Saturday, July 21, 2012

By Hook or By...

Okay gang. It's time for another music rant exposition. Oh come on, you knew this was coming and waaaayy overdue.

Once again we're going to talk hooks in music. Most of you know or should know what the "hook" is and for those of you who don't: it's the chorus or melody that is CATCHY.  In other words, it's the part you always sing along to and sometimes the only part you know the words to.

Now, every year there's usually one song that grabs you by the throat with it's hook and never lets go. It's the song that burns itself into the auditory section of your brain permanently and can't be removed without a brain wipe. Think Bee Gees...any song.
Now also usually the hook song is generally a commercial hit, the biggest of the year too.
(I'm not including other genre'/style--I'm talking big commercial stations, not alternative or rock. Keep reading and you'll see why.)

This year the award goes to...dah dah dah DAH: Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye! As with most smash hits, this song doesn't have ONE hook; every line is a hook. This is the song that you may not even like or that you've heard a bazillion times and yet you HAVE to listen to it when it comes on. It's mandatory even if you don't WANT to hear it on the radio. That's why it's called the "Hook." And you're the little fish dangling at the end of it. 

With hooks this good, this type of song runs through your brain incessantly at times, even when you don't realize it, like when you're humming it walking down the street scaring the hell out of people or singing the second verse while you're perusing the grocery store for dinner("Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over...") or when you suddenly break into the chorus in the Friends of the Library book store. Unlike other human musical connections, people don't smile at you when you do this. Why? Is your voice that atonal or off-key? No. Are you too  loud and distracting? No. They're giving you hard looks because now they're going to have it running through their heads for hours or days. "Thanks  loads," that's what they're thinking.

And with a song like Somebody, the hooks are so damned good that it crosses over radio programming! 

I've heard this song on alternative radio (where it started as far as I know) to Soft Rock stations to Power Pop stations to Love Song stations to soft jazz stations. Now that's a damned hook for you.

Don't even tell me that you don't like this style of music. I was never a fan of the Bee Gees disco era and yet I can still sing the line "You should be dancing, yeah!" unwillingly at the oddest times. Like now when I mentioned them above and now when I have it screeching through my head right now. 

Don't believe me? Unless you never listen to anything but rock or alternative or jazz or soft jazz and never change the radio station when you drive (MP3'ers go without saying) you'll slap your hand over your forehead at the list below, going "Oh yeah I should have known that!" 

Ready? Here we go.

"Hey There Delilah" -- Plain White T's
"It's Not Over" Chris Daughtry (my personal pick for best "man voice" in recent years even overshadowing Ronny Dunn of Brooks & Dunn)
"Since You've Been Gone", "Break Away", "Behind These Hazel Eyes" and pretty much every release by Kelly Clarkson
Any song by Pink
Any rap song that has Rhianna singing the chorus
Viva La Vida and Clocks by Coldplay

And that's just a handful of them. I'm sure you can reel off a bazillion more. But then again, those killer hooks are what makes it a hit in the first place. I've said this before a trillion times and I'll say it again and KEEP saying it: commercial success DOES NOT mean musical selling out. Examples: Sting. Nirvana, Goo Goo Dolls, U2, on and on and on.

Say what you like, I can virtually assure you that five, ten, fifteen, even twenty years from now, you're going to be humming, singing, or bashing your fist against your temple trying to get Somebody out of your brain. Don't believe that either?

"There's nothing I can say,
A total eclipse of the heart..."