Tuesday, October 20

I’ll Follow You into the Dark – Song Form - Rhyme Scheme

I’ll Follow You into the Dark – Song Form - Rhyme Scheme

Song Form

This is easy. A standard ABABAB song.
A = Verse
B = Chorus

Rhymes and Rhyme Scheme

This song is deliciously full of internal rhymes. They create what I call a 3+1 pattern...three internal rhymes, followed by the main sectional rhyme. Verse 3 is a little different, so I’ll cover that in a second, but here’s the first two verses…

Verse 1
Mine, die, behind…dark
Light, white, tight…spark

Verse 2
School, rule, bruised(!)…black
Tongue, son, love…back

Technically, verse 1 is an abab rhyme scheme, and verse 2 is xaxa.

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

xaxa – rule/black/love/back*
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

*(or… rule/black/son/back, if you line up the phrases exactly like verse 1)

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The chorus creates a nice aabb rhyme scheme (to contrast the alternating abab, xaxa verses)…

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

The first two lines have some great internal rhymes…

Decide, satisfied, signs

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Chorus Form

Remember us talking about chorus forms?

T = This chorus line includes the hook/title
- =  A swing line, a chorus line that doesn’t include the hook/title

The hook title only happens in the last line of the chorus, so the chorus form is…

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

[Side note: He sneaks the title into the second line of the verse too! Did you catch that?]

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FINALLY, the REALLY cool stuff!

Up to this point I’m being Captain Obvious…(there’s actually a bunch more internal rhymes, but I’ll leave it up to you to find them)…so I want to break out and go over the amazing verse 3.

The simple way to say it, is that Ben Gibbard tricks us in the last line. Up to this point all the verses have used that 3+1 pattern. Gibbard actually does a 2+1 pattern in the first part of verse 3…but we’re so used to hearing the 3+1 that we don’t really catch it.

To see, Calgaray…down (there’s no other “E” rhyme after Calgary)

The next lines do the same thing…the 2+1 pattern…

Now, about, soon

At this point, the song would have normally gone into the chorus, finishing up another xaxa verse. “Soon” is a great alternative rhyme for “down”. Notice their vowels aren’t the same. It’s the “n” on the end of each that makes a connection. The connection is slight, but it’s there. [For those keeping score, it’s called a consonant rhyme…a very weak connection, but a connection it is.]

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Let’s get esoteric for a moment. He’s talking about death, right? Death is about losing connection with life, right? Well, all the ending rhymes, in all the sections, have been perfect rhymes up to this point…


…also look at all those hard consonants…all “K” sounds.

Now, I don’t think Gibbard meant this next idea, but think of the harshness of death, and how those consonants get cut off. You can’t hold out a “K” sound. It ends as soon as the breath stops…just like life.

So here’s the brilliance of the last verse, Gibbard changes from the harsh “K” sounds to the “N” ending. You can hold out an “N” sound for a long time. Try it, I’ll wait. [Whistling…]

But that’s not the brilliant part, the brilliance is that he EXTENDS the line…

We’ll hold each other soon… [it should end there] …in the darkest of rooms

AND, he actually holds out the note, on “rooms”.

Do you see what he’s doing? He’s extending their time together…past the harshness of death…to the other side…together. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. The last line doesn’t end where it “should” end, the section continues. Life after death.

My guess is that he got lucky with the “K” sounds, that he wasn’t thinking in terms of consonant closure…but extending the last line? He nailed that meaning.

Whether Gibbard meant those things or not, they are still there, they still happen, and they still affect how we hear the song.

Those same tools are available to you. Now go write something.



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Advanced concepts for my students:  There are some great alternative rhymes in this song, my favorite being…


…the “D” sound against the “L” sound is called an assonance rhyme, because “D” and “L” are in different pronunciation families.

Soon/room, in the last line of verse 3, is a great family rhyme using “N” and “M” from the nasal pronunciation family.

Honorable mentions:
mine/die…subtractive rhyme
die/behind…additive rhyme
hands/clasped…assonance rhyme

Quickie: Notice how he uses the word “no” differently, in the chorus

Isn’t “illuminate the NO’s on their vacancy signs” one of the most brilliant and original lines of the decade? I think so.

1 comment:

Ishita Rungta said...

It seems like I am back in class. This blog is like a book written in phases, a great reference manual
For songwriters. I love how you call the internal rhyming a 3-1 pattern. A Consciously -unconscious effort made by the songwriter to bring images together and then pull them apart…so prosodic to the central theme of the song, where the estrangement actually spells an eternal togetherness.
My favorite part in your breakdown of the song form is where you explain the prosody of consonant rhymes. It inspires us to feel that if we could discipline our spontaneity or be spontaneously disciplined,
We could have a great song going.
This is wonderful.