Category Archives: America

Summertime Sadness: the shape of words

If you’re thinking of writing a song in English, choose words for their shape as well as their meaning. Meaning can float in the air (“I am the Walrus?”) but the shape of English words in song must align with the feeling of your music.

Think of Lana Del Rey’s Summertime Sadness. From the title to the chorus it’s a masterful mix of sound shapes. Summertime: soft, warm and measureless. Sadness: deep and hazy. Together, each intensifies the other. I’ve chosen Miley Cyrus’ cover version, from BBC Live Lounge. You can see how Miley shapes her mouth and where she breathes, to allow each word its languorous character:

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LaVance Colley sings Ariane Grande

great cover version lives its own life. As a child of the original, it carries DNA forwards, but shines on its own terms. You recognise the mother’s eyes or the father’s nose, but the face itself is new.

Watch Post Modern Jukebox smooth, slow and soulify Ariane Grande’s Focus until it sounds as if Ariane was covering a long lost Ray Charles number. What a difference LaVance Colley makes:

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