Wednesday, October 14

Don't Stop Believin' - Rhyme Scheme and Chorus Form

Rhyme Scheme – Don’t Stop Believin’…

First, so that we’re all on the same page, here’s a quick rhyme scheme primer…

Rhyme scheme refers to the words at the END of the lines, not internal rhymes. Internal rhymes are important (they create cool boosts of momentum), but I’m looking at how the lines connect with each other, not how they work internally.

The most common rhyme schemes are…

cat/hat/mat/fat = aaaa
cat/hat/dog/fog = aabb
cat/dog/hat/fog = abab
cat/dog/man/fog = xaxa (the “x” refers to a word that doesn't have a rhyme partner)

Everyone clear? [Brushing hands together – wiping brow – Thinking: done and done!]

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Here’s the whole song, then we’ll break each section down…

(verse 1 -  xaxa – world/anywhere/Detroit/anywhere)
Just a small town girl living in a lonely world
She took the midnight train going anywhere
Just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit
He took the midnight train going anywhere

(verse 2 – xx – perfume/on)
A singer in a smoky room, the smell of wine and cheap perfume
For a smile they can share the night, it goes on, and on, and on, and on...

(prechorus – xaxa -  boulevard/night/emotion/night)
Strangers waiting up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching in the night
Streetlight people living just to find emotion
Hiding somewhere in the night

(verse 3 – xxxx – thrill/time/blues/on)
Working hard to get my fill, everybody wants a thrill
Paying anything to roll the dice just one more time
Some will win, some will lose, some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends, it goes on and on, and on, and on...

Strangers waiting up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching in the night
Streetlight people living just to find emotion
Hiding somewhere in the night

(chorus - aaa)
Don’t stop believin’, hold on to the feelin’, streetlight people
Don’t stop believin’, hold on to the feelin’, streetlight people
Don’t stop believin’, hold on to the feelin’, streetlight people

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Verse 1 - xaxa – world/anywhere/Detroit/anywhere …these “rhymes” aren’t really rhymes…anywhere & anywhere are the same word.

Verse 2 - xx …perfume/on…the “m” and “n” have a slight connection because they are both “nasal consonants” but the vowel sounds don’t match

Pre-chorus - xaxa – boulevard/night/emotion/night…same deal as verse 1, not really a rhyme….

Verse 3 - xxxx – thrill/time/blues/on

Other Rhyme elements?

Don’t Stop Believin’ truly shines is the internal rhyme department. It’s chock full of them...

boy/Detroit (sung “Detroi” :)

fill, thrill

don’t stop/hold on

These internal rhymes really push the momentum of the lines forward…little bursts of speed…especially all the long “ee” vowels in the chorus. 

The internal rhymes are the key rhyme component rather than the end-of-line rhyme scheme, like most other songs.  It’s a cool trick. Usually when the rhyme scheme of a song is shaky, it feels disjointed…but all the internal rhymes in this song make the lyric EXTREMELY singable, and the flow of the song flies by.  This personality trait is augmented by something else…

[Side note: “Alliteration” usually refers to repeating the same consonant sound at the beginning of a bunch of words….Mike makes music. I’m using the broader sense here…all similar consonants, no matter where they are. We don’t want to hurt any consonants’ feelings by leaving them out...they are very sensitive.]

L sounds: small, girl, living, lonely, world, fill, thrill, roll, will, blues

T sounds: took, midnight, train

S/SH sounds (tons of these): small, she,  the “S” of city boy against the “S” of South Detroit, singer, smoky, smell, smile, share , shadows, searching, streetlife

M/N/NG sounds: small, town, living, lonely, midnight, train, going, anywhere, born, in, singer, smoky, smell, wine, perfume, smile, can, night, on (and on, and on, and on!)

W sounds: world, anywhere, wine, will, win, were, waiting

I’m sure I’m missing some…but you get the idea. [Any complaints can be addressed here.]

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Brilliant Chorus…

Let’s tackle the chorus real quick before we end. The chorus has an aaa rhyme scheme too, with the same word…people/people/people. However, this “same word” thingy works different in choruses than in verses. Repeated words, especially the hook/title of the song are very common.

We Will Rock You – Queen - aaaa
We will, we will, rock you
We will, we will, rock you
We, will, we will rock you
We will, we will rock you

Crazy* - Gnarls Barkley - aaax
Does that make me crazy
Does that make me crazy
Does that make me crazy

*(This is the video where they dress up as Star Wars characters...cracks me up each time I see it.)

You are the Sunshine of My Life – Stevie Wonder – axax*
You are the sunshine of my life
That’s why I’ll always stay around
You are the sunshine of my life
Forever you’ll stay in my heart

*axax is a very adventurous section form. Very few writers use it. Stevie is a master at it (example: the chorus of “I Just Called to Say I Love You” among others).

I’m just saying it’s not out of the ordinary to repeat a single line for the chorus. We call this a chorus form…

T = Title/hook is in the line (or IS the line)
- = swing line (meaning: a line that doesn’t contain the hook/title)

So, Don’t Stop Believin’ has a TTT chorus form* (the title is in all three lines, no swing lines) which completely solidifies the phrase as the most important aspect of the section, if not the entire song. Remember, rhyme scheme-wise, everything up to this point has been pretty jumbly. Not until the chorus is there consistent line endings that match.  This amplifies the power of the chorus.

*(For those keeping score, We Will Rock You has a TTTT chorus form, Crazy has a TTT- chorus form, Sunshine, has a T-T- chorus form)

Whew…that was a lot today. Interesting stuff though. Who knew these songs had so much going on.

Have a great day!



- - - - - - - - - - - - 

iTune links to songs in this article...


Lynette Yetter said...

Wow, Shane, you are so generous with your knowledge. It is almost like still being in one of your brilliant classes.

You are the best!


shayna Tulanian said...

My thoughts are echoing exactly what Lynette just said. Much appreciation to you, Shane, for offering this valuable analysis and information.

Looking forward to reading more...

~ Shayna Tulane

Mark said...

Good reading material Shane...I feel like I'm in class again and you're sharing all your wondrous secrets!