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Owen Pallett Explains The Genius of Katy Perry

Posted by - 05:09 PM on 03/25/14
Owen Pallett has attempted to use music theory to explain the genius of Katy Perry.
Let’s start by talking about the ingenuity of the harmonic content. This song is all about suspension—not in the voice-leading 4–3 sense, but in the emotional sense, which listeners often associate with “exhilaration,” being on the road, being on a roller coaster, travel. This sense of suspension is created simply, by denying the listener any I chords. There is not a single I chord in the song. Laymen, the I chord (“one chord”) is the chord that the key is in. That is, the song is in G but there are no G-chords. Other examples of this, in hit singles: Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better With You”; almost-examples include Earth Wind and Fire’s “In September” which has an I chord but only passing and in inversion; same with Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida."
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 44
05:09 PM on 03/25/14
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Jason Tate
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(Didn't know what icon to use, so I used the acoustic one ... no real reason.)
05:13 PM on 03/25/14
#3
qwerty22
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Songs with the I chord absent? This is blowing my mind a little bit, obviously I haven't thought about it enough. Gonna have to look into this.
05:23 PM on 03/25/14
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Amongster
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Well, I'm probably going to spend way too much time going through my iTunes tonight, finding songs without an I chord.
05:35 PM on 03/25/14
#5
Spencer Control
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I always hate reading things on theory and realizing I'm a goddam layman.
05:37 PM on 03/25/14
#6
projectmayhem16
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He may be on to something here. A lot of the songs he mentioned do make me feel some type a way.
05:40 PM on 03/25/14
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TylerHartman
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I bet this is how NFG wrote all their hits.
05:43 PM on 03/25/14
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sergioisevil
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I love her so much and I'm beyond fucking excited to see her in a few months.
05:47 PM on 03/25/14
#9
surgerone
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I always hate reading things on theory and realizing I'm a goddam layman.
Haha, this.
05:48 PM on 03/25/14
DLBogosian
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This theory is completely off. The song is in Bb, and opens with a Bb chord, and never leaves it even when the bass enters. He is way off.

EDIT: Even if he had his keys right - which he doesn't, but I'm assuming his capo'd brain is doing his thing - the theory is wrong. With the "lack of I" going from IV to V, you're in lydian. That's... what modern modality is. There isn't a lack of resolution, because you feel home with Bb. They don't start at F for an instant. She starts on Bb.

There are good examples of a lack of i, or more importantly, a prolonged lack of i, both in classical and pop. Some of the examples he cites are accurate. I'd argue Chopin's Prelude in Em is the best example. But uh...

This Katy Perry song literally isn't what he's saying it is.
06:00 PM on 03/25/14
sergioisevil
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This theory is completely off. The song is in Bb, and opens with a Bb chord, and never leaves it even when the bass enters. He is way off.

EDIT: Even if he had his keys right - which he doesn't, but I'm assuming his capo'd brain is doing his thing - the theory is wrong. With the "lack of I" going from IV to V, you're in lydian. That's... what modern modality is. There isn't a lack of resolution, because you feel home with Bb. They don't start at F for an instant. She starts on Bb.

There are good examples of a lack of i, or more importantly, a prolonged lack of i, both in classical and pop. Some of the examples he cites are accurate. I'd argue Chopin's Prelude in Em is the best example. But uh...

This Katy Perry song literally isn't what he's saying it is.
06:12 PM on 03/25/14
ianpritchard
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"being in a key but never playing the I chord" is not being in that key. its called modalism, and katy perry isn't genius because she does it.
06:14 PM on 03/25/14
DLBogosian
Finch tech, UTG writer, @dlbogosian
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I have a music theory degree. Seriously, the guy is just wrong. It's not a matter of debate. He is outright wrong.
06:18 PM on 03/25/14
SuNDaYSTaR
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He does have a point; not having any resolution in the chorus usually makes a song a little more memorable. I don't know why, but I immediately thought of Digital Love.
06:22 PM on 03/25/14
Jeff_Ryan
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Amazing human being

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