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Thread started 05/16/22 9:40am

TrivialPursuit

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What makes a perfect song?

I've thought about this a lot in the past year. And considered how I would pose the question here.

I'm also speaking from a musician's point of view, really, because I think about chord progression, hooks, breaks, bridges, melodies, etc.

But for me, in simple terms, a good song is one that just makes sense. Now, that can be taken a million ways, but what I mean here is when you hear a song, and it goes from point A to point B, you think, "of course that's what it does. How could it do anything else?"

I'm not necessarily talking about elements - like a guitar sound, or a keyboard sound. It's sorta like going on a ride at Disney, where you're on tracks or in one of those water rides in a cave. You are suddenly going from the seven dwarves to Dumbo, and it's apples and oranges, happens fast, but it makes sense. "Oh, of course we did that, and now we're here. DUH!"

This is opposed to a song being predictable. Many songs are predictable. I remember buying Bedtime Stories from Madonna. I just loved the record. It was sorta her Velvet Rope, in that moment. Textured, different, varied, engaging, daring compared to earlier work. And as I listened, I was reading along on the lyric sheet. When "Don't Stop" came on, and I was listening to the intro section, by the time she started singing the verse, I was pretty much singing along - on my first listen - right in line with her melody.

Did that song make sense, or was it predictable? For me, it was predictable. Still love the song, but it was easily figured out in that moment. I sorta had the same moment the first time I heard Janet's "If." The music just sorta dictated the melody. (Of course, "If" is an infinitely better song all around.)

But when I hear a Prince song that I've never heard before, and I'm waiting to hear the next section, and it's totally not what I expected (which is S.O.P. for most Prince songs), but I think, "of course he's doing that, makes total sense." Because that next section is often predicated on the previous section. The chorus is predicated on the verse, the bridge is predicated on the chorus or the chord progression in general. One thing naturally, not predictably, leads to the next.

Listening to a great song, Prince or not, is a constant light-bulb moment. It's not "Well, we've been here before." Like, how many times were they going to rewrite "Baby, One More Time" for Britney? "Crazy," "Ooops I Did It Again," etc.

Does anyone get what I'm saying? Agree? Disagree?

"eye don’t really care so much what people say about me because it is a reflection of who they r."
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Reply #1 posted 05/16/22 10:44am

rockford

There is no such thing. Art is subjective. What is a perfect song to you will most definitely be a steaming pile of poop to someone else. It's an unanswerable question.

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Reply #2 posted 05/16/22 12:46pm

billymeade

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Wrong forum.

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Reply #3 posted 05/16/22 2:17pm

TrivialPursuit

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rockford said:

There is no such thing. Art is subjective. What is a perfect song to you will most definitely be a steaming pile of poop to someone else. It's an unanswerable question.


I don't know of anyone that thinks "Purple Rain" is a steaming pile of poop.

Besides, it's all suffixed with ".... to you" anyway.

"eye don’t really care so much what people say about me because it is a reflection of who they r."
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Reply #4 posted 05/16/22 2:17pm

TrivialPursuit

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billymeade said:

Wrong forum.


Incorrect. I'm using Prince as a basis for a perfect song, and going from there, citing other artists, too.

"eye don’t really care so much what people say about me because it is a reflection of who they r."
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Reply #5 posted 05/16/22 4:10pm

jazzz

.
Ask Paul McCartney...
.
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Reply #6 posted 05/16/22 5:07pm

laytonian

jazzz said:

. Ask Paul McCartney... .


I was a Beatles fan for over fifteen years beginning in 1964; what would YOU consider his perfect song?
His "outstanding" work was mostly partnership and there was a lot of production assistance and extra musicians.
As far as I'm concerned, his/their popularity is due to nostalgia more than quality.

I don't think there's a McCartney song as rich as Purple Rain (not my favorite), Gold, or Empty Room.

[Edited 5/19/22 14:25pm]

Welcome to "the org", laytonian… come bathe with me.
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Reply #7 posted 05/16/22 11:07pm

LoveGalore

I don't think you need an "oh shit!" moment in a song for it to be as perfect as it's gonna get. But maybe I make a distinction between a perfect song and a brilliant song. Pussy Control, for example, made me crack up laughing the first time I heard it. Only Prince could get away with that chorus.

But Raspberry Beret and Take Me With U and Diamonds & Pearls are pop perfection.
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Reply #8 posted 05/17/22 7:01am

Genesia

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The measure of perfection in a song, book, movie, painting - or any other work of art - is its ability to evoke an emotional response in its audience.

