Monday, January 25, 2010

Best Thing I Heard Today: Brad Paisley doing "Then" (and also Change doing "The Glow of Love")

Hearing "Then" on the radio today, I realized the song is kind of about itself, at least in my world. That is, it keeps growing on me, and that's after I voted for it in a year-end poll, and after I've stuck up for it over on ILM's Rolling Country thread. But today it was even more touching, relatable, and perfect, like an image of my life here in Two-Thousand and Ten, so I thanked the song and said, "And I thought I loved you then." (This increase in love is kind of a relief, proof to myself that I didn't overrate it.) By all means click and listen:

"Then" is better than most sappy prom ballads, in part because its verse melody sets the song up to be in a minor key, which is unusual for a happy song. The minor opening gives the song some additional depth. It creates a wistful tinge of longing and maybe even uncertainty--is this going to be a sad song? Does she get run over by a train or something? But once we get to the soaring major chorus and we realize everything's OK, Brad Paisley's love sounds even happier for having made it through the minor-ness.

In 1980, Change's song "The Glow of Love," featuring Luther Vandross's first prominent lead vocal, employed a similar happy-minor strategy. This song's even better than "Then," and notice how the first three notes of their piano riffs are the same (5,3,2). Coincidence? Yeah, I'm sure it is.

On Youtube, the Change comments are mostly music-related; they talk about how great Luther was, and how great Michael Jackson was (sister Janet sampled "The Glow of Love" in "All For You"). The Brad Paisley comments, on the other hand, are mostly shout-outs and dedications, tributes to real life love and how people use this song in their actual lives. Will we still be using it in 30 years? "Then" is so perfectly crafted, it should be sturdy enough to survive, no problem.

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