The power of a descending bassline …

I don’t usually do ‘Song for Sunday’ type posts, but felt inspired today.

I was listening to Broadcasting House, the Sunday morning magazine programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning, and there was a feature on why Baby by Justin Bieber is a classic pop song. It has all the hallmarks – being written in E flat major – a classic key, and featuring the The Doo-Wop chord progression as used in Ben E King’s sublime Stand by me and also by Mozart in La Clemenza di Tito. That descending bassline is great; Baby may be a well-crafted pop-song, but it doesn’t do it for me, and I don’t believe it’ll have any longevity beyond being the Beibster’s first big hit.

I could offer you Procul Harum’s wonderful A Whiter Shade of Pale (based on Bach of course), which goes down the whole octave in its chord progressions – a ground bass.  Instead, I offer one of my favourite pop songs of all time, which shares the same bassline, but has wonderful over the top orchestration and the wonderfully ironic dead-pan delivery of Neil Tennant’s singing.  I love this song so much, it might even make my fantasy Desert Island Discs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you It’s a sin

0 thoughts on “The power of a descending bassline …

  1. tobyhuelin says:

    A great post and an important point! Interesting also to note the use of the minor descending bass line, as in Dido’s aria ‘When I Am Laid In Earth’ from Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas, and songs like ‘Feelin’ Good’ or Bastille’s Overjoyed 🙂

    • gaskella says:

      Hi Toby, thank you. Those descending basslines really hook you don’t they – love the Nina Simone, and amazingly am familiar with the bit you’re referring to in Dido and Aeneas, but don’t know Bastille at all – a band to check out maybe.

  2. acommonreaderuk says:

    Bach started it all with Air on a G string, or perhaps Pachabel did it with his “Canon”.

    My vote is for It’s a Sin – a great song in my book. Interesting post – thanks for sharing

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