Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Song #487 of 9999 - My Love by The Bird and the Bee

Song #487 of 9999

Title: My Love
Artist: The Bird and the Bee
Year: 2009
Album: Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future

Since the advent of Spotify, I don't really look at my iTunes very much anymore. But every once in a while, I notice a record I have no recollection of buying or even listening to. Such is the case with the debut album by The Bird and the Bee, a Los Angeles duo who scored a minor club hit with (mostly remixes of) the provocatively titled "Fucking Boyfriend." I think it's a record I saw on sale for $5.00 on Amazon or maybe it was a free download or perhaps I read a review of it and thought I needed it. Anyway, it's on my computer now and I don't know why.

I also own the song "Love Letter to Japan" from the group's 2009 follow-up Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future. Don't know how I ended up this this song either, but it was intriguing enough to send me in search of the album (which is good, but uneven) where I latched on to tonight's feature, "My Love." 

On the album, "My Love" is introduced by a brief instrumental track (called "Fanfare," absent here, unfortunately) which sets up the playground handclap drumbeat quite nicely. The juxtaposition of keyboardist/producer Greg Kurstin's synthesized landscapes with Inara George's nearly emotionless vocal delivery is captivating in the way I always expect Imogen Heap to be (but rarely is). Kurstin's ability to stay out of the way with his keyboard concoctions is admirable—he seems to know just how much is enough.

The verse is a nice study in the use of the interval of a 6th to create a broad singable melody. George teeters between B and G# at the outset over an E Major chord, then shifts a half-step higher (C to A) to do the same over the minor subdominant (A minor). As many times as I've heard the iv chord used in pop songs, I don't think I've ever quite heard it used in this manner—it's really quite creative. Kurstin uses a nice trick to set up the key change for the chorus, arpeggiating a V chord (B Major), which he then shifts a semitone higher to C Major, which serves as the IV chord in the new key of G Major. He uses a similar trick coming out the chorus as his bass descends chromatically (G-F#-F) to settle on F Major, which serves as the bII (Neapolitan!) in the original key of E Major, where he ultimately proceeds in time for the next verse. This exploitation of half-step relationships between chords reinforces and mimics the half-step relationship mentioned earlier in the melody. Whether intentional or intuitive, it's the kind of observation that just makes the music theorist in me giddy with delight!

P.S. The video is not the official video but had much better sound quality in addition to being quite cute and funny and sad all at once. Enjoy!

P.P.S. Just had to come back and point out there are more 6ths in the backing vocal of the chorus. Just sayin'.

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