Speak to Me, Volume 7 is here!
For Speak to Me, Volume 7, I chose a well-known song — “Message in a Bottle” by Sting. Sting, you are not alone in being alone. 🙂
I have always loved this song for the same reason that I love Paul Simon’s “Slip Slidin’ Away”: the sad subtext of the song is hidden beneath a shiny, upbeat pop surface. This song teaches us that you don’t always have to match the mood of the music to the meaning of the words. Setting up a contrast can make for a powerful transmission of ideas and emotion.
Structurally I love this song for its simplicity. Verse/Chorus, Verse/Chorus, Verse/Chorus. I know this is third-hand hearsay, but my friend Chuck Pickeral told me that he heard Sting speak about writing this song. He said Sting was a stickler for form, and he tried really hard to make a bridge to fit into this song. But as everything he was feeling forced, he realized that he had already said what he needed to say. This is a very important lesson!! There is no need to force something into a song just because form dictates it. Brevity is king in the three and a half minute pop song.
Speaking of three and a half minutes, I’m sure you noticed that my version of this song is really damn long. I hope you don’t mind going with me on a slightly longer journey! I was really tuning in to the loneliness and isolation here and remembering the times I have felt like that in my life. It’s quite a hypnotic and meditative when slowed down like this.
Finally, I love what Sting has done with chords transitioning from verse to chorus. Many times in pop songs we will see the verse anchored in a minor key, then the switch to the relative major at the chorus. Sting treats us to some different ear candy by beginning on the 3 minor: E minor, C, D, A minor is the pattern of the verse. We think we are in the key of E minor. But then when the chorus comes in on C major, it opens everything up and illustrates the hope he is daring to feel. Yummy.