Thursday, April 23, 2015

Song #521 of 9999 - Boom Clap by Charli XCX

Song #521 of 9999

Title: Boom Clap
Artist: Charli XCX
Year: 2014
Album: Sucker

Like all old people, I learn about new music from Fresh Air's critic-at-large Ken Tucker on National Public Radio. Tucker is pretty open-minded and sometimes he likes crap and I sometimes I like it with him.

This is one of those times. "Boom Clap" by London's Charli XCX first appeared on the soundtrack to the teen sobfest The Fault in Our Stars (didn't see it—you?). It's not a particularly brilliant song or anything. In fact, it may not even be the best song on Sucker, her sophomore effort. (I'm partial to "Break the Rules" for its anthemic call to all the boys and girls around the world to skip school and go dancing and get high instead. Sounds like a plan!) But something about this song and those that surround it on this slick electropunk collection elicits a Pavlovian response that transports me right back to a time when Missing Persons was lodged in my cassette deck.

I don't want to let you go without talking a little bit about what makes this chorus so ridiculously catchy. The lion's share of the credit must be given to the jaunty syncopation in the vocal melody, which is made even more evident by the use of the angular perfect fifth interval. Look at how busy the rhythm is while the harmony sludges along underneath at an 84bpm crawl.

But it's those specific intervals she sings that has my interest piqued because I think I may have discovered the melodic/harmonic secret of today's pop. Remember last week when I got all excited about the major 7ths and 9ths in the vocal melody of Bruno Mars's "Locked Out of Heaven"? Well, here they are again—the G# set a major 7th above the A in mm. 1 and 3 and the F# set a major 9th above the E in mm. 2 and 4! It's such a neat trick and it works on me (and probably you) every time. Maybe this is a brilliant song after all.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. On NBC's website, there is a video of me cheering during Charlie X's performance of "Break the Rules" on the plaza. I was taking a legit personal day! Honest!

      I like this song more that the former. Look at that score! It is quite astonishing that she hangs on that major 7th for so long. I think that is the trick. Very repetitive almost boring melodic movement but with some very pretty tones almost exclusive on the strong beats. It does seem to be unique to this style.

      Looking back this is something the Beatles would never do. Of course I mean to this extreme. (The Beatles sing many extensions over triads)