“Moves Like Jagger”: Developing Melodies from a Killer Hook

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Maroon 5- Moves Like JaggerThere’s a very catchy little instrumental hook that  happens right at the beginning of Maroon 5’s hit, “Moves Like Jagger” (see link below). It’s part scale, part arpeggio, and instantly appealing. Partnered with an energetic disco-pop accompaniment, the hook is almost strong enough to carry the song from beginning to end. But it’s more than a stand-alone hook; much of the melodic material that comprises the rest of the song points back to it. “Moves Like Jagger” is a great model for how to create song melodies from a hook. Melodies that are, like the hook they came from, strong and memorable.

Moves Like Jagger” opens with this simple, repetitive melodic fragment:

Hook from "Moves Like Jagger"It’s got everything that a successful hook needs: melodic interest comes from its roughly symmetrical shape, including an upward leap of a 5th near the beginning, and finishing with a downward 5th. With the syncopated rhythm at the end, it’s rhythmically interesting without being complex. And the entire hook encompasses an octave, making it hummable by almost anyone.

The beauty of this hook is that, short as it is, it contains enough melodic information to form (or at least inspire) most of the important melodies that occur throughout the song.

The end of the hook, where the rhythmic syncopation occurs, gives special significance to the dominant (F#) and tonic (B) notes. The verse melody then enters, using these two notes as important structural features.

This opening melody bears the least melodic resemblance to the hook of the various melodies that occur throughout the song. That shouldn’t surprise us: after having heard the hook several times, it was necessary to produce a melody that offers a bit of variation.

The next melodic fragment that sets the words, “And take me away/ and make it OK..” are drawn almost note-for-note from the hook:

Moves Like Jagger

The opening melody of the chorus uses the same melodic fragment from the hook, but starts on the highest note, B:

Moves Like JaggerThe chorus ends with a literal repeat of the hook.

There is no songwriting principle that demands that all hooks need to relate to the melodic material used throughout a song. We have lots of examples (and I’ve written about many of them on this blog) where the hook is mainly a stand-alone feature that serves as a groove that simply supports: Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill”, and so on.

But pulling melodies from a hook, especially a hook as strong as this one, has the benefit of riveting those melodies into the memory of the listener. It creates a song that sounds like a continuous iteration of a hook, but without the negative side-effect of boredom from too much repetition.


Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website
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  1. Thanks fir this Gary. Your posts are always informative/inspiring but I like the way you incorporated a musical notation analysis here. Its superhelpful actually seeing the movements shaped. Thanks.

  2. Excellent analysis, Gary!

    The first time I heard this song was driving in my car, and the moment that melody hit, I thought, “Yep, that’s definitely an designed-by-intention hook there!”

    The Maroon boys are great, and the use of whistling instead of instruments to carry that melody only strengthens the hook, since I suspect it’s meant to signal the audience to whistle along with them when they’re in live concert!


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