We don’t mourn artists because we knew them. We mourn them because they helped us know ourselves.
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Reply #9 posted 05/17/22 8:16am

rainbowchild

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A Prince song
"Just like the sun, the Rainbow Children rise."



"We had fun, didn't we?"
-Prince (1958-2016) 4ever in my life
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Reply #10 posted 05/17/22 9:13am

fortuneandsere
ndipity

That all depends on the listener. But I believe art is objective. Only the universe truly knows.


The world's problems like climate change can only be solved through strategic long-term thinking, not expediency. In other words all the govts. need sacking!

If you can add value to someone's life then why not. Especially if it colors their days...
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Reply #11 posted 05/17/22 2:42pm

IanRG

Genesia said:

The measure of perfection in a song, book, movie, painting - or any other work of art - is its ability to evoke an emotional response in its audience.

.

Agreed. And because the perfection is in the emotions of each member of the artwork's audience it is not able to be controlled or prescribed by the artist. There are simply too many variables and so many are based on the time, place and circumstances of the audience.

.

The song "Hurt" in Reznor's hands is just a good album song. In Johnny Cash's hands it is perfect. Not that Reznor performed and recorded it worse that Cash, but that Cash's version evoked so much more emotion - especially with video. It is time, place and circumstance

.

The subjective evoking of emotion can also destroy a song or artist. I love music and I hate the Beatles. I came to realise both these at the same time as a child on one of those long summer days when there was nothing to do. One of those shallowly thoughtful Beatles songs came on and it sparked the realisation that music is so fantastically powerful because it can spark emotion. However, the only emotion that song sparked was that this song was dreary, whinging and boring. I could not wait for this to be over and for the next song to come on. I appreciate that there may be others who feel differently about the Beatles and I have tried to relisten to them but it is time, place and circumstance, and, for me, they were in the wrong time, place and circumstance. I was later into Wings (but boy didn't McCartney do some crap aftwards) and George Harrison but never the pretentiousness of Lennon.

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Reply #12 posted 05/17/22 4:25pm

PJMcGee

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If you need to be at death's door and look like it to evoke emotion in your audience, your performance isn't cutting it.

Reznor's version was already great.

Opinions.
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Reply #13 posted 05/17/22 10:36pm

IanRG

PJMcGee said:

If you need to be at death's door and look like it to evoke emotion in your audience, your performance isn't cutting it. Reznor's version was already great. Opinions.

.

If you need to be into self-harm and herion and look like it to evoke emotion in your audience, your performance isn't cutting it. This fails to compare to the song being a reflection on a whole life. As it whether Cash was just lamenting being at death's door and on his past or whether this was a performance - Cash was actually at good time in his life (prior to his wife's death) with new found faith and invigoration at the time he made it - it was a performance.

.

On opinions, I will go with Reznor's own opinion "that song is not mine anymore."

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Reply #14 posted 05/18/22 1:43am

Vannormal

ask John, Paul, George & Ringo

ask Joni Mitchell

ask David Bowie,

ask Kate Bush,

ask Elton John

ask Burt Bacharach

ask Bob Dylan,

ask Billy Preston,

ask Christine McVie

ask Brian Wilson,

ask Maurice White,

ask Björk,

ask Thom Yorke,

ask Elvis Costello,

ask Stevie Nicks,

ask Prince,

ask Nina simone,

ask even Miles Davis,

ask Roger Waters and David Gilmore

ask Meshell Ndégéocello

ask James Brown,

ask Joan Baez

ask Mick and Keith,

ask George Clinton,

ask Tori Amos,

ask Lou Reed,

ask even all these other great artists...

I can not answer your question.

S U P P O R T --- U K R A I N E --- N O W --- 4 --- MORE PEACE !!!
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves. And wiser people so full of doubts" (Bertrand Russsell 1872-1972)
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Reply #15 posted 05/18/22 5:05am

PJMcGee

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IanRG said:



PJMcGee said:


If you need to be at death's door and look like it to evoke emotion in your audience, your performance isn't cutting it. Reznor's version was already great. Opinions.

.


If you need to be into self-harm and herion and look like it to evoke emotion in your audience, your performance isn't cutting it. This fails to compare to the song being a reflection on a whole life. As it whether Cash was just lamenting being at death's door and on his past or whether this was a performance - Cash was actually at good time in his life (prior to his wife's death) with new found faith and invigoration at the time he made it - it was a performance.


.


On opinions, I will go with Reznor's own opinion "that song is not mine anymore."



