Analyzing The Hits

What_Hurts_the_Most_RascalWhat Hurts The Most 

Rascal Flatts

This big country hit is another song that follows the traditional hit-single form almost perfectly. It looks something like this:

intro | verse | B-section | chorus | interlude | verse | B-section | chorus | interlude (3 bars) | solo/bridge | chorus | tag | outro

If you were going to draw up the form for a hit record, this song would be it. The difference here is that the execution of every aspect is top-notch, which separates it from other songs that might have the same form but never became hits.

The Arrangement

What’s especially cool is that all the sections of the song repeat––but are slightly different the second or third time through. A good example is the line in the last bar of the first half of the intro, which is initially played on acoustic guitar, then doubled with the fiddle the second time through. On the third pass it’s a steel fill.

Another great example is the last chorus where the song stops and the melody changes, then the background vocals enter right afterwards. Also listen to how the second verse develops with the entrance of fiddle and electric guitar. Then in the second chorus the steel and banjo enter. The arrangement elements are:

Foundation: bass and drums

Rhythm: acoustic guitar in the verses and the banjo and shaker in the choruses

Pad: steel guitar and big electric guitar chords during the chorus

Lead: fiddle in the intro and interlude, lead vocal in the verses and choruses, and lead guitar in the solo

Fills: steel guitar answer in the interlude and background vocal answers in the last chorus.

Now let’s look at some songs that don’t fit the mold at all:

I Gotta Feeling

Black Eyed Peas

“I Gotta Feeling” has an unusual form in that the sections don’t always come where you expect them to and sometimes have different lengths.

The form looks like this:

intro | chorus (32 bars) | verse (24 bars) | B-section | chorus (16 bars) | verse (16 bars) |  B-section | verse (16 bars) | chorus | end

The interesting thing is that the longest verse and chorus actually occur at the beginning of the song, and the second B-section is in between the second and third verses.

The Arrangement

Just as with the form, the arrangement of “I Gotta Feeling” is also somewhat different from what you’d expect from a pop hit. While it does breathe dynamically like most hits, it doesn’t happen where expected. The intro is exceptionally long for a hit (about 30 seconds) and, as with many dance songs, the music of the verse stays the same with the chorus sung over it. The arrangement elements are:

Foundation: kick, low synth

Rhythm: high hat, 8th and 16th note synths, upbeat synth

Pad: low synth on intro and second chorus

Lead: lead vocals and raps

Fills: vocal answers

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