Friday, February 17, 2012

Adele, Appoggiatura, and Commonality of Heartbreak

Adele is all over the place now. She received six Grammy's. In addition, she's receiving a lot of play time on most radio stations worldwide. You can hear her at Starbucks, at the doctor's office, even at Costco. Adele's ubiquitous which is one of the better things to come out of pop culture.

She's even featured on the Wall Street Journal as an illustration of appoggiatura. The article entitled, "Anatomy of a Tear-Jerker" zeroes in on Adele's track "Someone Like You" and why it resonates with most people.

Personally, I don't care much for the track. I find the chord progression too simple and the lyrics vexingly clichéd. But, I like the video. No, correction, I am in deep like with the video. It reminds of my most favorite French film of all time, the spectacular Last Year at Marienbad by Alain Resnais. Incidentally, if you do need to take a couple of hours to yourself and work something out in your mind, give this film a try. It will lead you to a kind of introspection few other things can. But that's another post. A trailer from the 1961 film is featured below:

The WSJ article stipulates that the reason why a track like "Someone Like You" has such wide appeal is because of appoggiatura which is an ornamental note that clashes with the melody just enough to create a dissonant sound. "This generates tension in the listener," said Martin Guhn, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia who co-wrote a 2007 study on the subject. "When the notes return to the anticipated melody, the tension resolves, and it feels good.

A bit from the article says: "Measuring listeners' responses, Dr. Zatorre's team found that the number of goose bumps observed correlated with the amount of dopamine released, even when the music was extremely sad. The results suggest that the more emotions a song provokes—whether depressing or uplifting—the more we crave the song."

You can read the rest of the article here.


Liam said...

Very interesting! Of course we have physical, physiological, and neurological responses to music, and I'm really impressed with all I've heard of hers. Obviously her producer shares a lot of that credit.

Unknown said...

"I'm in deep like"... I like this. I should make a habit to use this more often as I have some opportunity to do so.
I'm watching Last Year at Marienbad this weekend. Can you believe I haven't yet? I like Resnais' Holocaust documentary from the 50's but haven't seen much else from him. The trailer looks haunting enough for me to be interested.
Appoggiatura, what a sexy word!

Unknown said...

By the way, thanks to your post a while back, I'm stuck singing along to her Set Fire to the Rain song....

Sra said...

I think Adele is a rare example of a pop artist who deserves the attention she is receiving. That said, I do feel a little overexposed to her music. I don't even try to hear it, but I have heard all the singles from 21 countless times. There is a risk of being permanently put off of the songs with that much exposure. (I still can't stand to listen to the Santana / Rob Thomas song Smooth, nor the Coldplay song Clocks because of the severe level of overplay they each received in their day.) Anyway, I think Someone Like You is lovely for its simplicity. I like the lyrics too. They hit home without being campy or overly sentimental. The video is great, thanks for sharing it!