Eh, someone probably asked Reznor what he thought of Cash's version. If he says his own version is better, he's being a dick to a dying legend.
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Reply #16 posted 05/18/22 5:09am

PJMcGee

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Or a legend who is playing up his illness for the camera. Either way.
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Reply #17 posted 05/18/22 6:33am

IanRG

PJMcGee said:

Or a legend who is playing up his illness for the camera. Either way.

.

Or a person who just wants to argue whilst missing my point - What makes a perfect song is for the most part in the subjective opinions of each individual and these are affected by the different time, place and circumstances of each audience individual.

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Reply #18 posted 05/18/22 8:41am

christobole

rockford said:

There is no such thing. Art is subjective. What is a perfect song to you will most definitely be a steaming pile of poop to someone else. It's an unanswerable question.

Art is NOT subjective. Much research pinpoints the kinds of features that are likely to trigger the different sensations during a musical thrill: sudden harmonic changes, dynamic leaps & melodic appoggiaturas being particularly effective. These thrills elicit a physiological change that’s locked to a particular point in the music.

One major element seems to be the way the brain monitors our expectations: from the moment we are born (or even before), we begin to follow certain rules that characterise the way songs are composed. If a song is overly conventional, it is bland and fails to capture our attention, if it breaks the patterns too much, it sounds like noise.

Violated expectations seem to startle the automatic nervous system - the brain stem - producing a racing heart, the onset of a musical thrill. More interestingly, the anticipation, violation, and resolution of our expectations triggers a dopamine rush (yes, Prince was aware...) in two key regions – the caudate and the nucleus accumbens, shortly before and just after the thrill. Much more could be said to illustrate that music / art is not subjective, but in fact, seems to follow some kind of natural laws...


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Reply #19 posted 05/18/22 11:46am

fortuneandsere
ndipity

^ Exactly. Anyone who thinks art is purely subjective, and that good or bad music is down to each listener's taste, needs to listen to this.

https://www.youtube.com/w...CyFBsQMhF8


The world's problems like climate change can only be solved through strategic long-term thinking, not expediency. In other words all the govts. need sacking!

If you can add value to someone's life then why not. Especially if it colors their days...
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Reply #20 posted 05/18/22 2:41pm

IanRG

fortuneandserendipity said:

^ Exactly. Anyone who thinks art is purely subjective, and that good or bad music is down to each listener's taste, needs to listen to this.

https://www.youtube.com/w...CyFBsQMhF8


.

I broke my rule and watched one of your youtubes. A cat has learned to make sounds on keyboard that are to the taste of lady she lives with is nothing but subjective. The cat learns from the subjective response of the person seeking to promote her youtube channel and merchandise.

.

No one said art is PURELY subjective' but thanks for demonstrating it is subjective.

[Edited 5/18/22 15:49pm]

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Reply #21 posted 05/18/22 2:47pm

IanRG

christobole said:

rockford said:

There is no such thing. Art is subjective. What is a perfect song to you will most definitely be a steaming pile of poop to someone else. It's an unanswerable question.

Art is NOT subjective. Much research pinpoints the kinds of features that are likely to trigger the different sensations during a musical thrill: sudden harmonic changes, dynamic leaps & melodic appoggiaturas being particularly effective. These thrills elicit a physiological change that’s locked to a particular point in the music.

One major element seems to be the way the brain monitors our expectations: from the moment we are born (or even before), we begin to follow certain rules that characterise the way songs are composed. If a song is overly conventional, it is bland and fails to capture our attention, if it breaks the patterns too much, it sounds like noise.

Violated expectations seem to startle the automatic nervous system - the brain stem - producing a racing heart, the onset of a musical thrill. More interestingly, the anticipation, violation, and resolution of our expectations triggers a dopamine rush (yes, Prince was aware...) in two key regions – the caudate and the nucleus accumbens, shortly before and just after the thrill. Much more could be said to illustrate that music / art is not subjective, but in fact, seems to follow some kind of natural laws...


.

But this is subjective.

.

Each subject will have different expectations. We here mostly expect notes to fit with our note scale. Indian music uses a diffferent scale, so the expectations are different. What we find discordant could be a sweet Indian love song. I have seen tests that demonstrate this - People from different cultures are unable to interpret the emotion in a song that the people from that culture find clear. There is no natural law or all music would invoke the same emotion.

[Edited 5/18/22 15:45pm]

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Reply #22 posted 05/18/22 3:56pm

CherryMoon57

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A perfect song will always have something universal about it.

