Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Pretender. . .

This blog post is a song request from +Tamara Bell :-)
(Don't worry +Tamara I will spend some more time writing about this epic band and its frontman)

I was given free rein to pick any song from the Foo Fighters or something from Dave Grohl.  
The top track that came to mind was The Pretender.  As a former music teacher, the song has all of the trademarks of a great song for senior music students to analyse, to learn about how compositional devices work in a song.  Students can learn about melodic motifs, ostinato, syncopation, repetition, imitation, sequence as well as explore the elements of music - melody, harmony, rhythm, texture, timebre, dynamics and articulation markings using this song.

Generally speaking, I think the song is cleverly put together as it's quite subtle with its continual build up, you can hear the tension build with the drum fills, the bass line with its distinctive melodic line and syncopation when required, the rhythmic guitar kicking in before the bridge hits.  My favourite part is definitely the exploration of the light and shade in the oscillation between the opening verse which serves as a recurring theme and the chorus.  I think if music teachers use the music that students like to teach them about compositional devices, rather than focusing on Western Art music that students may struggle to engage in as a starting point (unless of course they LOVE it!).

Keep you in the dark
You know they all pretend
Keep you in the dark
And so it all began

The arpeggiated opening helps to set the scene for the agitation to follow.  This melodic motif appears as the bass line in the chorus where it is also harmonised by the lower vocal line.
This song symbolises for me the idea of realisation, being awakened to reality and finally knowing the difference between who is 'real' around you, who is genuine and who the pretender is (but it could be multiple pretenders with the reference in the second line to 'they all pretend').

Send in your skeletons
Sing as their bones go marching in. . . again
The need you buried deep
The secrets that you keep are ever ready
Are you ready?
I'm finished making sense
Done pleading ignorance
That whole defense

Spinning infinity, boy
The wheel is spinning me
It's never ending, it's never ending
Same old story

I think you run the risk of no longer making any sense to people, especially when the pretender does such a fantastic job of painting a picture of perfection, constructs a facade that disguises what is really going on behind the scenes.  The time when realisation hits is when we either are prepared to stand up and face the pretender, or we are no longer willing to be a party to their machinations.  When you decide to get off that spinning wheel and do something for yourself is another story.

The page is out print
We are not permanent
We're temporary, temporary
Same old story

I'm the voice inside your head
You refuse to hear
I'm the face you have to face
Mirrored in your stare
I'm what's left, I'm what's right
I'm the enemy
I'm the hand that will take you down
Bring you to your knees

If we know that we have a limited time on this earth to make a difference, would you not want to spend that time disassociating yourself from pretenders?  We find them in all areas of society - in people that we are meant to trust to lead our countries, in people we trust to protect and serve our most vulnerable, in people we entrust to teach future generations of our children, in people we see everyday as we go about our daily lives - including those people we wake up to each morning or see before we lay our heads at night.  Are we going to be the voice of reason for these pretenders?  Are we going to make a positive difference in our own little worlds, because collectively we know that together we can make positive differences together?

So, who are you?
Yeah, who are you?
Yeah, who are you?
Yeah, who are you?

What if I say I'm not like the others?
What if I say I'm not just another one of your plays?
You're the pretender
What if I say I will never surrender?

Keep you in the dark
You know they all pretend. . . 

The drum syncopation in the lines 'who are you?' are reminiscent of riffs I've heard in rock bands of the 70s like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones - it's that anticipatory accent that draws my ear in this section.  The chorus however, is definitely a highlight of the entire song.  As a vocalist you can choose to sing the lower harmony or sing at the top of your lungs to the top vocal line.  The lyrics of the chorus are confrontational and definitely make me think about you going toe-to-toe with the pretender and possibly screaming these lyrics in front of them, only inches away from their faces.

I hope that you know who the pretenders are in your world.
Don't let yourself get swept under the carpet, ignored, forgotten and underestimated.
Make it plain that you will not retreat, you will not surrender.

And if you are a pretender - I hope you know that life is temporary and make some decisions soon enough to be 'real' for a change.  Think about how the world will benefit from your actions when you're gone. . .