Saturday, November 14

Sunshine – Jonathan Edwards


Sunshine – Jonathan Edwards
Listen to the song HERE.

This song starts off grumpy, but ends with hope. Every protest song should follow that same formula.

Harmony – Three Chords and the Truth...(Well, Almost!)
I’m going to start with harmony today because he uses so little of it. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Edwards’ chord changes are sparse, but he uses them so well. For the verses, instead of plowing through chord after chord he sits on the I chord for three measures and then does a quick turnaround in the fourth. Let me back up and describe the set up, so you can better appreciate what he does.

In most songs, a “line of a song” is usually 2 measures, or 4 measures long. Four measures per line is the foundation of this song. But Edwards plays around with that number to great effect.

Line 1 – He plays the I chord for 3 measures, and then hits the V chord in the fourth measure.
Line 2 – He plays the I chord for 3 measures. In measure 4, he hits the bVII for 2 beats, then the IV chord for 2 beats, and then adds ANOTHER measure of the IV chord. Why is that significant? Well, for seven whole measure we are solidly within the key (Advanced: “within a key” is called “Diatonic”), and then suddenly he takes us OUT of the key (which is called non-diatonic) with the bVII chord, but he only does it for a tiny moment. Remember, he’s been playing the same groove on the same chord for almost 7 measures (except for the one chord switch in measure 4). Suddenly he punches us in the gut with TWO chords in a single measure! And then he lets the impact sink in for an extra measure. It’s the musical equivalent of suddenly being shaken out of trance...which is sort of what protest songs are all about.

My recording is played in Bb...which is kind of a weird key for a guitar song. My guess is that the recording was mastered a little sharp which pushed it up a half step. In all the live videos he plays it in the key of A, so I’ll notate it in that.

(verse)
| A | A | A | E |
| A | A | A | G, D | D |

For the chorus, he uses a much speedier harmonic rhythm (Harmonic rhythm is how many chords per measure. The more chords per measure the “speedier” the harmonic rhythm, the less chords per measure, the slower the harmonic rhythm). The harmonic rhythm of the verse is pretty slow, mostly that A chord, with those jabs of the others. In the chorus he switches gears and gives us one chord per measure...

(chorus)
| D | A | D | A |
| D | A | G | E | E |

.,..notice he adds an additional measure to the end of the chorus, just like he did in the verse. So you get an increase of momentum, but the section is thrown a hair off balance because of the extra measure.

The reason I bring up the harmonic rhythm is that the verse feels more contemplative, while the speedier chords of the chorus have a sense of urgency. Yin and Yang. The verse questions, and the chorus acts. The harmonic rhythm completely supports those lyrical ideas. Listen for yourself.

Melody – The Sun Rises
I’ve been on a real roll with pentatonic melodies these last few weeks. I’m not doing it on purpose, but here again, the entire verse is based on the all-powerful major pentatonic scale. When does he break the pentatonic scale and use a non-pentatonic note? The FIRST note of the chorus...which is also the highest note Edwards has sung so far. It’s the word “how” in the chorus. It’s like putting the word in all caps with an exclamation point at the end...

HOW much does it cost? I’ll buy it!

As wonderful as that is, the truly transcendent moment comes at the end of the chorus when he sings the word “sun” of “sunshine”. The word “sun” uses the highest note of the song. Thing about it. What’s the highest thing in our sky? That’s right, the sun! How appropriate then to put that word melodically above EVERYTHING else in the song. It’s really quite brilliant melodic prosody! (Prosody is where you use a constructional element of the song...the melody, harmony, or rhythm... to mimic and/or reinforce what you are saying in your lyrics).

 I tell you what, I love it when songs do that. I really do. THAT kind of writing pushes a song into a higher category.


Rhyme Scheme and Chorus Form
Nothing fancy here. He sticks with an aabb rhyme scheme in both his verses and choruses. It is interesting to note that the fourth line of his choruses are a single word, his hook/title “sunshine” (which he also reinforces by starting every verse with it).

The chorus form is called a - - - T. (Meaning: the first three lines are “swing lines”...indicated by the “dash”...and the title/hook finally occurs in the very last line). See for yourself...

This song definitely passes my Tower Record’s Title Test!

(verse - aabb)
Sunshine go away today, I don’t feel much like dancing
Some man’s gone, he’s tried to run my life, don’t know what he’s asking
He tells me I’d better get in line, can’t hear what he’s saying
When I grow up I’m gonna make it mine, but these aren’t dues I been paying

(chorus, - - - T)
How much does it cost, I’ll buy it
The time is all we’ve lost, I’ll try it
Be he can’t even run his own life, I’ll be damned if he’ll run mine
Sunshine

(verse - aabb)
Sunshine go away today, I don’t feel much like dancing
Some man’s gone, he’s tried to run my life, don’t know what he’s asking
Working starts to make me wonder where the fruits of what I do are going
He says in love and war all is fair, but he’s got cards he ain’t showing

(chorus, - - - T)
How much does it cost, I’ll buy it
The time is all we’ve lost, I’ll try it
Be he can’t even run his own life, I’ll be damned if he’ll run mine
Sunshine

(verse - aa)
Sunshine, come on back another day, I promise you I’ll be singing
This old world, she’s gonna turn around, brand new bells’ll be ringing

-        - - - - - - - - - -

I hope you enjoyed the song as much as I do. For so little chords it really packs a punch.

Go write a song that protests something.

~Shane

PS. Remember, I could evaluate one of your songs next Friday if you submit it HERE.

PPS. Also, please vote in the new poll. (Email me if there is a song you want me to include in the poll!)