Form in Popular Music
Like all music, popular music relies on repetition, contrast, and variation. Repetition is especially critical in music that is designed to be memorable (like advertising jingles) or music that must be predictable (like dance music). Given the importance of repetition in popular music, it is no surprise that there are not many songs in the popular sphere that are through-composed (although a few examples were mentioned in Form Archetypes) or that follow a theme and variations form.
- Verse – same music, different lyrics
- Chorus (Refrain) – same music, same words
- Bridge – contrasting material that connects two sections (usually falls between choruses)
- Break – instrumental interlude
- Introduction (Intro) - opening material
- Coda (Outro) - closing material
Verse-chorus form is often used in classic rock of the '60s and '70s, but appears in a variety of popular sub-genres. Examples include "Get Back" by the Beatles (1969), "Proud Mary" by Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969), and the "Hotel California" by the Eagles (1977). In this form, verses simply alternate with choruses for as many repetitions as the composer (songwriter) chooses. Thus, it is actually a variation of strophic form.
32-bar form was particularly popular in the American songs of Tin Pan Alley and movie musicals of the '30s and '40s. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz (1939) is an example of this form. 32-bar form gets its name because each of the four sections typically contains 8 bars (measures), making a total of 32 bars for the whole song. There is no chorus in this form. Instead, there is a verse that is repeated (with different lyrics), which is followed by a contrasting bridge, and the piece is concluded with a final verse. This form is a variation on the ternary archetype.
Verse-Chorus Form with Bridge
Combining verse-chorus form and 32-bar form results in verse-chorus form with a bridge. This is the most common form in modern popular music. Examples include "I'll Follow You Into the Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie (2005) and "Poker Face" by Lady GaGa (2008). The final A section may have both a verse and chorus, but usually consists of only the chorus, which may be repeated several times.
|Verse||Chorus||Verse||Chorus||Bridge||Verse (often omitted)||Chorus (often repeated)|