Rob Thomas’ latest single, “Someday”, from his “Cradlesong” album, features at least a couple of techniques that will interest songwriters. One is the concept of introducing a new melody as a “replacement chorus” in the latter half of a song; another is the overlaying of a persistent melodic fragment that could be best described as a “melodic badge.”
First, here’s a look at the song’s formal design:
Let’s deal with the new melody introduced in the last minute of the song. It is introduced at the 2′ 50″ mark, and provides the song with a great variation on the typical verse – chorus – bridge format. It would be typical (and perhaps too predictable?) to simply repeat the chorus again. It’s likely that after three renditions of the song’s chorus, the writers felt there was nothing much new that could be done to it, and keeping the song fresh was a concern. In such a circumstance, developing a new melody based on the old harmonic progression was a small stroke of genius.
The song uses a background melodic figure, first presented in the introduction, as a type of musical adhesive, drawing the various formal elements together. The figure plays on three notes of the Bbsus4 chord, never really resolving (you might expect to hear the Eb from that chord resolve downward to D, but doesn’t happen), and this lack of tonal resolution imbues it with a strong sense of forward motion. Because it does its work mostly in the background, it can be thought of as a kind of musical “badge” rather than a hook pre se. And because the figure never develops or changes in any way, it would not be proper to think of it as a motif.
Except for the bridge, the song uses the same I – IV – ii progression (Bb Eb Cm) throughout. Harmonic fatigue is a risk if you choose to use the same chords, but you can combat this by moving the melodic plateau higher for the chorus. The melody for the verse dwells on the 3rd of the key (the D in the key of Bb major), while the chorus constantly hits on the note F.
So the compositional devices that songwriters should make note of that make this song work are:
- Use of a melodic badge that provides cohesion throughout the song, remaining constant regardless of the changing harmonies beneath it.
- Use of a unique melody introduced in the latter half of a song that provides something novel and fresh, useful especially when the harmonic treatment of the verse and chorus are identical.
- Use of plateau pitches that provide a foundation for the notes of the melody to focus on, moving upward as the song moves from the verse to the chorus.
The real beauty of “Someday”, and the techniques used, is the simplicity of the final product. It’s a reminder that great songs are measured in how individual elements support each other, and that most songs do quite well with just a touch of innovation and a healthy dose of predictable structure.
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