This was the summer that Taste of Honey got Daft Punked. If you wonder what others have been doing with their summer, the 120 million hits on the youtube video of "Get Lucky" offers a clue.
Hearing the melody of "Get Lucky" emanating from my daughters' rooms upstairs, I was reminded of the 1960's hit Taste of Honey. How could this be? Time to launch those serious music theory chops, and begin with the underlying harmonic progression of Get Lucky, which is four bars long, repeating over and over underneath the joyous, infectious vocals. That harmony is essentially the same as the first four bars of Taste of Honey (after the slow intro). And the two melodies (in Get Lucky, the melody that carries the words "We've come too far to give up who we are.") have a matching rise with a small fall at the end, which, if you think about it, approximates the arc of a wave as it approaches the shore. Each group of four bars is a miniature wave, rising to a fall, over and over, with each fall being immediately followed by the next rise, as mesmerizing and endlessly engaging as the ocean's lapping at the beach.
Most tunes have a "bridge"--a contrasting section partway through that has different harmony. But "Get Lucky" sticks with the same four-bar harmonic progression all the way through, with contrasting melodies over the top. A day at the beach, too, has no "bridge" section. The ocean delivers one wave after another, its repetition saved from monotony by the endless variation.
Music styles with an African-based rhythm, like salsa or samba, remind me of the sounds and images nature produces--ocean waves, cloud patterns, the play of light on water, the morning chorus of birds--in that the underlying complexity registers as something beautiful, emotionally direct and compelling.
In Get Lucky, it's the rhythm guitar that provides the rhythmic stream, complex but engaging, direct but elusive enough to maintain interest. The melody on top of that rhythmic stream starts as unison ("We've come too far"), then breaks into harmony ("to give up who we are.") like the shimmering light on a breaking wave.
Trumpeter Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, who popularized Taste of Honey back in the early 1960s, worked the beach metaphor to the max in this youtube video.
I didn't make it out to the Jersey shore this summer, but thanks to Daft Punk, who single handedly have resurrected the word "daft" from the deep dust of dictionaries, the feel of the beach was delivered to our home.
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