Analysis through Melodic consideration

Big Picture:

 

The feeling each discrete note carries

 

Nature of how notes are strung together

 

 

 

Properties of notes with respect to each other

 

Larger scale organization

How groups of notes relate to Lyrics and feelings

 

Connecting musical gestures to Lyrical meaning

If a section is too confusing, just skip it and go on to the next. Sections 4 and 5 are the most important.

Part One: Harmonic/Expressive implications of Melody line

 

Young Thug stays within the key of the song, almost never landing on non-harmonic tones (accidentals). And within this diatonic context, one can map out how each note (scale degree) functions, consistent across all Young Thug songs.

 

We begin by acknowledging that in most songs: the tonic (usually minor) chord is the strongest and most frequently sounded harmony. Since each pitch in Thug's melody is measured against the same tonic note, patterns begin to emerge in terms of what feeling notes convey, individually and as a group.

 

And if we assume that Thug hadn't written out the lyrics before he recorded the song, we can also assume that the pitch choice is in some way connected to the feelings behind phrases and entire sections of songs.

 

For now, we shall think of pitches as scale degrees, to find some generality between songs. Each note in all of Young Thug's melodic content corresponds to one of these notes!

 

Scale degree numbers map to notes of the scale. For example, in G minor:

 

G = 1

A = 2

Bb = 3

C = 4

D = 5

Eb = 6

F = 7

G = 8

 

Note: Thug never uses #7, Leading Tone of the harmonic minor scale and 3rd of the Major V chord. This creates a smooth, natural minor scale, with a fifth between 3-7. This stems from the fact that Young Thug avoids the minor 2nd (halfstep/semitone).

 

The following audio clip plays each scale degree in order (ascending), as well as the tonic pitch for comparison. It is worth giving this a couple listens, to get the scale in your ear before continuing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, we map these scale degrees to qualitative terms that I believe convey the feeling as best as I can.

 

1 - Comfortable, at home

2 - Not quite home, soft dissonance

3 - Hug tone

4 - Question, Unresolved, Suspended

5 - Ambiguous: open 5th sound; usually comfortable, but can be recontextualized

6 - Extended, but stable if approached stepwise

7 - Smooth

8 - Top of range, tension

 

 

The following videos are transcriptions of two Thug songs, with notes colour coded to demonstrate the proposed "Qualities of Scale degrees". I apologize for ads that may appear on these videos, apparently the copyright owner is encouraged to advertise on videos in which their content is used.

 

 

                         Melodic Transcription and Analysis of "Draw Down"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scale Degrees with Tonic - Demo
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Qualities of Scale degrees

Key: G minor

 

G - Comfortable, at home

A - Not quite home, soft dissonance

Bb - Hug tone

C - Question, Unresolved, Suspended

D - Comfortable

Eb - Extended, but stable if approached stepwise

F - Smooth

G - Top of range, tension

Melodic Transcription and Analysis of "Power"

Qualities of Scale degrees

Key: F# minor

 

F# - Comfortable, at home

G# - Not quite home, soft dissonance

A - Hug tone

B - Question, Unresolved, Suspended

C# - Comfortable

D - Extended, but stable if approached stepwise

E - Smooth

F# - Top of range, tension

Melodic Transcription and Analysis of "Don't Know"

Qualities of Scale degrees

Key: Bb minor

 

Bb - Comfortable, at home

C - Not quite home, soft dissonance

Db - Hug tone

Eb - Question, Unresolved, Suspended

F - Comfortable

Gb - Extended, but stable if approached stepwise

Ab - Smooth

Bb - Top of range, tension (NA, too high)

Note: The colours have changed. This transcription uses a software called MAM, and I can't choose the colours.

The first step to understanding this is by recognizing implied harmonies of pitches:

 

1 - tonic (i)

2 - dominant (V), sus2, or passing tone

3 - sits in the middle of the tonic triad (i), as well as Major triad built on 3 (3-5-7). 

4 - minor iv (4-6-8), P4 unstable interval above tonic

5 - top note of tonic triad (i)/root of dominant (V)

6 - Relative major, VI

7 - top of triad built on 3 (3-5-7), minor 7th (soft dissonance) above tonic. Also implies minor 7th tonic harmony 1-3-5-7.

8 - Comfortable pitch, but higher register

 

This list is not specific to Young Thug. In fact, this is fairly universal to tonal functional music. For instance, the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo violin all use this idea of melody line implying harmonic function.

 

So keep this in mind - that each note has intrinsic meaning of its own. I will develop this in the following sections.

Part Two: A) Melodic Contour and the Law of Attraction

 
Young Thug's melodic contour (when not autotuned) often follows the "Law of Gravity" defined in Arabic Music.

