Monday, August 31, 2015

Which synthpop hit from 1981 has the awesomest third borrowing from the parallel major?

After a long hiatus I'm back at The Unbehind, asking the tough questions. Like "Which synthpop hit from 1981 has the cooler major-third-in-minor-context action?"

I thought this would be simple. How was I to know the modal adventures I was about to embark upon (in my headphones at work)?


Jesus, is this ever going to get to C major?? NOPE. The bulk of this song is one long F to G dicktease that never gets to C (kinda like this). But it DOES get to A MAJOR at the "pre-chorus" or whatever the hell you call it. (I hate the term pre-chorus--is it part of the verse or the chorus--make up your damn mind!)

That happens at 1:09, by the way. A major, B diminished, A minor/C to E major. Solid passing diminished. And dramatic after the A major.

And no cadence on C. That would sound pretty stupid. So does the final A minor riff-let. But a cadence on C would have been worse.

And now that I think about it, no authentic cadence, perfect or otherwise, on A minor. And I totally just jammed the shit out of that vamp on a fretless bass with action that's too low. I sounded friggin' awesome.

But I really get into it.


Let's discuss this video some other time.

0:42--it's my favorite unexpected major third in a synthpop hit from 1981. A few things:

-This song is minor. All the way.

-But this is by way of bass line plus melody--the verses have no explicit chords--only the harmony that is suggested by a minor pentatonic tune combined with a decidedly aeolian bass of G, B flat, E flat, B flat, C.

-And then that B natural he sings....YESSSSS.

"This has got to be my favorite parallel major borrowing from a synthpop tune from 1981," I thought. And then I found this:


"Oh shit," I thought. "That guitar is playing major triads. Barre, lay them fingers down style."

What do I make of this? So is this major with a minor pentatonic melody? That's normal, but is that what is happening here? I really don't think so. Even with a (faint) major third in that voicing of the I chord, it still sounds so overwhelmingly minor (thanks to the non-minor pentatonic "flat VI"). And this isn't overcome until the vocal sings the major 3rd at 0:33.

But I think you have to hear this as a major inflection of minor, which goes against the norm.

But if the guitar is playing an F major chord doesn't that make it dorian?

Or for fuck's sake, of course is isn't flippin' dorian. This isn't some descant shit. NONONO. IT'S ALL MAJOR CHORDS ON A GUITAR IT'S NOT A MADRIGAL FOR CHRIST'S SAKE.

And you just heard an A flat chord two chords ago.

But what of that rogue major third, in this case an E natural on C? I've discussed the notion of power chords before, and that the added fifth above the root is of very little harmonic import:

Is this, perhaps, an extension of this? Is this simply a root progression, reinforced by fifths and major thirds, which are of course the extension of the harmonic series?

As usual, I think about these things much too hard. I know this. But what do you hear? I can only say what I hear. And once again, chords prove themselves to be deceitful, and instead the combination of individual lines creates the sound, and not necessarily in lock step.

The verses of Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" do not have explicit chords. Your brain is filling in the blanks. It's an illusion. That's really, really cool. And it happens all the time and you have no idea.