What do luxury cars and great songs have in common?

I heard a luxury car commercial on the radio yesterday. A smooth male voice caressed his words as he waxed poetic about the human need for both “dependability and spontaneity.” He was undoubtedly trying to highlight the “dependability” of the famous company’s pre-owned cars while urging the potential customer to be “spontaneous” and buy one today. I must confess, though, that I took his words to refer to the “dependability” of paying lots and lots of money and then having to suffer the “spontaneous” breaking-down of the used car after driving it for a year. (I think I’ll stick with my 3-year old Camry.)

It’s true, though, that we humans have a need for dependability and spontaneity. This is evident in song form: Verse/chorus/verse/chorus/spontaneity/dependability/spontaneity/dependability.

Verse: The “story” part of the lyric, eg: “I have come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee…” “It rained all night the day I left…” Each verse has different words and they provide interest and a sense of spontaneity, or at least continual contrast.

Chorus: “Oh Susanna…” The same every time, as if we’re greeting a familiar friend each time it comes ’round again.

Many songs take this a step further by adding a musical “bridge” for further contrast. This makes the return to the chorus (also called the “refrain”) all the more welcome and comforting when it eventually arrives.

Check this out closely the next time you listen to your favorite radio station. And put it into your own music, in whatever style you’re into. The need for both dependability and spontaneity is a very real and necessary part of our human experience.

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