Author Topic: Deconstruction as a learning exercise ?  (Read 278 times)

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Offline MrBouzouki

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Deconstruction as a learning exercise ?
« on: July 25, 2017, 21:17:00 »
I'm not sure if this has been suggested before but what about taking well produced classic songs from various genres (rock /punk/jazz/folk/pop etc etc.) and deconstructing them in the Kitchen to help work out what elements made them a success in their genre ? How often do we actually break down commercially released songs to understand what elements make them successful ? Yes, often they are great artists and perhaps they are at the top of their game, but there must be something we can learn from them. I guess it would be limited to linking songs on say YouTube so that the Kitchen doesn't fall foul of hosting commercial content.

Just a thought ;-)
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Offline MichaelA

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Re: Deconstruction as a learning exercise ?
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2017, 12:03:33 »
Sounds like a great idea @MrBouzouki, hope it gains traction.
If you like novels with a musical theme, why not try 'Sixth Beatle - When Music Changed The World', easily found on Amazon and Google. It is amazing, although as the author I may be biased!

Offline Mar T.

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Re: Deconstruction as a learning exercise ?
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2017, 00:47:52 »
What a great idea @MrBouzouki ! Let's do that! But how to start? Maybe by upping a poll first to allow everybody to express which commercial song they like best and then break it down?

Creating a poll raises a question: how to compose a list of let's say 10 songs that are considered 'successful'? So let's start by summing up songs we consider 'commercially succesful', ok?
Go go go kitcheners, reply and add as many succesfully commercial songs you can think of! At least thats a start to compose that shortlist. Let's see what happens!

Lots of commercially succesful songs below:

Offline MrBouzouki

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Re: Deconstruction as a learning exercise ?
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2017, 11:02:38 »
Right since I suggested this, here is a list of some songs, in no particular order, that might be of interest to deconstruct.
Given the wide variety of styles (genres), changes through the decades and even the age of the Kitchen member, it's not easy to come up with a varied list.
I've tried not to limit myself to just chart placing as a measure but perhaps ones that have stood the test of time to some extent.
I've tried to ignore the lyrics a bit too in my deliberations to try and listen more to the underlying track, style, arrangement that might be interesting.
I've also tried not to limit myself to stuff I personally like but try and cross genres a bit. Due to my age, I'm probably not doing more recent styles / music justice.

I wanted to include links to YouTube but also have a condensed list and I couldn't work out how to post a link on here without it creating an image of the video, so I've added an asterisk at the front of the relevant url.

I've tried to be quite eclectic with mu choices :-)

Beat It - Michael Jackson (1983) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRdxUFDoQe0
Fire and Rain - James Taylor(1970) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOIo4lEpsPY
I Wanna Dance With Somebody - Whitney Houston (1987) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eH3giaIzONA
Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana (1991) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTWKbfoikeg
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) - Eurythmics (1983) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeMFqkcPYcg
Livin' on a Prayer -  Bon Jovi (1986) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDK9QqIzhwk
Californication - Red Hot Chilli Peppers (2000) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlUKcNNmywk
Walk This Way - Run DMC (Aerosmith) (1986) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B_UYYPb-Gk
Creep - Radiohead (1993) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFkzRNyygfk
Roar - Katy Perry (2013) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CevxZvSJLk8
The Voice Within - Christina Aguilera (2003) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA2k79EGHbc
The Living Years - Mike And The Mechanics (Paul Carrick) (1988) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGDA0Hecw1k
Viva la Vida - Coldplay (2008) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvgZkm1xWPE
All of Me - John Legend (2013) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=450p7goxZqg
Price Tag feat. B.o.B - Jessie J (2011) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMxX-QOV9tI
Happy - Pharrell Williams (2013) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbZSe6N_BXs
Don't Stop Believin - Journey (1981) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1k8craCGpgs
American Idiot - Green Day (2004) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ee_uujKuJMI
Uptown Funk - Mark Ronson feat. B Mars (2014) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPf0YbXqDm0

To be continued ...
« Last Edit: August 07, 2017, 11:40:53 by MrBouzouki »

Online Dutchbeat

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Re: Deconstruction as a learning exercise ?
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2017, 18:04:09 »
hi @MrBouzouki , great idea!

what if you just select one from the list of songs you mention in the previous post, and we can start discussing the songwriting ingredients that we think made that particular song a succes / a hit song? (whether we like the song or not)
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Offline MrBouzouki

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Re: Deconstruction as a learning exercise ?
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2017, 17:26:31 »
OK @Dutchbeat lets start at the top of the shop with Michael Jackson's "Beat It" from 1983. Quincy Jones was involved with it I believe. Just checked , he was ... lol 
The fact it's been sampled and covered by various artists over the years since then must mean it had something about it beyond Michael Jacksons obvious star quality.

Beat It - Michael Jackson (1983) *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zi_XLOBDo_Y

So Kitcheners just what elements of this song make it stand out from the crowd ? Time to deconstruct, I guess we are saying musically, lyrically and production  :-)

« Last Edit: July 31, 2017, 17:29:00 by MrBouzouki »

Offline MichaelA

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Re: Deconstruction as a learning exercise ?
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2017, 20:25:12 »
Go on then, I will start with a couple of things that struck me.

First of all, for its time, it was an experiment into rock and pop fusion. It retained M Jackson's strong dance floor beat and pop style we were all used to, but then put some quite conventional rock elements in there. First of all there was the intro guitar riff, which is very memorable, combining at least a couple of guitars on interplay - with the second scratch shuffle and then harmonising effect adding to the memorability. Again the guitar goes into overdrive in the middle section with a classic guitar hero solo, which again is probably etched into all our memories by now. It probably would sound like a crotch-rock cliché if performed today, but at the time was bang on the money for mainstream American culture.

A big catchy element to the song is Jackson's vocal performance song, with  his showman little screams every now and again, predating Prince, then his driving delivery that animates any chorus. The chorus is notable, from a song-writing technical perspective, because of its unashamed use of repetition. The phrase 'beat it' appears twelve times in every chorus.

It's hard to see this just as a song, because at the time it was one of the offerings where music video combined with the song to make an almost cinematic, multi-media piece of culture. We maybe take this for granted nowadays, but during his Thriller phase, MJ was pretty much leading the way in this respect.

I think the overall success of the song commercially was on account of the success of the rock pop fusion performed  by a world mega star - so the song's appeal broadened into new markets that maybe thought MJ was a mere teen idol - as did its sister song 'Thriller'.

Hopefully others can add observations to get the thread going. Practically speaking, I don't think we are a bunch of songwriters prone to writing essays (time, time, precious time!), so even the odd insightful comment could be useful to us all as we attempt these deconstruction experiments!
« Last Edit: August 06, 2017, 20:29:46 by MichaelA »

Offline MrBouzouki

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Re: Deconstruction as a learning exercise ?
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2017, 12:16:16 »
Cheers @MichaelA  - lots of interesting thoughts in your post.  Right I'm trying to get the lyrics down properly so we can have a look at the song structure.
It might take a while to make sure it's 100% correct. I will try to add extra info in too about what is going on musically where I can.
I will also try and add some of his additional riffs phrases in too.  I've already realised that some video Fx were added to the video I linked so we will go with the basic track here.
I will also try and put some timings in here as I think that might be interesting.

*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDD9LpLyGiQ

Beat It - Lyrics - IN EDIT MODE

Song Length - 4 mins 15 secs
0 sec - Synclavier** synth intro **wikipedia
11 sec - just drum beat comes in
24 sec - guitar riff comes in
49 sec - vocals start

38 sec - first verse starts
(Verse 1)
They told him don't you ever come around here
Don't wanna see your face, you better disappear
The fire's in their eyes and their words are really clear
So beat it, just beat it (liittle trill)

(Verse 2)
You better run, you better do what you can (little trill)
Don't wanna see no blood, don't be a macho man (Oooo)
You wanna be tough, better do what you can
So beat it, but you wanna be bad

1 min 6 sec - first chorus starts
(Chorus)
Just beat it, (beat it), beat it, (beat it)
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky, strong it's your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right
Just beat it, (beat it), just beat it, (beat it)
Just beat it, (beat it), just beat it, (beat it) Oooo

(Verse 3)
They're out to get you, better leave while you can
Don't wanna be a boy, you wanna be a man
You wanna stay alive, better do what you can
So beat it, just beat it (trill)

(Verse 4)
You have to show them that you're really not scared (Oooo)
You're playin' with your life, this ain't no truth or dare (Oooo)
They'll kick you, then they beat you, then they'll tell you it's fair
So beat it, but you wanna be bad

(Short Chorus)
Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky, strong it's your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

(Chorus)
Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky, strong it's your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right
Just beat it, (beat it), beat it, beat it, beat it
Beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it

2 min 45 sec - knocking sound
2 min 48 sec - guitar solo starts
3 min 20 sec - guitar solo ends - duration 32 secs

(Short Chorus)
Beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky, strong it's your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

(Short Chorus)
Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky, strong it's your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

(Short Chorus)
Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky, strong it's your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

(Short Chorus)
Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
fade-out begins
Showin' how funky, strong it's your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

Post solo chorus repeat - 55 secs
Song Length - 4 mins 15 secs
« Last Edit: August 07, 2017, 18:52:15 by MrBouzouki »

Offline iiviivix

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Re: Deconstruction as a learning exercise ?
« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2017, 10:36:58 »
--- I don't know how to delete yet lol. " I'm new! I'm new! I don't know what to do!! " - Joe Dirt.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2017, 11:25:33 by iiviivix »
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Offline MrBouzouki

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Re: Deconstruction as a learning exercise ?
« Reply #9 on: August 08, 2017, 11:07:00 »
This is interesting @iiviivix. I've often thought that generational styles and hooks exist that define a 'sound of the time'.
I think this post actually qualifies as a separate post on the forum under song ingredients. It is an interesting topic in it's own right.
The power of intervals can never be underestimated and the role of market success to inspire others to copy.

At the moment I'm trying to get people specifically deconstructing and talking about this Michael Jackson song.
Can you can delete it here and repost it as a separate thread to keep this one free for Beat It discussion please ?

Offline iiviivix

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Re: Deconstruction as a learning exercise ?
« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2017, 11:20:18 »
Yep for sure @MrBouzouki . As for the Beat it deconstruction, here are my observations:

(Verse 1)
They told him don't you ever come around here   
Don't wanna see your face, you better disappear
The fire's in their eyes and their words are really clear
So beat it, just beat it (liittle trill)

This verse holds mystery: he could be talking about racism - or just some bouncer at a club. What are you talking about Michael??!
I also see that he alternates from him, to you, to them.

(Verse 2)
You better run, you better do what you can (little trill)
Don't wanna see no blood, don't be a macho vagman (Oooo)
You wanna be tough, better do what you can
So beat it, but you wanna be bad

A lot of alliteration, again still vague - making the listener listen and think

1 min 6 sec - first chorus starts
(Chorus)
Just beat it, (beat it), beat it, (beat it)
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky, strong it's your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right
Just beat it, (beat it), just beat it, (beat it)
Just beat it, (beat it), just beat it, (beat it) Oooo

I notice the Relation of words; Beat It: Flight, defeated, wrong or right. And of course arranged in a simple catchy rhythm .

The words make me feel liberated, making ME feel like I can just Beat It if my fight is right. He achieves this by Your and you the whole song.

(Verse 3)
They're out to get you, better leave while you can
Don't wanna be a boy, you wanna be a man
You wanna stay alive, better do what you can
So beat it, just beat it (trill)

All the Verses are 2 bars* (i think I am counting right, I'v never studied music) I also notice Michael says its ok to ryhme Can with Can if you do it at two different tones. First one is high and second is low.

(Verse 4)
You have to show them that you're really not scared (Oooo)
You're playin' with your life, this ain't no truth or dare (Oooo)
They'll kick you, then they beat you, then they'll tell you it's fair
So beat it, but you wanna be bad

Last verse and he adds the (Oooo)'s in there. It my guess that it breaks it up from the chorus mix following to take us out,

(Short Chorus)
Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky, strong it's your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

an extract from the original chorus that has only played once so far, it also leads us into the second chorus:

(Chorus)
Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky, strong it's your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right
Just beat it, (beat it), beat it, beat it, beat it
Beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it

The words of the chorus match the beat, the syllables are almost aligned,

2 min 45 sec - knocking sound
2 min 48 sec - guitar solo starts
3 min 20 sec - guitar solo ends - duration 32 secs

^ so 80's! and that just made me think of a question... I just googled and found this : http://www.jtmp.org/2013/06/07/583/

We then have 3 x short chorus


(Short Chorus)
Beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky, strong it's your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

(Short Chorus)
Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky, strong it's your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

(Short Chorus)
Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky, strong it's your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

then the next chorus is cut to be even shorter below

(Short Chorus)
Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
fade-out begins
Showin' how funky, strong it's your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

I notice the pattern,

where;
.. = 2 bar verse
--- = Chorus
___ = guitar solo

The song looks like:

.... --- .... -- --- ___ -- -- -- -

« Last Edit: August 08, 2017, 11:28:21 by iiviivix »

Offline MichaelA

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Re: Deconstruction as a learning exercise ?
« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2017, 19:28:46 »
@MrBouzouki , thanks for keeping this going. There's an awful lot of lyrics there, but he gets away with it due to over 40 repetitions of 'Beat It'! Is the song called 'Beat It' by any chance? ...great I claim my prize!  ;D

Offline Mar T.

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Re: Deconstruction as a learning exercise ?
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2017, 01:41:21 »
Oh there's nice talk in here @MrBouzouki , @MichaelA @Dutchbeat and @iiviivix ! I have a lot to do at the moment, so I'm following from the side-line.
I did notice the repetition part in this song, the power of repetition is underestimated imo.. Haha @MrBouzouki , I saw 'Happy' from Pharell is in your list too.. Now explain that success!
Excellent observations about the 'fusion' rock/pop imo.. And of course the intervals @iiviivix , thanks for starting a new thread on this subject here:
https://www.songwriter-forum-kitchen.com/forum/songwriting-ingredients/26/the-millennial-whoop/3377/

Cheers all! Keep this one going!! :mhm:
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Offline Vince

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Re: Deconstruction as a learning exercise ?
« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2017, 03:48:30 »
I believe Eddie Van Halen did the lead guitar work. Quincy Jones was the producer - so the song got off to a great start. Also, beat it could have different meanings. In American slang "Beat It" means scram :) or go away (like something you would say to a kid like, "hey kid, beat it". As well as maybe like beating or taking control of a habit, such as I beat the habit. Or, a simple use beat or hit it.

So , for my contribution - getting the "A" team on board, along with a catchy melodic phrase.

Vince