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Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Firework" - Katy Perry Song Analysis

Today we're going to analyze Katy Perry's hit "Firework," a song which, in my opinion, epitomizes the best of current production (done by the production team Stargate and Sandy Vee, who are also the co-writers). The song is the third single from her second album Teenage Dream and went to #1 on Billboard charts.

As with all analysis, we'll break the song down into four parts - the song itself, the arrangement, the sound and performance.

The Song - "Firework" is a more or less traditional pop song in that it has a common structure found in most hits - short intro, verse, B-section, chorus, chorus, verse, B-section, chorus, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus, outro. The form looks like this:

A, A, B, C, C, A, B, C, C, D, C, C, C.

That doesn't mean it's boring though. The song builds nicely and takes us through a couple of peaks, thanks to the song's built-in dynamics. It even has an ending, which is unusual for a pop song.

The Arrangement - The arrangement is state-of-the-art. The intro and first verse are very sparse, with the strings entering at the first B-section and continue to build to a crescendo through the 1st chorus. The chorus repeats with additional movement from the entrance of the bass.

The first half of the second verse drops down to just 8th notes on the keyboards plus the drum pattern, but changes with the entrance of the bass into the second half - a very nice arrangement touch.

Some other things I especially liked is the line in between the repeat of the 2nd chorus, the harmony vocals on the repeat, and the background vocal answers in the outro. Also, listen to how the vocal melody subtly changes on the 2nd and 3rd choruses. 

I always preach about dynamics as the key to excitement, either live or on a record, and this song is an excellent example of how it's done.

The Sound - Once again, here's an example of how the sound of pop records has returned to the 80's/90's in that everything except has some depth to it. Katy has what sounds like a timed triplet delay on her voice that triggers the reverb, so there's depth and spaciousness without washing out. The same is true on the rest of the track in that there's some space around each instrument except for the bass and drums, which are dry and in your face.

The Performance - It's easy to think of Katy Perry as a lightweight because of her celebrity and exposure, but the girl has some pipes and this song proves it. She really sells the song and pulls you in. Plus, she sings harmony vocals very well with herself, which all singers can't do.

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Factory Yoyo said...

My kids absolutely love this song, and I think it is excellently crafted pop. However, though your comment about her pipes are on in terms of volume,to my ears she sounds like she is constantly on the edge of being in tune when she goes full-throat.

Nathan Wills said...

Wonder insight to this track which on many levels has show it to be a hit. I've focused on music my like a toy or game neglecting the struture of song arrangement, which i've more changing to have the balance. I'll be applying aspects of this to my next album. Your posts have been a valid learning curve.

Craig said...

I really appreciate that you don't skip material like this in your analysis, just because it's "pop".

So many people completely discount the difficulty of creating "pop" or "top 40" music and end up missing out on some really well crafted music.

Sure, the 8hr. pop song challenge on youtube is entertaining, but it really only serves to show how many musicians have less respect than they should for the effort it takes to create popular music.

Gian Nicola said...

Thank you Bobby, really great analysis! This makes songs more interesting, you are teaching us how to listen and how to arrange, thank you very much!
Will you come in Italy for some course some day? I really hope so!
Thank You
Gian Nicola
Please absolutely keep on analysing todays hits!
Which sites do you suggest to get the best top chart / ranking (I dont' know exactly how to say it) about latest music?

Bobby Owsinski said...

The Ultimate Chart at may be the most accurate as it shows how a song is played in all sorts of media.

Gian Nicola said...

Thank you very much!

Gian Nicola said...

Thank you Bobby!


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