Music Analysis: ‘Barricade’ [video]

Some notes from the video:

The Verse is in G major, and the Chorus is in E minor.  The modulation between the Verse and Chorus is deceptive because it goes from the V of the new key to the major version of the IV chord (which is unusual in a minor key), then to the minor version of the IV chord.  The progression is: Bmajor-Amajor-Aminor-Eminor.  The “normal” modulation would be: Bmajor-Eminor, or, Bmajor-Aminor-Eminor.  However, Interpol have added in Amajor, which gives the song an unusual sound.

Paul does a lot more with his vocal harmonies on this album than in previous albums.  In the “full speed” section (which occurs after the second and third choruses), he sings a melody, which he harmonizes with a lower, descending melody.  This vocal harmony line is interesting because it creates unusual dissonances with the melody, such as major 2nds and minor 7ths.

The opening of the song is clever, because Daniel simply repeats B to D on the guitar, so we don’t know at first which key the song is in.  B and D belong to the Gmajor, Bminor, and E(m)7 chords.  Then Carlos comes in with D down to G on the bass, at which point we know the song is in G major.  A cool way of telling us the key of the song without being too obvious about it!

That’s it for now, stay tuned for some B-side analyses, as suggested by Darko!




~ by megwilhoite on July 4, 2011.

9 Responses to “Music Analysis: ‘Barricade’ [video]”

  1. Impressing !!! thanks a lot again 🙂

    I understand the link between chords played by one guitar and notes played by the other instrument, but….you always refer to the key of a song part , trying to identify which is the dominant key (if i understand well) bu why is so important the key and what does it mean to us regarding song mood ?

    thanks !

    • Good question, Fran! I find the key important partly because of its historical significance, but also because I find it interesting how the key plays a role in the creation of music even when the people who write that music (Interpol) aren’t necessarily thinking about “what key are we in?”

      The key of a piece partly determines what sounds “correct” and what sounds “incorrect” — there are certain notes that simply sound “wrong” when you play them within the context of a specific key. This is so much a part of our culture, that even people who don’t think about music in terms of music theory terms like “key,” still manage to work within the confines of key while also doing creative things within those confines. I think Interpol does really interesting things with key relationships, and I love to talk about it because I know they don’t care about “keys”, they care about the sound of the music.

      As for key and song-mood: this is a subject that has been discussed since the days of Plato, and is still being talked about today. Generally, today, major keys are considered to convey happiness or hopefulness, while minor keys are considered to convey sadness or something menacing. What I like about Interpol’s songs is that they often use major keys in a way that makes them more complex, and not really “happy” or “hopeful”. I like that they go against convention like that (even if it’s unintentional).

  2. super ! thanks so much …I’ve just find this interesting compilation of keys and song mood…althought seems to me a very subjective topic

    • Thanks for the link, Fran! Yes, I also think key and mood associations are subjective. My belief is that key and mood associations are “learned” at such a young age that as adults the associations feel like givens. For example, I think the reason we associate minor with sadness or complexity is because of the way so many TV and film directors use minor key music to convey/express those moods. You’d never pair a C major Mozart piano sonata with a death scene, for instance!

  3. wow, you’re really bright. I love seeing people out there that really get music, and understand chords, scale degrees, and their functions. I love the sound of a IV, then a iv, then a I. It will be interesting to try that same progression but cadencing on a minor chord instead of a major chord. Thanks for the explanation! I’ll have to try experimenting with some similar modulations.

  4. great video! it astonishes me how interpol frequently incorporates such insidious key changes and uncommon intervals into their music and rocks it so hard. theyre my greatest influence in my music writing!

  5. […] “standard” rock songs. Songs like “Success”, “Memory Serves”, “Summer Well” and “Barricade” all have a steady rhythm throughout, they’re fairly harmonically straightforward, and all have […]

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