In the words of Arabic music scholar Johnny Farraj

 

"...the same note is not always played with the same exact pitch. The pitch may vary slightly, depending on the melodic flow and what other notes are played before and after that note.

 

The idea behind this effect is to round sharp corners in the melody by drawing the furthest notes nearer. This effect is sometimes called the law of attraction, or gravity."

 

I have isolated Thug's vocal line in the song 'No Way' from 'Slime Season', and run it through the software Melodyne by Celemony. This produced the following visualization [scroll down until you can no longer see this text]:

 

Baby, water like a water fountain;              My money coloured like a clown;       Show me them places like a noun; She can't, can't ride this dick                                                                                                                                                                                                                  without a sound ah

During the word 'fountain', Thug moves from D-B-A. The destination note is A, and to "round sharp corners", Young Thug lowers the B to something between B and A#.

Same idea as the previous line, I apologize for the 'broken note', which is a flattened B between D and A, on the phrase 'a clown'.

Similarly, on the phrase 'a noun', Thug moves from D-C-A. Again, the destination note is A, and lowers the C slightly to match the contour of the line.

Here, Thug adds a Neighbor note, E from D, on the words "can't" (2nd time) and "dick". These notes are pulled closer to the main note, D.

No Way - Snippet
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Part Two: B) Melodic Contour - Discrete and/or Continuous?

Young Thug's melodies are constructed using discrete pitches, but are often vocalized with fluidity and continuity.

To illustrate this, I have analyzed the hook of one of his first major songs,

"Stoner"

Discrete Representation

Stoner - Piano (Discrete)
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Stoner (Hook) - Original Version (Snippet)
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Continuous Representation

Stoner - Violin (Continuous)
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The Continuous representation of this is supported by the the Melodyne diagram. This is a little tough to see, since the audio being analyzed is not just the vocal line. But, it is clear that he glides from note to note, evident from the "Pitch drift" lines connecting each note.

This Continuous representation is based on a model developed by music theorist Joseph Schillinger, who has been somewhat "Lost in Academia". Each block corresponds to one 8th note.

 

To me, this model better captures details which cannot be represented in standard music notation, but are integral to the music.

I'm a stoner, I'm a stoner, I'm a stoner.  //    I'm a stoner, I'm a stoner, I'm a stoner.// I'm a stoner, I'm a stoner, I'm a                                                                                                                                                                                   stoner. 

Perhaps something like this could represent fluidity?

 

Part Three: Stability and Melodic Equilibrium 

 

Based on the stability, relative consonance/dissonance, and function within the scale, I propose the above diagram to model melody lines.

 

Lanes correspond to notes, and the lines partitioning the lanes can be considered passing tones. For example, if the melody line goes between 3-4-5, I will use the line between 3 and 5 as '4'.

 

The notes are arranged in "3rds space", meaning the interval between adjacent "lanes" is a 3rd, either major or minor. 

 

Below are diagrams of a couple "Hooks" (similar to chorus), analyzed in this way

Stoner
Stoner - Hook
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Power
Power - Snippet
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Freaky
Freaky - Hook
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Again
Again - Snippet
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This section will be difficult to understand without knowledge of music theory, sorry about that! If it doesn't make sense, please skip to the next section, which is much more important to the analysis.

While it's quite impractical to actually write music using this sort of diagram, it nevertheless provides some interesting insight into melody/phrase construction. Mostly any song in hip-hop/rap/electronic (that doesn't have a leading tone, #7) can be analyzed in this way, so it may be useful in the future. 

Just Might Be - Snippet
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Part Four: A) Melodic Organization - Structure and Patterns 

Young Thug often shifts between 2 and 3 note groups. Each such group has one 'Node', a note that Thug returns to frequently and usually cadences on. All such notes are a subset of a pentatonic scale. 

Melodic Transcription and Analysis of "Halftime"

Qualities of Scale degrees

Key: B minor

 

B - Comfortable, low in range

C# - Not quite home, soft dissonance

D - Hug tone

E - Question, Unresolved, Suspended

F# - Ambiguous: open 5th sound; usually comfortable

G - Extended, but stable if approached stepwise

A - Smooth

B - Comfortable

The following PDF is a large scale structure of the melodic organization in Halftime. It is clear the melodic structure follows sets of 2-3 notes, but that doesn't tell us much by itself. In fact, this is idiomatic to a wide range of rap and hip-hop music. 

What is the significance of these groups of notes with respect to lyrical content?

Part Four: B) Melodic logic and Lyrical Content *

Extending the idea that each scale degree has a certain function, we can define various "Type of Lyric", with respect to incorperated notes/scale degrees.
 
[The original "Qualities of Scale degrees" table is included, for reference and support.]

