Friday, October 23

I’ll Follow You into the Dark – Other Cool Elements – Power Positions

I’ll Follow You into the Dark – Other Cool Elements – Power Positions

The most important lines of any verse are the opening and closing lines. These are called the power positions. (At some point I’ll explain the scientific reasons why, but for now, trust me…)

Great songs have great power positions. The most important ideas of your verses should be in the power positions. They should compliment each other. If the power positions are mismatched, the verse feels awkward.

I’ll Follow does a great job with its power positions. Especially the first two verses…

Love of mine, someday you will die
But I'll be close behind, I'll follow you into the dark
No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white

Just our hands clasped so tight, waiting for the hint of a spark

In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule…

I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black
And I held my tongue as she told me, son, fear is the heart of love

So I never went back

You and me have seen everything to see, from Bangkok to Calgary
And the soles of your shoes are all worn down
The time for sleep is now, it's nothing to cry about
Cause we'll hold each other soon in the blackest of rooms

…here’s just the power positions…

Love of mine, someday you will die
Just our hands clasped so tight, waiting for the hint of a spark

In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule

So I never went back

*You and me have seen everything to see, from Bangkok to Calgary
Cause we'll hold each other soon in the blackest of rooms

*(In my opinion, verse three power positions have merit, but they aren’t as clear or cohesive as the first two verses)

Notice that you get a pretty good idea of what the verses are about by only reading the power positions. This is a great test to perform on your own lyric. If you strip all the middle lines of your verses away, do the remaining lines make sense? Do they tell your story? If your power positions are cohesive and the answer is yes, then your lyric is probably fine. If your power positions don’t make sense, you are probably in trouble.

Song Power Positions

I wouldn’t really call this next thing a technique or tool. I’m sure it only has a minor bearing on understanding the song as a whole…still, I think it’s cool the way it works in this song. The first and last line of the ENTIRE SONG brilliantly summarize the entire song….

Love of mine, someday you will die
Then I’ll follow you into the dark


How cool is that? I don’t think a song needs to do that to be “great”. In fact, I personally prefer putting the hook/title of the chorus in the OPENING line, which is a stronger position for it. Still, I love the way that concept works in this song.

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Unbalanced Last Chorus – Saving the Best for Last!

Alright, I have one last thing to say about this lyric…appropriate because this is the last blog on this lyric, and it has to do with the last chorus. All the verses and the choruses of this song have an even amount of lines – 4 lines apiece. These are considered “balanced” sections. They are extremely stable. Most sections, in most songs we hear are balanced like that. There is nothing out of the ordinary. This is not a bad or good thing…4 lines “feel” right, when we write them.

Aha! The LAST chorus of this song has 5 lines, Gibbard adds an extra line, throwing the section out of balance. Here it is again…

If heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied
Illuminate the NO’s on their vacancy signs
If there's no one beside you when your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark
Then I'll follow you into the dark

This is incredibly significant. Think about the subject of the song…following someone beyond this life…following someone into the unknown. What is more unstable and unbalanced than going somewhere unknown and unfamiliar? Repeating the line at the end gives the statement extra resolve even in the face of uncertainty…it’s like a musical exclamation point…an exclamation point that happens just prior to stepping into the imbalance and chaos of the ultimate abyss. My guess is he didn’t intend it to be that way. He was just repeating the hook for emphasis. Still, you can’t argue with the power of that metaphoric closure, whether intended or not.

Good luck in your writing this week. Go write something cool and inspiring. Deal?



PS. Okay my Songwriting Nation, I have a couple of ideas for expanding this blog and I request your input.

Idea #1: What if we did a request Friday (or an entire week?) every now and then, where I analyze your requests?  

Idea #2: What if we did one of YOUR songs every couple of weeks? You submit your lyric/songs, I pick one and I’d do a quickie analysis, like the Saturday blog…(or would you rather me stick to analyzing popular songs?)

Let me know your feedback. What are your other ideas? I want you (and me) to be amazing songwriters. We can achieve this by working together.  Post your suggestions and votes in the comment area.


Doug said...

I'm a big fan of the idea of analyzing songs written by your readers. As I much as I would learn from having one of my own songs analyzed, it would also be fun to see/hear other readers music.

Terry Vital said...

Okay, honesty is the best policy. So staying true to the all-american "what's in it for me" mentality, I'd prefer a review on songs submitted by us. At the same time, it might be useful that your comments utilize reference to popular songs as examples. This approach (which you've used repeatedly in classes) is a rock solid method for helping me (personally) to see real value.

By the way, this blog is really great!

Anonymous said...

Hi Shane!

It's Bing here.

What a brilliant analysis of a truly beautiful song! You really exposed the inner workings of the song for all of us to see/hear. Thank you, Shane!

By the way, I am using the "anonymous" to post this because it's simpler than setting up the Google account. :)


Anonymous said...

Hi Shane!

Bing again.

As regard to the songs to analyze, how about alternating:

One week for analyzing a pop song classic;

One week for a current great pop song;

and one week for a song submitted by your students?

Just a thought. :)


Alex said...

hi shane,

alex here from berklee online. i really dig this blog and think that it is a great idea to go both ways, analysing well known songs by request and user songs. important is to learn and understand.

i like your blog and visit regularly, thanks for shring your ideas and knowledge.



Andrea said...

Hi Shane, I'm with Bing and Alex...I'm really loving the analysis of popular songs but it would be neat to see what you do with your reader's songs once in awhile too.

Andrea said...

Hi Shane, I thoroughly enjoy reading your analyses...learning a lot and very inspiring. I'm with Bing and Alex - I'd like to see mainly popular songs and some reader songs analyzed as well.

Ishita Rungta said...

It is awesome how you summarized the entire song in those two lines:
Love of line, someday you will die,
Then I’ll follow you into the dark.
Regarding the metaphoric closure I feel most great songwriters write significant
Lines/phrases/metaphors unintended…the lines just tumble in their mind and seek a release
In an apparently planned way.
I think it is a great idea every now and then to do an entire week of our song requests.
It would also be nice if you tell us your top five songs of the week every now and then so
We could get around to listening to the songs that appeal to you. I learned a lot from your
Top five picks in class, especially since you seem to like songs from virtually every genre and that is the reason we have been as your students been exposed to so much music.
Thank you for everything,