Popism #120 : Why Change the Lock When You Can Change the Key?
POPISM (N) : A musical or lyrical element used in so many pop songs that it becomes a cliche. Often known to evoke joy every time it is employed.
It's usually right after the bridge. You've been enjoying the song, bobbing your head to a verse and a few choruses, thinking you know what's up. And then, just to keep you on your toes, the song changes keys! Whoa! It's exciting because a singer shows off his or her range, and the same old lyrics and chord progressions feel revitalized. They do, you guys. They are in a different key.
I like to think of the key change as the moment in a song when, if the singer were standing outside, it would start raining really hard. Or lightning would strike three times in quick succession. The point is that something really dramatic would accompany the musical shift.
There are two major varities of key change. The first I'll call the "pause and jump," in which a song features a brief moment of silence before the singer leaps up to a new place in her register. Take Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This." Right after the bridge, she sings the familiar chorus line, "Some people wait a lifetime / For a moment..."
But then she pauses.
You can feel the particles charging in the ground. "Some people wait a lifetime/ For a moment... LIKE THIIIIS!" Key change! Lightning crashes! A new mother cries! Her placenta falls to the floor!
The other (and more sophisticated) key change is an "easy glide." One of my favorite examples is in Faith Hill's "This Kiss." She sings two choruses back to back, and she changes keys in the second without even stopping to take a breath. The music goes right up with her, and nobody breaks a sweat.
It's not as obviously dramatic, but this version of the key change is just as fun. And if you're singing along to a song with an "easy glide" that your friends haven't heard, you can impress them by working that right into your performance. They'll think you're clairvoyant, because who could have seen such a subtle change coming?
So what are your favorite key changes? Why do they always happen in ths chorus? Are there styles of this popism that I've overlooked? Do you wait for big moment in Robbie Williams' "Angels" as anxiously as I do?