Verse Structure in “Irresistible Force” (Jane’s Addiction)

Don’t make the automatic assumption that Verse 2 needs to be the same as Verse 1. You have options.

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Jane's AddictionWhen we talk about songs in a verse/chorus-bridge format, we tend to make the automatic assumption that all the verses will have the same melody and harmonic structure, with different lyrics. But it doesn’t always need to be that way. Jane’s addiction’s hit single, “Irresistible Force,” shows that once you’ve finished your first chorus, you can deepen lyrical meaning by creating a unique melody for your second verse. In a way, it comes across as “Verse 1, Part 2.” In any case, there are distinct advantages to creating a new melody where you’d normally find a simple repeat of Verse 1.

Let’s take a quick look at the formal design of “Irresistible Force“:

Jane's Addiction: "Irresistible Force"

Verse 2 in this song could really be called Verse 1, Part 2. But the important point here, and the one songwriters should be making note of, is that you do have options once you’ve completed your first chorus.

What makes this Verse 2 work so well is that it offers a valuable contrast to Verse 1, which had a very static harmonic backing: a sole Ebm chord. Verse 2 offers a more interesting chord progression: Abm  Db  Bbm  Cb  Ebm…

There are pros and cons to using a different melody for your second verse. The main disadvantage is that you are introducing a new melody into the mix, meaning that the only recurring melody for listeners to remember is the chorus melody.

But there’s at least two important advantages to using a unique melody for the second verse, advantages that make perfect sense for “Irresistible Force”: 1) when Verse 1 offers an ambiguous melodic shape above a static harmony; and 2) if a repeat of Verse 1 verbatim would bring song energy back down too far.

A unique verse melody after the first chorus also gives you the chance to enhance the meaning of your song lyric, to more closely portray the implications of the text with a new melodic and harmonic design.

Developing a new verse melody is not all that common in short songs. The only other one that jumps to mind is “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” from “Selling England By the Pound” (Genesis).

To summarize, here’s a short list of reasons you might consider a unique melody and chord progression for your second verse:

  1. If Verse 1 melody doesn’t offer a specific contour that listeners will easily remember.
  2. If Verse 2 lyrics are sufficiently different from Verse 1 lyrics, to the point where repeating Verse 1’s melody won’t adequately portray the lyrical meaning.
  3. If Verse 1 harmonic design feels too static, and needs the contrast of a more active progression.
  4. If a repeat of Verse 1 would bring song energy back down a bit too far, killing momentum.

Keep in mind that repeating verse melodies give listeners something to recall. So there can be a danger in going for a new melody for Verse 2. For that reason, you’ll want to be sure that your chorus melody is strong, with an easily remembered “hooky” structure.

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Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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2 Comments

  1. Hi Gary. I love your blog – thanks for all the in-depth tips and song analyses. I discovered the blog recently through your “Secrets” app on iPhone, which was a bit too basic for me for the price. I wrote a 2-star app review which I’ve now deleted and replaced with a 4-star review. I also wrote a blog post (http://flyingsinger.blogspot.com/2011/10/great-songwriting-blog.html).

    One “image” thing: I would suggest that you replace your rather grumpy-looking blog header photo with a smiling one as you have used elsewhere. Between that and the black background, your blog comes across as a bit “heavy” – it is serious material for sure, but you could adopt a friendlier for it. “Just sayin'” as they say – whatever THAT means. 🙂

    Thanks,
    Bruce Irving

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