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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

James Morrison "You Give Me Something" Song Analysis

Reader Chris Toliver requested a song analysis of James Morrison's "You Give Me Something," a song that did very well worldwide but never did much in the the US. The song was from Morrison's first album called Undiscovered. Like all song analysis, we'll look at the form of the song, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

The Song
"You Give Me Something" is a pretty straight-ahead song form found on hundreds of hits. It looks like this:

Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, Intro/Outro

You can't discount this form because it's so common though, it works and works well, which is why it's repeated so often and has become a standard in modern music.

The Arrangement
The arrangement to the song sounds pretty simple at first listen, but there's a lot more going on if you listen hard. Each section has slight changes in terms of instrumentation, sometimes kept low in the mix, but they add motion and interest.

  * The Foundation: The bass and drums.

  * The Pad: Electric piano and strings

  * The Rhythm: An electric guitar strumming on the left side of the mix.

  * The Lead: The vocal, the strings in the intro/outro and the synth brass in the bridge.

  * The Fills: Dueling clean electric guitars in the second verse and chorus, and counterpoint string parts in the chorus.

The Sound
The sound of the song is deceiving in that it sounds very dry and in your face, but there's actually more going on than meets the ear on first listen. The drums have what sounds like natural ambiance as does the strings. The vocals have just a touch of a very short room reverb to put a space around it, as does the piano. Sometimes what seems dry is anything but.

The mix is interesting in that it's very typical for a pop song. The vocal is very much in the front of the mix, especially in the beginning of the song. This is common for a song where there's a strong melody and vocalist where the power of the music isn't as important as the selling of the song via the performance. As the song goes along, the vocal is pulled back in the mix as more instruments are introduced. This has to happen so we can hear all of the instrument elements.

The Production
On first listen it's easy to think that there's not much going on production-wise on "You Give Me Something," but like other aspects of the song, there's much more than meets the ear. The song develops nicely and holds the listeners interest by introducing something different in every section. I especially like the dual guitar lines and fills in the second verse and the acoustic guitar at the very end of the song. The strings are great as well going from a nice lush sound in the first verse to a huge orchestra with some great orchestration in the chorus. The synth brass in the bridge might've sounded better with real horns, but it's a pretty good line that really works in the context of the arrangement. This is a really well-made record.

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