Don’t know what a Roman numeral is and why it matters in music? Go here
This is one of my NEW FAVES(!!) off the latest World/Inferno Friendship Society album, The Anarchy and the Ecstasy. The album is a conglomeration of a bunch of tunes that, I feel, are wildly different from each other. So when I describe this song as a samba, please don’t think that the entire album is like one big ballroom dance album. It’s sooo not. But this one song.. it just makes me want to DANCE yo. But this is not really about dancing.
As far as World/Inferno songs go, this is actually pretty straightforward.
Verse: i iv III VI i
Chorus: iv VII III IIIM7* i iv V i
It’s in a very strongly established minor key. The majority of each verse is actually spent on the i chord, and then when it spends any decent amount of time on any other chord, it’s the iv chord. And before you return to the i, you hear a V, which is, what we call in the music world, an “authentic cadence.” Which basically is the strongest relationship between any two chords that could have ever existed.
Also, I want to point out the iv VII III IIIM7 i part of the chord progression. You can look at it like this:
iv VII III IIIM7* i
ORRRR you can also look at it like this:
V/V/III V/III III IIIM7 i
What’s with the slashes? Those, my friends, indicate secondary chords. We can even look at it like this:
V/V V I IM7 iv
ii V I IM7 iv
Which assumes, that just for a brief period of time, we’ve modulated to a different key. The key, in fact, is the relative major to the minor key that we are in. Meaning, we haven’t really gone off anywhere to far. Major and minor keys that are relative to each other share DNA.. I mean.. they have the same key signature. So the chords all look the same, they just get shuffled around into a slightly different order. You put the emphasis on a different set of chords within the group and VOILA – different key.. sort of.
So for a brief period of time, the song changes to the relative major. In this new key, you have the I, and leading to it, you have the V (there’s that authentic cadence we were talking about earlier), and before that, you have something called V/V. That would be the V that leads to the V, or, like, another little authentic cadence. But since it’s not the end of a phrase, we’re not really going to call it that. But it’s important. V/V is like going down a one way street, which dumps you onto another one way street (the V), which can lead you only to one place, the I. V/V – V – I is a really strong pattern. the V/V can also be referred to as ii, as that is how it relates to the I. And so for a brief moment in time, the song is in the relative Major – not the relative minor. Don’t get your chords confused, dudes and dudettes! It’ll sound like a tonic (another name for that first chord in a key), but it’s MAJOR, not minor. We’re somewhere else! But then we go right back to the relative minor and all is well.
Another interesting note, for you musicians out there: A IIIM7 could also be mistaken for a V chord (with some added tones in it, yes), and what comes after the IIIM7? A i! I’ll have to look more into this one.
Of course, I haven’t yet told you what key we are in. HAHAHA! I AM EVIL! Jk. What I like about posting the roman numeral analysis first is that it allows you, the reader/listener/student/person who may or may not be familiar with the song/band/style of music/music in general to listen to the song from a more abstract point of view. Knowing chords is good – but since the point of roman numerals to begin with is to identify the functions of the chords, I want to present it this way first. So go pull up the song, keep this blog entry open (or print it out if you want, and take it with you, wherever), and give a listen while following along. For reference, I’ve included one verse and one chorus from the song so that I can attempt to illustrate the timing of the chords with the lyrics (because, as you may have already heard, or will, there is a LOT going on with this song). I wouldn’t want you to confuse passing melodies with actual chord changes.
The years are short just as the day is long
It was me on the corner
It was only men when you were looking
iv III V i
not to kneel to anyone else, get it Pete.
And now it's far to late to go
III IIIM7 i
No one ever saw the show
Blame the witches blame the saints
No one cares which ones are fake
And we'll never need to know.
So there you have it. You can find the song on YouTube (I did) here:Thirteen Years Without Peter King (album version).
Audience Participation Time
What do you think? Confused? Have questions? Follow up questions? Follow up follow up questions? I’ll be posting the actual chord progression, and additionally, a recording of myself playing the song, later on in the week, so keep your eyes peeled for that, too, and maybe that will answer some questions (or create some new ones).
*IIIM7 means it’s a Major chord built of the third scale degree, with a Major 7th added in. This is not commonly found in classical music, so there’s really no “classical” way to notate it.