What make a song great? What makes an album great? What makes an artist great?
There are many things, of course, that would do the trick but today the focus is on a relatively rare attribute that contributes to greatness - DRAMA!
A song that has no ups and downs, no dynamics, no surprises, no twists or turns - may result in a lack of drama and may have difficulty in holding your interest. Sure, some song may lack drama and seem to hold your interest for the 3 minutes it lasts, but will it do so 1 year later? 5 years later? 30 years later?
Drama keeps a song interesting, perhaps, forever. A song with drama continues to surprise, engage, bewilder, and stun a listener and forces us to pay attention. We might not ever get tired of it.
Think about some of the most iconic songs in rock or pop history such as the Beatles "A Day in the Life." The songs dreamy opening by Lennon is punctuated by the drums in an unexpected manner creating tremendous drama within the opening lyric; the first orchestral buildup is a stunning climax leading and leads to a middle verse from McCartney that is almost mechanical yet slightly off-kilter and odd. The middle eight explodes into an orchestral musical sequence that builds into a calming yet foreboding reprise of the original verse melody. Of course, the drama rebuilds when "I'd love to turn you on..." becomes the final orchestral flourish followed by the stunning last chord on 3 pianos. We never saw it coming. The effect is devastating.
Musically this is as dramatic as it gets. And this is why it is great. This is why it amazes after 50 years.
Drama - the secret sauce of the great ones.
The Beatles - "A Day in the Life"