Tuesday 12 August 2014

Inept harmony in David Bowie - and good stuff in The La's and Duran Duran


The harmonization of the chorus of David Bowie's single Ashes to Ashes is simply inept - turgid, glutinous, suffocating (against the meaning of the words). From 1:00:


But actually the harmonization is pretty bad throughout, there is a sense of the whole thing collapsing under the weight of sheer thickness of texture .

At times, indeed, it is almost as bad as Brahms (heh).


Contrast what good harmonization can do: The chorus of The La's on the phrase, which is also the song's title: There she goes - this is the only thing that makes the song memorable, and the only thing that makes the chorus good is the way that the harmony opens out.


(Actually, the way that the lead singer moves into falsetto as the melody rises is another positive element.)

Or Duran Duran's Girls on Film - when, again, the title-chorus is good almost purely because of the harmony (from 0:50):



Conclusion: Good pop songs are not just about melody and rhythm - but harmony sometimes comes into it too: just think of the Beach Boys or The Beatles.



Anonymous said...

You need to take into account the mood Ashes To Ashes intends to convey: The lyric "Hitting an all-time low" provides a clue. It's meant to sound weary.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Anon (Please use a pseudonym) - Yes, I was taking that into account. Incompetence is incompetence. A writer may legitimately depict boredom - but not by merely boring the reader...

Bruce B. said...

Actually There She Goes always reminded me of a Beatles song. I always liked the original by The La’s better than the two covers/remakes.

Wm Jas said...

The harmony on the words "all right now" is the best thing about the original "Jumpin' Jack Flash" -- and the main thing that makes Aretha Franklin's version such a letdown.