Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Song #479 of 9999 - Muscle Museum by Muse

Was having a little trouble coming up with a good idea for tonight's blog so I did what any self-respecting person would do: delegated it! And that means it's Guest Blogger Night! Tonight, we get some young blood in here as college freshman and former Caravella protégé Kelsey Bomboy weighs in on a song that may or may not have been written before she was born. ;) And by the way, Kelsey is also a very fine singer—you can check out some of her video performances here.

Song #479 of 9999

Title: Muscle Museum
Artist: Muse
Year: 1999
Album: Showbiz

There is not a single album by Muse that I don't fully enjoy listening to, and Muse is one of the very few bands who I can say that about. From their debut Showbiz in 1999 to their most recent The 2nd Law, Muse's frontman, Matthew Bellamy, has continued to bring new ideas to each album which has only left me coming back for more.

Those who lost their Muse virginity by hearing "Madness" on the radio within the past year would probably be surprised to learn that they didn't always use thick synth beats and sing in major keys. “Muscle Museum” is a prime example of quite the opposite.

When I heard "Muscle Museum" for the first time back in 2007 I was instantly hooked. As an awkward and musically ignorant pre-teen in the seventh grade I had no idea why I loved this song so much. However, after being a survivor of AP Music Theory (thanks to Frankie Big Face!), I now can articulate why.

The first thing that jumps out at you is the alternating eighth notes of F# and C# in the bass guitar. Then comes the piercing harmonies in the lead guitar it soon becomes clear that Bellamy composed this song in the key of F# minor, one of the darkest sounding keys in existence. When Bellamy enters in the first verse with his breathy, British voice you can tell that there's an emotional lament coming your way (not to mention some sweet falsetto).

The chord progression in the chorus is a common [i-V-i-iv]. I am always moved by the last line in the chorus. Its progression truly feels like, well...progression and pushing forward as he slowly slides up to the leading tone and then resolves. After the second chorus Bellamy plays around with the microphone and makes his voice sound like an electric guitar – you gotta admit that's pretty cool. The song fades out with a creepy sounding piano repeating the intro which leaves the listener feeling empty and haunted.

I do think there is something to be said about the relationship between the meaning of this song and the key that it's in. In an interview Bellamy said that this song is about the frustration of putting in so much effort into a relationship and not getting anything in return:
Can you see that I am needing
Begging for so much more
Than you could ever give
And I don’t want you to adore me
Don’t want you to ignore me
When it pleases you
Maybe Bellamy carefully considered the key, or maybe he didn't. But for my own peace of mind, I like to think that he chose a depressing key for a depressing and emotional song.

Fun fact: Muse had a hard time coming up with a name for this song, so they chose the words that come right before and after the word "muse" in most dictionaries: "muscle" and "museum"

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