Author: Ensign, Jeffrey S.
Title: Form in Popular Song, 1990-2009
Institution: University of North Texas
Begun: January 2014
Completed: August 2015
Through an examination of 402 songs that charted in the top 20 of the Billboard year-end charts between the years 1990 and 2009, this dissertation builds upon previous research in form of popular song by addressing the following questions: 1) How might formal sections be identified through melody, harmony, rhythm, instrumentation, and text? 2) How do these sections function and relate to one another and to the song as a whole? 3) How do these sections, and the resulting formal structures, relate to what has been described by previous theorists as normative? 4) What new norms and trends can be observed in popular song forms since 1990?
Although many popular songs since 1990 do follow well-established forms, some songwriters and producers change and vary these forms. AAA strophic form, AABA form, Verse-Chorus form, Verse-Chorus with Prechorus and/or Postchorus sections, Verse-Chorus-Bridge form, “Other, with a Chorus” and “Other, without a Chorus” forms are addressed.
An increasing number of the songs in each of the above listed forms are based on a repeating harmonic progression or no harmonic progression at all. In such songs, the traditional method of identifying sections and section-functions through harmonic analysis is less useful as an analytical tool, and other musical elements (melody, rhythm, instrumentation, and text) are as important, if not even more so, in determining the form of songs in the sample.
Keywords: form, pop, popular song, Billboard, 1990-2009
Jeffrey S. Ensign