In a post-Royals world, the songs that capture the public’s attention might not have to be high octane club anthems or hipster-ised indie swank anymore. Lorde may have opened the door for a new breed of elegant pop constructions to ascend the charts, and there is no better current example to refer to than Bridges, by the fast-climbing Broods.
Inevitably there will be comparisons made between Broods and Lorde, primarily stemming from the fact they share the same mega-producer, Joel Little. Aside from both songs drawing on a refreshingly contained electronic pop arrangement, Broods manages to retain an independent writing identity on Bridges that tips its hat more to TNAF than Lorde I’d wager.
Bridges begins with a breathy female vocal anacrusis before being anchored by a lone piano sounding an Emin chord. This verse phrase repeats in a lopsided two-measure pattern weighted toward the end of the second measure, utilising shifting voicings of Emin and Amin.
These chord colours provide a familiar i-iv type static harmonic movement for the listener, though with the quickening harmonic rhythm falling at the end of bar two, the i-iv symmetry of the phrase is corrupted and this helps maintain tension throughout the verse.
It takes a degree of subtlety to craft tension simply by singing over a i-iv but I think Broods and Little have nailed it here with their inspired usage of an irregularly placed lyric, whose phrasing twists and turns throughout the verse until the hook arrives against the kick drum, and a new facet of song construction takes over at the Pre Chorus.
Finessed with a kick drum pulse, the vocal “Now I’m burning all the bridges,” hook opener is a rhythmic throw back to the song’s first vocal entry and introduces new melodic ideas to the mix with some delicately placed vocal edits riding the filtering synth-build toward a presumably mammoth chorus. And yes, it arrives, but not as big as you’d expect.
We have the obligatory kick drum drop and isolated vocal hook heralding the entry of the chorus proper, but it’s not dance floor overblown like a Guetta mix. The side chain compression box is ticked but not in an overly harsh way, the real impact is primarily gained through the introduction of the (secretly expected?) tonic chord G major on the downbeat, redefining what we heard initially as a i-iv verse on its head (now vi-ii).
G | Am | Em | C Am | G | Am | G/D | C Am |
It’s a tried and true device to switch to the relative major to re-contextualise the lyric but again, it’s not an overplayed gimmick and Broods certainly don’t muddy the harmonic palette with chord iii or the more ubiquitous V. They settle for leaning on a C (IV) briefly in the phrase and playfully employ a suspenseful G chord in second inversion (G/D) the second time through (instead of the Emin) so as not to pre-empt the return to the relative minor flavor, and steal its thunder, before subsiding into the second verse.
This next verse section plays its structural part.After a drop out for the first two measures, the kick pulse resumes keeping the momentum chugging along. A dotted rhythm flourish is added to the kick figure prior to the pre chorus which this time is appropriately truncated, and gets us back to the pay off chorus that little bit quicker. The only new melodic material after this point is added at the bridge and leans heavily on the major 7th degree of the scale (F#), which has only before been heard as a passing note. Though the chords remain the same as the chorus this simple weighting of melody is enough to re-colour this section and let it stand distinct from previous elements.
The song has done well. Top 10 here and over 200,000 streams after being picked up by the on-line aggregators. It might not have the lyrical depth of Lorde but I doubt it was aiming for that. It’s a slick package with a knowing ear for subtlety and crafted to fill a gold-mine niche in pop music that commercial radio is necessarily, as we speak, scrabbling to programme convincingly.
Good luck to all involved. Nice bit of ear candy, especially the G/D!
Godfrey de Grut is a Silver Scroll co-winner with Che Fu, and was MD of the 2013 Silver Scrolls. He is now a freelance writer, arranger and producer, lecturing in popular music studies at the University of Auckland. Follow his musical ramblings @GodfreyDeGrut on Twitter or email firstname.lastname@example.org