My buddy Kevan has talked about “perfect songs” for as long as I’ve known him (our history goes back to the late 90’s, I know he’s had this idea longer). This isn’t one of those non-sensical rants that happen at bars, either. Kevan is a pretty smart guy. He co-founded Jemfest and invented the Tremol-No. So when a smart guy has been thinking about the same idea for a few decades, I think this idea needs to get down on paper. Well, digital paper.
Without further delay, take it away Kevan…
I have this theory.
It’s called “The Perfect Song”.
That may sound kind of odd or even impossible, but for a music lover…..it’s real. Some folks hear it, but aren’t able to name it for what it is. Usually it’s just listed as a ‘favorite’, and that’s just fine.
My theory goes a little deeper into it. I’ll do my best to explain. A “Perfect Song” means that all the parts of the song relate perfectly with one another: drums go with guitar, which matches the vocals which goes with the bassline, that goes with the song structure that has the correct time signature and key.
These songs are FEW and far between, but they do exist.
The tricky part is that not everyone has the same vision (hearing?) of what ‘perfect’ is. What I think belongs on the Perfect Song Theory list, will probably be different than what’s on your list, or your neighbor’s list, et. al. Sometimes the song paths cross, so don’t freak out if they do.
I’ll give you a few examples from my personal list, then you can go build your own.
– “Return To Serenity” by Testament.
This was the first one on my list and the catalyst to building my theory. All musical parts work impeccably with each other, as does the timing and structure. The tempo changes, the solos….it *all* works. There are no left-overs or things that shouldn’t be in there.
– “I Love You (Alway Forever)” by Donna Lewis
Wait? A bubble-gum pop song?!!? Yes. This one makes this list foremost on it’s structure. Donna (who actually wrote the song), uses the chorus as a bridge. To me, that’s brilliant. Is it complex with Dream Theatre-type changes and uber-mixolydian alien scales for the pre-intro solo? No. It’s just a clever way to build a song.
– “Warriors Of The Wasteland (Attack Mix)” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood
This one *becomes* perfect after a little back story. If you listen to the original album mix of the song, it’s your typical FGTH club pop: post-apocalyptic lyrics, simple structure, basic time signature, etc. But…..when the producer, Trevor Horn, bumped into (literally) mega-guitarist Gary Moore in the lobby of the studio, the song became perfect. For me, at least. Trevor asked Gary if he’d want to lay down some guitar solo tracks for a project he was working on. Gary agreed, and now we have the “Attack Mix”. Now the vocals, the drums, the bass, and especially the guitar are working in sync and take the song to the next level. The structure now has a couple of big solo breaks for Gary, and a wicked break down, an excellent bridge, and the ‘leave ya hanging’ ending.
– “Sultans Of Swing”- Dire Straits
This one is a favorite of guitarists everywhere because it’s more a dictionary of wicked licks than it is a typical song. The structure is simple, but there’s really a mini-solo after every line of lyrics. The outro solo is a workout even for the most experienced guitarists.
– “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”- Warrant
Again, a fairly basic hair-metal song. Some nice solo breaks during each verse though. The acoustic intro and outro really ‘finish’ the song. The music video was done well too.
What makes “Sultans” and “Cabin” perfect is the mood they set and the stories they tell. Lyrics are *so* important when it comes to the Perfect Song Theory. While I love that Geddy Lee uses words like “unfurled”, that may be a bit too much. Yes- we want to think, but we don’t want to have to break out a thesaurus in the middle of a track.
So, now you have some basics as to what the Perfect Song Theory is about. As the name implies, it’s just a theory. We all hear the same song differently.
There is no correct answer.
If you don’t like the songs on my list, that’s cool.
Go make your own.