Self-proclaiming songs - are they what they claim to be?
May 15, 2023
Are these iconic tunes fit for purpose?
At Startle, we know the impact different elements in a piece of music can have. For example, several studies have shown that songs with a faster tempo and higher BPM can make you shop faster, whereas slower music can cause increased spending on high-involvement products like furniture or electronics. And it’s not just tempo - elements like key and lyrics can also tell you a lot.
So, when a song claims to be something, for example ‘Music for a Sushi Restaurant’, are they accurate?
Music For A Sushi Restaurant
Key: F# major
The opener to Harry Styles’ third album, Music for a Sushi Restaurant was released in 2022 as a smooth jazz and funky ‘70s pop song. Inspired by a visit to a sushi restaurant in LA, the song has many references to food and opens with an arpeggiated synth riff, creating a tight groove, following into the descending chord progression that becomes one of the most consistent elements of the song.
Most sushi restaurants would match this vibe - they’re usually light, fun, encourage a variety of food choices, and are typically less formal than other dining experiences. The song is in the F# major key, the second ‘sharpest’ key (it has six sharps in the key signature), so it’s pretty bright sounding.
Party Rock Anthem
Key: F minor
Released in 2011, this song by LMFAO became a soundtrack for partying and highlighted the success of EDM. NPR described the song as one that “explicitly wants you to take a vacation from your problems, relax your critical musicals, dance together like it’s no big deal”, and “it asks us to turn off the part of our brain that’s critical of things like songwriting or performance or complexity, and rewards our submission by delivering its wordless hook deep into some zombie pleasure centre”.
Whilst this description might sound like a criticism, it’s exactly what a party song should be. Gathered with your friends, having a dance, you’re not there to take in deep and meaningful lyrics or analyse chord progressions; you just want a simple hook, fun noises (like sirens in this song), some lively drums and a manic drop - its BPM of 130 helps with this.
Bottom line is - don’t take the song too seriously, and you’ve got a perfect party rock anthem. No lies here.
The Lazy Song
Key: B major
Bruno Mars released this reggae-influenced tune in 2010, with themes of (you guessed it) laziness, leisure and relaxation. A simple song with self explanatory lyrics like “I’ll be lounging on my couch just chillin’ in my snuggie”, The Lazy Song is in the key of B major, a happy, bright key signature. It has a pretty low BPM of 87, supporting the chilled out vibe (it’s even got a ukulele).
Key: F# major
Does the iconic The Beach Boys song, ‘Good Vibrations’, actually give us good vibrations?
The song, known for its smooth harmonies, is a collage of six sections strung together recorded at different recording studios. The arrangement of the harmonies within each section work together to create dramatic shifts between them. There’s fun doo wop backing vocals, hooks galore, and falsettos we all attempt to sing along to. The BPM is pretty high, so the upbeat tempo helps to keep the good vibes going, and the major key keeps it happy and bright. Interestingly, the song isn’t in just one key - the beginning verses are in E♭minor and the hook is in F# major - the shift from a flat minor key to a sharp major key could convey the message of good vibrations. The key changes throughout keeps the song engaging and interesting to listen to.
So, when a song is self-proclaiming, it's usually pretty accurate. This might be related to the expectancy theory in behavioural science, and just the fact that it makes sense to have a congruent song title and sound.
To find out more about making sure the music in your retail or hospitality venue is perfect, get in touch.
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Creative Director at Startle. It's my job to produce and execute our music output, making sure everything is sounding, feeling and performing just right for our customers. When I'm not doing this, you can find me either walking my dog, remixing 90s divas on Logic Pro X, returning overdue library books or throwing weights about in the gym.