Her latest single, Lose The Game, is a pop-writer’s dream come true. At only 2:45 long it’s chock’a block full of hooks and choruses and manages to explain love in a nifty new (to me anyway) metaphor to boot!
It’s a bouncy four pulse in the key of F at a head nod-inducing 160 BPM. A suitably twangy parlour piano with accompanying whistle leads the riffage, skipping over an octave-wide pentatonic phrase. It’s chirpy cheerful pop outlining our protagonist’s happy resignation to fall in love. It’s economical in harmony and builds on the repetition of the rock solid rhythm section to allow for variation of vocal phrasing.
Let’s not mess around! Four bars of intro hook between F and Bb measures and straight into verse one – typically advertisers pay extra for an edited version that short.
While the piano keeps the crochet pulse going, drums drop the kick from beat three and the bass alternates between stabs and short melodic lines. This helps to empty the mix of crochet clutter and creates space for the lyric. It also gives the feel of a subtle half time underpinning the verses, allowing for the two-bar pre to ramp up to a driving chorus where everyone nails the crochet pulse, even the vocal lyric.
The simple chorus line echoes melodic elements of the whistle-hook; shell, “Lose the game for you, happy to be a fool, just for you.”
Letting go of pride and embracing defeat as a harmonious consequence of falling in love is a great take on relationships and L.A. pushes the metaphor further in verse two with lines like; “Match point, to your advantage” and “Love is not a game for taking sides.”
Critics might dismiss these as somewhat cliché but I’d argue context plays a big part in getting away with it. The rush of giddy exuberance overall in lyric/whistle-hook and driving crochet pulse clearly sets this song in the #HeadOverHeels #NewLove category and (I’d argue) exempts corniness as an apt admonishment.
The harmony is economical and utilises the five strongest diatonic chords in existence. Verses and choruses are static on I IV, alternating with ii V to end the phrases and enhance the vocals shift to minim length notes. The chordal movement is functional in nature and uses a series of perfect cadences to propel the music to a satisfying resolution on the tonic F. The next logical chord to establish musical change in tone would be the vi chord, and sure enough this opens the bridge section before engaging in another series of perfect cadences (with the addition of an intermediary IV chord) to link us back to our home chord.
vi (IV) ii (IV) V I
There are some golden tempo ranges in music where the harmonic rhythm (length of time chords last) feels expansive enough not to be considered fleeting while the speed of the overall pulse allows for more repetition of structure over a given time frame. This song sits in one of those zones. It has an intro hook, verse, pre, chorus, hook, verse, pre, chorus, hook, bridge, chorus x 2, hook. All in the space of 2:45!
We are told short songs are favoured by radio because they can fit more of them in a block between radios real job of plying you with advertisements. Perfectly formed songs like Lose The Game can hopefully give the listener a sense of fulfilment as well because in writing this one, L.A. hasnt scrimped on any of the good things that energise a satisfying song – great metaphor/sing-along melody/exciting driving rhythmic backing and most importantly, whistling.
Godfrey de Grut is a Silver Scroll co-winner with Che Fu. 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