Friday, October 30

So What – Pink – Other Cool Elements


So What – Pink – Other Cool Elements

Power positions are the opening and closing lines of a section. The verse power positions should tell the main story of your song. When they are good, they work together…one compliments the other. The ending line finishes up the opening power position.  So how does this song do?

Let’s take a look at the two verses…

I guess I just lost my husband, I don’t know where he went
’m gonna get in trouble, I’m gonna start a fight

The waiter just took my table and gave it to Jessica Simps
I’m gonna get in trouble, my ex will start a fight


 In fact, let’s just look at the first verse. What can we learn?

Here’s the whole section…

I guess I just lost my husband, I don’t know where he went
So I’m gonna drink my money, I’m not gonna pay his rent
I got a brand new attitude and I’m gonna wear it tonight
I’m gonna get in trouble, I’m gonna start a fight

At first glance, any of those lines would make okay power positions. Let’s say you want to keep the “fight line” last, so here’s the three options for the opening line. How well are the combinations working together?

I guess I just lost my husband, I don’t know where he went
I’m gonna get in trouble, I’m gonna start a fight

So I’m gonna drink my money, I’m not gonna pay his rent
I’m gonna get in trouble, I’m gonna start a fight

I got a brand new attitude and I’m gonna wear it tonight
I’m gonna get in trouble, I’m gonna start a fight

In my opinion, any of those would work. All three combinations show attitude and guts. So why is the first choice so effective? Ahhhh…now THERE’S a great question.

These two…

So I’m gonna drink my money, I’m not gonna pay his rent
I’m gonna get in trouble, I’m gonna start a fight

I got a brand new attitude and I’m gonna wear it tonight
I’m gonna get in trouble, I’m gonna start a fight

…are all about attitude. Both are strong contenders. However, they are missing an important aspect that the original power positions provide…

I guess I just lost my husband, I don’t know where he went
I’m gonna get in trouble, I’m gonna start a fight


Do you see it? This combination gives us a REASON behind her wanting to start a fight. She lost her husband! This combination isn’t just about her. It is about her EMOTIONAL reaction. By putting that line as the opening line, she’s made the emotional reaction the most important aspect of that section. All her drinking, all of her brand new attitude, is based on what happens in the opening line. Because SHE has placed a priority on her emotional response, WE also have an emotional response to her and her situation. We have sympathy and empathy for her. We cut her some slack, and in the process sing along with her.

Think about it. Let’s take two scenarios. Two people raising cain. Cain raiser #1 is a boorish drunk jerk causing trouble at a club. Cain raiser #2 is also a boorish drunk jerk causing trouble at a club, however we know that she was just completely dumped by her ex after giving it her all. We don’t have to agree with their actions, but who do we have more sympathy for? We have empathy for the dumpee for the simple fact that we know “why” she’s doing what she’s doing.

When she says “I wanna start a fight”…you think to yourself, “Self, she probably needs to let off some steam” and you cut her some slack.


Deeper meaning in a pop song? Go on…

That empathy is a perfect set up for the chorus. In the prechorus, when she says “I wanna start a fight” we’re right there with her. We’ve all been dumped on, and it’s fun to pretend that if “I” was a rock star that’s EXACTLY how I’d behave. I’d throw my star power around and get into some trouble!


[Side note]
The last time I fought anyone was Andy Riddell in the 5th grade. We were friends but also both wondered what it would be like to fight. I had three things going for me in my first and last brouhaha: 1) My size (I was always bigger than everyone at CT Sewell Elementary). 2) Andy took tap dancing from his mom. 3) AND he was a redhead. How could I lose?

We met at Mr. Anderson’s yard after school and started a punch out. Have you ever heard the phrase “quickness over size”? Probably not, because that phrase was invented the moment Andy buzzed all over my sorry excuse for a sensitive piano playing prize fighter. Let’s try another phrase…Don’t fight a redhead with a Neapolean complex and chip on his shoulder from having to take dance classes, whose dancing skills incidentally made him agile as a freaking red fox. I remember trying to wrestle him to the ground, but he was all about the punching…and punching…and punching.  


Back to the song…

We learn that a great choice for an opening line is one that that gives the emotional motivation for everything afterwards. Make an emotional connection with your character and your listeners will also make an emotional connection.


Two emotions
This next detail is VERY important, but unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time right now to explain it. My lyric students will recognize it, but for the rest of the Songwriter Nation, you’ll have to take my word that I’ll go into detail behind the concept at a later date.

The concept is “two emotions”. In other words, songs where characters go through more than one emotion are more compelling to listeners. You are creating an “arc of character”.  I find this to be THE key element between songs that I really like, versus songs that I really love.  (This isn’t always true, of course, but it is mostly true).   

Pink basically goes through two emotions in this song…the hurt of being let down, and the rejuvenation of self inflicted strength. A “flat” character doesn’t change, he/she stays the same the entire lyric. Going “through” two emotions (at least…not matter what two) gives the character substance, depth, and most importantly, OUR interest!


Go write something!

~Shane

PS. Starting today, you guys can start posting your lyrics in the comment sections. Feel free to comment on each others work. I’ll pick one of your lyrics to do a makeover at the end of week, probably Friday. When you post your lyric, please use the format I’ve been using for this blog. Look at the Pink lyric HERE as an example. Special thanks to everyone who sent in their suggestions. Extra special thanks to Terry Vital and the rest of my now legendary 07 Berkleemusic melody class.

PPS. Several of you have asked privately if I’ll every discuss things I find “wrong” in these hit songs? You know, things I’d change given the chance.  

Hmmm? Your songs? Yes.

A song making a bazillion bucks. No.

Maybe one day if I’m feeling very disgruntled, and need to vent. I will tell you that one of my biggest pet peeves is a lack of point of view consistency.

2 comments:

Douglas said...

Shane,

You are SO funny!

Don’t fight a redhead with a Neapolean complex and chip on his shoulder from having to take dance classes, whose dancing skills incidentally made him agile as a freaking red fox.

Hey, how come Terry gets mentioned in the article! How do I get mentioned? (just kidding... kudos to Terry! I wouldn't mention me either!)

Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

Another set of wonderful analyses along with great humor! Enjoyed reading it!

Bing