a perfect example. In the balance between simplicity and complexity, simplicity will almost always win out.