I?ve complained again and again about how music writers often make claims without any explanation. If you?ve heard, or read anything about, The Weekend?s latest hit then you might think that it sounds like ?Michael Jackson 2.0.? You would not be wrong for thinking this way. But let?s be real, I?m not satisfied with 368-word explanation of why this song might be the ?best song of the decade.? It?s not. Don?t get me wrong, it?s great, but I?ve written about songs that are way more interesting. IRREGARDLESS. Let?s learn why this sounds so much like the king of pop.
Wish I could take credit for this pic
I Feel It Coming
The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk
Tempo: 93 BPM
Key: Eb Major
Okay so yes, The Weeknd?s voice sounds pretty similar to Michael Jackson?s. Why? I had briefly mentioned in a prior week that we tend to not focus so much on the notes of a melody but notice how those notes are sung. MJ sang in a unique way with plenty of idiosyncrasies that every bad impersonator has ever tried. ?Shamone.? ?Hee hee.? Various grunts. Aside from these, Michael had a signature vibrato.
For those of you that don?t know, vibrato is a slight variation in pitch that produces a stronger or richer tone than a typical straight tone. I promise you that you?ve heard the technique a million times before. In that example I just linked to, you can hear Christina display great control with her vibrato by slowing down and then speeding up the variations in pitch towards the end of a phrase. MJ takes a different approach in that his vibrato is usually pretty rapid. Is this bad? Nah, it?s just different. However, it is specific to him. A perfect example of this (and one of my favorite songs of his) occurs throughout ?Man In The Mirror.? Check out the verses and listen to how different MJ?s style is to Xtina?s.
Michael also tends to not sing like a singer. Yeah, that doesn?t make sense, but hear me out. When we think of a traditionally ?good? melody we think of it from a standpoint of the notes flowing smoothly from one to another. The word is used to describe this type of performance is legato. Again, Michael does things his own way. While other singers sing legato, MJ sings staccato. This means short and detached. You?re probably already hearing a song in your head but check out ?Smooth Criminal? again. I cannot think of any other vocal performance, sung OR rapped, that is as staccato as this.
Name a more iconic duo
?Bleh, what does this have to do with the Weeknd?? you shriek. Well, The Weeknd started singing like this too. His vibrato throughout ?I Feel It Coming? sounds an awful lot like MJ in ?Human Nature.? Also, the ?I? in every chorus is very short and STACCATO. Again, very Michael-esque. If you?ve been listening to the Weeknd for a little bit you?ll probably notice that the verse in ?Can?t Feel My Face? was also very Jackson-like. Yep, that?s because the melody is so staccato.
Other than sounding like Michael, this song has a lot of other cool stuff going on. ?I Feel It Coming? has a simple, rhythmic bassline that comes in at the first chorus and remains throughout the song. This functions beautifully because the song begins with simple downbeats and then we?re treated with a catchy bassline that doesn?t get stale. The use of chords is pretty clever as well, with the verse and chorus consisting of iii-vi-IV-I and the pre-chorus flipping those chords around a little bit. Essentially, this song makes a lot out of a little and this has always been one of the fascinating aspects of pop music to me.
The leading tone!
The melody of ?I Feel It Coming? is pretty brilliant as well but I?ll have to give ya some context. Above you?ll see a note circled: the leading tone. If you are going up a scale, it is the TONE that LEADS us to the tonic. Try singing up a scale (do, re, etc.) and stopping on the leading tone. You?ll feel that tension. You?ll want to resolve. You?ll need it. We want that pitch to resolve up to the tonic when we?re singing a scale and we?ll usually want it in a melody too.
Look at that tension
So above, I?ve circled where the leading tones are in the melody. You?ll see that The Weeknd leaves us hanging on the leading tone quite a bit during the verse. It?s not until the end of the first line of lyrics that that tension is finally resolved when the leading tone, D, steps up to the tonic, Eb. Can you imagine how terrible that would be if we never got to that tonic? It would be like a major television show leaving so many questions unanswered. Despite putting the listener through this roller coaster of tension and release, The Weeknd and Daft Punk reward the listener during the chorus with a simple and catchy melody. How simple is this melody? Would it surprise you if it only consisted of notes from the pentatonic scale? It shouldn?t!
I know I really haven?t mentioned Daft Punk?s involvement too much in this song but it?s kind of an amalgamation of their best efforts. The duo created the ultimate electronic vocal composition with ?Harder Better Faster Stronger? so most people will hear the vocoder section towards the end of ?I Feel It Coming? and assume that Daft Punk was featured on this song. That?s what I did. Also, Daft Punk?s Grammy-winning ?Random Access Memories? was an analog nu-disco album which explains the origin rhythmic bassline of ?I Feel It Coming.?
One of the coolest things about me is that Daft Punk?s ?Discovery? was one of the first albums I ever bought
All in all, ?I Feel It Coming? is a great song with a lot of stuff going for it. Do I think it?s the best song of the past ten years? That?s a huge claim that I can?t agree with BUT I would say that it?s an incredibly accessible song that people who are missing the King of Pop might appreciate. Looking ahead to the coming week and it looks like the top of the charts are very familiar. Mr. Ed, Brno, ZAYN and T. Swift, Migos, and then this jam again so we gotta scroll down to number 6: ?Tunnel Vision? by Kodak Black. I can honestly say that I?ve never heard this song until right now and I?m having a lot of feelings about it. We?ll talk about em next week. UNTIL THEN!