Life Matters
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Reply #23 posted 05/18/22 5:28pm

fortuneandsere
ndipity

IanRG said:

fortuneandserendipity said:

^ Exactly. Anyone who thinks art is purely subjective, and that good or bad music is down to each listener's taste, needs to listen to this.

https://www.youtube.com/w...CyFBsQMhF8


.

I broke my rule and watched one of your youtubes. A cat has learned to make sounds on keyboard that are to the taste of lady she lives with is nothing but subjective. The cat learns from the subjective response of the person seeking to promote her youtube channel and merchandise.

.

No one said art is PURELY subjective' but thanks for demonstrating it is subjective.

[Edited 5/18/22 15:49pm]


Exactly. The cat is playing absolute crap, but to the cat's ears it's genius. The owner is no better, clearly having 'blood thicker than water' syndrome. If the cat were to flick a lit match or cigarette into the toaster causing it to short circuit, mom owner would be "you genius cat!"


The world's problems like climate change can only be solved through strategic long-term thinking, not expediency. In other words all the govts. need sacking!

If you can add value to someone's life then why not. Especially if it colors their days...
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Reply #24 posted 05/18/22 6:41pm

PJMcGee

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IanRG said:



PJMcGee said:


Or a legend who is playing up his illness for the camera. Either way.

.


Or a person who just wants to argue whilst missing my point - What makes a perfect song is for the most part in the subjective opinions of each individual and these are affected by the different time, place and circumstances of each audience individual.



What, I was agreeing with what you said - that Cash's apparent feebleness was not real. Was in fact a super tacky performance.
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Reply #25 posted 05/18/22 6:52pm

lustmealways

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living doll by prince by jill jones

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Reply #26 posted 05/18/22 7:15pm

chrisslope9

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nod nod nod

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Reply #27 posted 05/18/22 8:55pm

IanRG

PJMcGee said:

IanRG said:

.

Or a person who just wants to argue whilst missing my point - What makes a perfect song is for the most part in the subjective opinions of each individual and these are affected by the different time, place and circumstances of each audience individual.

What, I was agreeing with what you said - that Cash's apparent feebleness was not real. Was in fact a super tacky performance.

.

Then you are NOT agreeing with me, because I said that "In Johnny Cash's hands it is perfect."

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Reply #28 posted 05/18/22 9:03pm

IanRG

fortuneandserendipity said:

IanRG said:

.

I broke my rule and watched one of your youtubes. A cat has learned to make sounds on keyboard that are to the taste of lady she lives with is nothing but subjective. The cat learns from the subjective response of the person seeking to promote her youtube channel and merchandise.

.

No one said art is PURELY subjective' but thanks for demonstrating it is subjective.

[Edited 5/18/22 15:49pm]


Exactly. The cat is playing absolute crap, but to the cat's ears it's genius. The owner is no better, clearly having 'blood thicker than water' syndrome. If the cat were to flick a lit match or cigarette into the toaster causing it to short circuit, mom owner would be "you genius cat!"


.

And therefore, despite you agreeing with the claim that is not subjective, you confirm that it is subjective to the point that a cat's mom owner will consider anything that her cat does is genius. She demonstrated no objectivity in the assessment of the cat's musical skills.

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Reply #29 posted 05/18/22 10:16pm

LoveGalore

IanRG said:



Genesia said:


The measure of perfection in a song, book, movie, painting - or any other work of art - is its ability to evoke an emotional response in its audience.



.


Agreed. And because the perfection is in the emotions of each member of the artwork's audience it is not able to be controlled or prescribed by the artist. There are simply too many variables and so many are based on the time, place and circumstances of the audience.


.


The song "Hurt" in Reznor's hands is just a good album song. In Johnny Cash's hands it is perfect. Not that Reznor performed and recorded it worse that Cash, but that Cash's version evoked so much more emotion - especially with video. It is time, place and circumstance


.


The subjective evoking of emotion can also destroy a song or artist. I love music and I hate the Beatles. I came to realise both these at the same time as a child on one of those long summer days when there was nothing to do. One of those shallowly thoughtful Beatles songs came on and it sparked the realisation that music is so fantastically powerful because it can spark emotion. However, the only emotion that song sparked was that this song was dreary, whinging and boring. I could not wait for this to be over and for the next song to come on. I appreciate that there may be others who feel differently about the Beatles and I have tried to relisten to them but it is time, place and circumstance, and, for me, they were in the wrong time, place and circumstance. I was later into Wings (but boy didn't McCartney do some crap aftwards) and George Harrison but never the pretentiousness of Lennon.



Cash's version of Hurt is cringey and boring.
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Forums > Prince: Music and More > What makes a perfect song?