“Gimme Something Good” Analysis

Ryan adams
Something I’ll do occasionally here on the blog is deconstruct great songs for our songwriting learning purposes. I love anytime others do this, whether it’s this blog, or Owen Pallett’s analyses of pop hits for Slate.com.

I want to look at Gimme Something Good from last year’s superb self-titled release. This song has a number of music theory magical elements at play here, but I’m going to zero in on one in particular—the effect of where the rhythm of the lyric lines begin.
Here’s the tune:

The primary electric guitar riff firmly establishes a strong assertion on beat 1, forcing the song to feel very grounded, while a blues-influenced vocal line sashays around the verse. The verse lines come in on beat 3, which establishes an assertive mood (beats 1 and 3 are the “strong” beats).
Verse 1 
Line 1: enters on beat 3
Line 2: + of 2
Line 3:+ of 2
Line 4: 2
Line 5: 3
Line 6:+ of 2
Line 7: 3
Line 8: 2
Chorus: There are two two-measure lines at the top of the chorus that enter firmly on the downbeat of beat 2.
Line 1: (beat 2) All my life…
Line 1: (beat 2) Holding…
The title/hook line appears directly after these “set-up” lines on beat 1. This is the first time we’ve heard any line fall on a beat 1, and it assumes a position of power in the listeners ear. Whether intentional or not, placing the hook/title line on beat 1 creates an undeniable mental cementation.

Gimme Something Good (chorus analysis)
bt 1 Gimme something good
bt 4 Gimme something good
bt 3 Gimme something
bt 1 Gimme something good
bt 4 Gimme something good
bt 3 Gimme something good
THEN the primary electric guitar riff slams on beat 1 of the re-intro to verse 2, leaving the listener very satisfied.
This is idea is reminiscent of Frank Black/Black Francis’ writing for Pixies’ choruses to provide an addictive and disorienting 3-over-2 chorus feel. They’ll use a 3-bar phrasing in 4/4 time. See: “Wave of Mutilation” and “Hey” (this article goes into great detail on this concept). Also, Jimmy Eat World’s “For Me This Is Heaven” achieves the same effect, over a linear drumset pattern for even more unruliness.
The good ideas don’t end there—, that last “Gimme something…” before the end of the chorus leaps up a minor 7th from the B to an A, leaving the listener with a feeling of urgency.
Anything anybody else wants to add to this analysis, or disagree with anything I said? Comment section, y’all!!

Listening: Ryan Adams, S/T
Reading: The Voice of the Heart, Chip Dodd
Watching: Daredevil, S1

Wonder-Working Power

Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation. – Graham Greene
“MAGNETS! How do they work?!”, or so goes the notorious Insane Clown Posse track, Miracles. Insane Clown Posse was required listening among the cool kids in ’95, when I was in seventh grade (“Sevvies Suck!). It was Michigan, and The I.P.C. was still a budding regional act, with all of the punk rock accouterments found attractive to middle schoolers. Confrontational and striking visual image, antagonistic to parents, anti-establishment (other than a Faygo pop endorsement, so not anti-corporation, I guess?) chased with edgy, albeit–dumb, lyrics. I was certainly not cool, and I was not into IPC. But these same kids got me into The Wu-Tang Clan in high school, and for that, I am definitely grateful.
So I.P.C. released a song a couple years back lauding the wonder of this cosmos we find ourselves in, but not understanding that the scientific method has let us understand a little bit of the world around us. Hence, magnetism. Genetics. Rainbows. SNL parodied IPC’s video, but do we even need a parody?
So seventh grade science class. Biology, methinks? Formaldehyde, Drakkar Noir and bad decisions. My teacher was Mr. Sommers, in retrospect a marvelous, caring, and patient teacher. It was also light years before bald men hadn’t yet realized they should buzz all that mess still left over their ears. We were hellions hopped up on pop tarts and sex hormones, pounding our chests like silverbacks. And and the girls were no better, paper wasps, applying bricked layers of lip gloss on their bottom lip. It was Monday: dissection day. (Sorry PETA! Stop reading here! It gets worse! Rated “R” for “Reprehensible”!) We had been given frogs in teams of four, and were given scalpels, tweezers and these scissors that had vicious looking pointy ends. That day ended with me decapitating the frog and putting the severed head on my scissors so I could manually open and close it’s mouth by maneuvering the scissors. I used the sad animal as rude totem of my nascent sexuality, attempting to flirt(?) with the girl behind me, cackling and forcing her to look at the sad amphibian in its dead, dead, eyes.

“Hey ladies.”

I was watching a vid on music compositional techniques on The YouTube and made the mistake of scrolling down to the comments. Sigh. I just really can’t seem to help myself. Someone wrote “You cannot analyze creativity”. The “Magical Mysteries” song popped into my head. The writer’s tone was simultaneously insolent and wizened, doting sage words as some sort of svengali troller, it surprised me that it was one of the most upvoted comments. I resisted the urge to comment back, but the thought has plagued me for weeks. You can analyze and didactically communicate creativity. It’s what I do for a full-time job. Indeed, there has been hundreds of years of musicology, and we do know how and why music works. From the interaction between psychoacoustics and brain chemistry. One of my favorite artists and arrangers, Owen Pallett has written some enjoyable deconstructions of recent pop hits over at Slate.
Learning music theory, or art history, or neurobiology doesn’t suck out the magic out. but you do tend to have to kill the frog in order to dissect it.
Watching: The Americans, S2