Genius Melodic Gestures #2
Adore You

harry-styles-pajamas-sketch

words and music by Amy Allen, Thomas Hull, Tyler Johnson, and Harry Styles

What makes this Melody genius?

  • Unexpected twists and turns.
  • Yet it hangs together perfectly.
  • In doing so, it embodies the main point of the song.

an overview

At first, “Adore You” seems like yet one more “simple pop tune” about infatuation. But if we listen closely to the melody of the verse, we hear something so nuanced that it can in no way be brushed off as “simple.” It mimics that feeling of being “head over heels in love,” where our senses fire on all cylinders, generating associations that ricochet like a pinball machine. Yet the tune feels solid; it holds together and “makes sense.” But how?

the details

Listen to the opening tune. In the bottom staff, I’ve highlighted the oddball leaps and direction changes.

“Adore You,” opening phrase 

Why does this melody hold together so well? The songwriters us an old songwriting hack. Well, “old” in the sense that many great songwriters have used it. But also “new” in because I’ve never seen it written down before.

So here goes: first the principle, then the formula.

the principle: If the underlying foundation of a melody is simple and solid, we get an opportunity to mess with the surface motion.

In “Adore You,” the first phrase is built atop two scales. (What could be more simple or solid?)

“Adore You,” underlying structure 

the formula: When a scale in your melody sounds dull, try replacing a passing tone.

The yellow highlights in the image above shows that the songwriters replaced two passing tones. The first time, rather than going straight down from C to A, the tune steps up then leaps down—like the way a cat crouches before pouncing. Then at the end of the phrase, the line does the opposite: it drops first then bounces back.

takeaways and practical applications

If one of your melodies “just doesn’t do anything interesting,” the technique I just showed you might add that missing spark.

I call it “melodic parkour.” Rather than going straight from point A to point B, a parkour practitioner will bounce off a wall, or crouch on a ledge, then pounce. Let those images be a guide as you try this out in your own melodies.

Melodic Parkour  

Here are two other songs that use melodic parkour. Notice that the original scales are just 3 notes long.

“Love Lies,”by Khalid 
“Minuet #1 in G,” by Beethoven 

Hope you learned something you can use. Or at least that you found a new appreciation for a simple pop song about infatuation.

A final note. I love that “Adore You” has no introduction. So rare. But an intro would ruin the immediacy of this song. How many other songs do you know that start sans intro? Leave titles in the comments.

Want to go further? You CAN!

Each chapter in this 300-page eBook breaks down everything that effective composers do intuitively. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of step-by-step instructions to help you create the same effects in your own music.

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Picture of David Fuentes

David Fuentes

Professor Fuentes is a composer, author, teacher, and clinician. He brings over 30 years of teaching experience from institutions that include Berklee College of Music, the University of Iowa, Brandeis University, and Calvin University.

Dr. Fuentes’ music has been performed all across the world. It includes music for the classical concert stage, theater and musical theater, television, art installations, popular music genres, and the church.

A published author, his writing on composition, vocation and the arts, and the place of music in human flourishing has been influential in the development of music curriculum in an ever-changing world.

You can find samples of his music and writing on his personal website: davidfuentesmusic.com, which also provides a longer bio.

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