Pop Shit

Bobby Brown was a wild dude...

Bobby Brown was a wild dude...

Long time no talk. I guess you could say I've taken a short break from Staggered activities for a minute, although I have been been thinking strategy a lot. I had the pleasure of presenting the project for the NY Music Tech Meetup on Thursday which was a really good learning experience. I think I did a decent job of boiling things down for the audience and at least a few people seemed responsive. Thanks Seth.

I have a few things I need to get to in the next dev cycle and I'm just not ready to tackle them yet. So instead, I'm gonna have some fun and do another mixtape. We're gonna head back to the 80's for this one...I've already started pulling together acapellas for it. If you haven't heard Abstract Factory yet, well - I think you should. It is rated R though, so if you have sensitive ears you might want to skip it.

Anyway, I wanted to walk you guys through the process for doing these mixes this time around, as it is pretty interesting (I think). The first song I am trying to scramble is New Edition's Count Me Out. I guess in terms of their overall catalog this wouldn't be considered a major hit, but I remember it being played a lot on the radio when I was a kid and always liked it. This one is on All For Love, but it's just as sugar coated as any of the stuff on Candy Girl or the eponymous record so it's a good remix candidate.

The first step in doing this is always chord diagramming the song. Let me just say - the online tools for chord diagramming (e.g. Riffstation or Chordify) are pretty terrible in practice. More power to you if you have success with them but I have no idea how they are coming up with these progressions. The only thing I can think of is that they are inserting extra chords to go along with bass fills or something like that, but there are so many ghost chords that I find them pretty useless for what I'm doing and it's much easier to just draw up the chords myself.

Also...holy shit this song has way more parts than it should. When you listen, it's the simplest of pop songs. The song is in E, and the basic motif is just an ascending progression from the tonic to the dominant :

E (I) - Gbm (ii) - Abm (iii) - A (IV) - B (V)

The rest of the song is similarly constructed. There are no tricks here...it's bubblegum pop. There's no modulation and the submediant and leading chords are untouched for the entire song. There are no chord extensions to speak of; there aren't even any senvenths.

What DOES happen is the seemingly endless shuffling around of these five chords. Ooof. I won't go into the specifics, but I count 8 progressions in this song. That's not rock opera status, but it's kind of shocking for a song that FEELS like there are only three. Usually with these pop tunes, once you get to the bridge you are done...but they go into a rap break after the bridge that has different (new) chords under it! Each progression seems to have a few tiny variations within it. Ugh fuck it, I'll go into specifics. With that first progression out of the way, we have (only roman numeral notation from here):

IV - iii - IV - V

IV - iii - ii - V

ii - IV - V 

I - ii - iii - ii - V

ii - V - ii - V - IV

ii - V - ii - IV - V

ii - IV -V

You could break these up into more reusable components, but this is pretty indicative of how they are used. It's long way to go for a pop tune. Deconstructing these songs really makes you appreciate how much intuition is required to write the hooks and how effective these writers really were. Peace to Vince and Rick.

Ok I gotta run. I'll check back in when I start building loops...enjoy the weekend!