Daily Song Study

Crowded House – Locked Out

In songs on September 6, 2011 at 8:15 am

My contention has always been that melody is well over 50% of the reason for any great song’s existence. Obviously people enjoy other elements of music (rhythm, good musicianship, interesting chord changes), but when trying to identify a song, they will invariably say something like “You know, the one that goes…” and then they will sing the melody. So if you remove the melody from a song, is it still the same song? In most cases, I would say no.

Every rule has an exception, of course, and I have heard well-reworked melodies (in the case of Dylan songs, usually better than the original) that retain the song’s distinctive nature, so obviously it can be done. But it is rare.

All of this is to say that if a song has a great melody, I will often overlook any other weaknesses it may possess and enjoy it for the melody’s sake. One of the masters of melody for the past few decades has been Neil Finn, who for many years was the driving force behind the New Zealand band Crowded House. He is an interesting case, because it often seems that his lyrics are somewhat incidental to the rest of the song. Half the time I’m not sure what he’s talking about, and in the end, it doesn’t much matter. The tunes are always deftly put together and delivered with a urgency that few can match, most exceptionally on today’s example.

Authority counts for quite a bit in vocal performance. Many artists get by with that alone, but thankfully Finn has the compositional chops to match, one of the things that makes tracks like these special. That and the melody, of course…

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