Type of Lyric

 

State

Exclaim

Declare/Endearing

Suggest

Assert

 

[Nonspecific]

Casual

Soar

Scale Degree

 

1

2

3 (and 345 combo)

4

5, 1 (5 is ambigious, has multiple functions)

6 (mostly used as a passing note)

7

8 (=1), and higher 

Qualities of Scale degrees

 

1 - Comfortable, at home

2 - Not quite home, soft dissonance

3 - Hug tone

4 - Question, Unresolved, Suspended

5 - Ambiguous, but usually comfortable

6 - Extend, but stable

7 - Smooth

8 - Top of range, tension

Song Name and Key
Scale degrees // Note names
Type of Lyric
Audio example

This logic holds for melody lines as well, which inevitably contain more notes. 

 

'Stoner' - Young Thug (prod. Dun Deal & London)

 

 

Exclamatory

 

 

Casual

 

 

Endearing;

"Good" - Assertive, 5 (F#)

"Times" - Endearing 3 (D)

 


Casual Assertion

 

 

 

 

State <-> Declare

[Both Soaring, higher octave]

 

Exclaim <-> Assert

 

 

State

 

 

 

 

 

Declare

 

 

Endearing

 

 

Assert

 

 

Declare (& Endearing)

 

 

 

 

Exclamatory

Again - Hook pt. 2
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With That - Snippet
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Good Times - Snippet
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Again - Verse (Snippet)
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Skyfall - Verse pt. 1
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Hey, I - Snippet
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Just Might Be - Snippet
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Skyfall - Verse pt. 2
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Just Might Be - Snippet
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Just Might Be - Snippet
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Stoner - Pre-hook (Snippet)
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Again - D minor

 

      Hook

 

 

      Verse pt. 1

 

 

Good Times - B major

 


 

 

With That - D minor

 


Skyfall (Travis Scott)

 - E minor

 

      Verse pt. 1

 

 

      Verse pt. 2

 

 

Hey, I - C# minor

 

 

 

Just Might Be - F# minor

 

      Verse pt. 1

 

      

      Verse pt. 2

 

 

      Verse pt. 3

 

 

      Verse pt. 4

 

 

Stoner - Eb minor

 

      Pre-hook

 

 

 

 

1-2 // D-E

 

 

7 // C

 

 

5-3-4 // F#-D-E

 

 

 

 

7-5 // C-A

 

 

 

 

 

8-3 // E-G

 

 

2-6-5 // F#-C-B

 

 

1 // C#

 

 

 

 

 

3 // A

 

 

3-5-4 // A-C#-B

 

 

5 // C#

 

 

3 // A

 

 

 

 

2 - // F - Eb 

Stoner - Hook
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For the first "I'm a stoner, I'm a stoner, I'm a stoner", Thug literally brings the listener home (Eb), from a suave scale degree 7 (Db), gliding between feelings/notes during the descent. This helps explain why:

 

The first "I'm a stoner" is so inviting,

The second is a little up-in-the-air and unfinished,

The third is sweet but confident,

and the fourth (final) one is cadential

 

Pretty incredible, right? Young Thug is very adept at conveying feelings through both lyrics and melody, which leads us into the final, and most important, section of this page

 
Direction of Contour

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

 
"Power" - Standard Notation

Part Five: Text Painting in Young Thug 

This section is what all this analysis has been building up to, and is key to understanding Young Thug's music. 

 

Text Painting is when the musical gesture corresponding to a set of lyrics accentuates the meaning. This is similar to the previous section's idea of Melodic Logic complementing Lyrical content; but Text Painting is more gesture-based, surface level, and most importantly perceptible.

 

Our first (and my favourite) example of this is from the hook of the song 'All Over'

Melodic Transcription of hook from 'All Over'

Another irresistable, expressive hook from the mind of Young Thug. Let's take a look at how his images and musical gestures accentuate one another. 

 

Annotations are boxed, corresponding to the line above them (except for the "Highest note" annotation).

All Over - Snippet
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Text Painting is incredibly difficult to incorperate. If done right, however, it combine the powers of semantic and phonological meaning. In other words, it is expressive in terms of both the meaning of the lyrics and the feeling of the musical idea.

 

Below are several diagram demonstrations of some instances of Text Painting I've picked up on.

The way Thug vocalizes "Shoes" and "Dew" is sweet: perhaps he feels comfortable about being on his 'hug note' G (3), as well as having swag on the bottom of his shoes. 

 

 

"Hey, I" - Young Thug
Hey, I - Snippet
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Halftime - Snippet
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Notice the idea of unsteady ascent, in terms of both register and energy/stability, associated with "Power" and "Powder".

Power - Snippet
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"Power" - Stability/Equilibrium Representation
"Stoner" - Continuous Schillinger Representation
Stoner - Hook
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"Stoner" - Stability/Equilibrium Representation

Thanks for staying with me through all that. Hope you enjoyed it! Please check out one of the other pages: