Monday, November 29, 2010

Friends in Low Places

A high school friend chastised me on facebook about neglecting my country roots, and I can't have myself being chastised on facebook, so here we go with a Garth Brooks song.  Realized that country is the popular genre in which my ears most instinctively know what to expect, and yet I've never really played it (another thing I avoided for far too long because the jazzheads thought it was uncool). 

I was gonna do some other song today, can't remember what, but realized I needed something fun, that would make me smile, and dance around my living room in a way that no one, but no one, will ever get to see.  Who cares if it's either an "up yours, ex-o'-mine" or a "yeah, I'm an alcoholic, so what" song.  This is country.  If the dog and the pick-up survive the song, you're in good shape.  So much the better if you get to stick it to an ex and then go drinking cheap beer with your ghetto buddies (gimme a break, I live in the city now - our low places are called the ghetto). 

Chord changes and melody, especially on the verse, are typical of old jazz standards, meaning they'd kinda work with any feel (hmm, my inner arranger starts to plot).  Two verses, no bridge, instrumental repeat of second half of the chorus before the beginning of the second verse.  Underlying rhythm on the verses syncopated; on the beat for the choruses.  Purposely rough back-up vocals on last choruses - presumably the friends in low places are singing along in the dive bar.  The thing that struck me most is that the vocal range of this song is over two octaves, from E2 to F#4.  Damn!  That's huge - most pop songs have a range of about an octave, give or take.  And it's active, which is show-people speak for "the lyrics make it possible to create a little scene that's interesting to watch", as opposed to most popular songs, in which the lyrics, even when good, don't go anywhere, and it's all about the voice and the sexiness of the singer and not the story.  Conclusion: this would be a kick-ass audition song for a guy auditioning for a countryish musical.  You're welcome, actors.


  1. Nice... I have always been interested in seeing what you'd do with his song, "Ain't Goin' Down ('Till the Sun Comes Up)". Was my favorite dancing song, and quite infectious.

    Oh, and if it's just public FB chastising that gets you to do things... hehehe I'll remember that!! :P


  2. Per Geekery, and with my songwriter (HA!) hat on: can you think off the top of your head of a pop song that is "active", as an example? "Lyrics [that] make it possible to create a little scene that's interesting to watch" sounds almost like the very definition of a classic country song (eg "There's a dead dog on the piano/And the pickup's lost its wheels"), and I'm struggling to think of something non-country (and non-showtune, obviously) song that will illustrate the concept genre-independently.

    Any ideas? (fellow commentors, feel free to contribute)

  3. faithfully (journey)
    the winner takes it all (abba)
    crazy (aerosmith)
    a lot of Alanis' jagged little pill
    piece of my heart
    song for the dumped (ben folds)
    i can't make you love me
    never there (cake)
    i will survive
    a lot of pink's funhouse album
    xtina: oh mother, cruz, understand
    look away (chicago)
    not enough love in the world (don henley)
    heart: if looks could kill, who will you run to,
    my way (los lonely boys)
    madonna: papa don't preach,
    any of the great songwriters - elton john, billy joel, stevie wonder, carole king - have at least some songs that are very act-y.

    jeez... gotta go, this is not what i'm supposed to be doing right now, but you got me thinking about it! Research!

  4. Whoa - big answer! I'll go listen to a bunch of these now with a specific view to checking their 'active'ness (with a bonus of listening to a bunch of great songs).

    Thanks for that. :o)

    (and you think you're out of touch. Pffft~)