At a Glance
Primary Instrumentation, Tone & Mix
Hit Factor Assessment
Why it’s a Hit
Artist: Katy Perry
Song/Album: Teenage Dream / Teenage Dream
Songwriter(s): K. Perry, B. McKee, B. Levin, M. Martin, L. Gottwald
Week on BB Chart: 10/2/2010
Chart Position: #1 Pop Song
Sub Genre: Pop/Rock, Electro Pop
First Chorus: 0:52 (23% into the song)
Intro Length: 0:04
Outro Length: n/a
Primary Tone (Electric/Acoustic): Electric
Primary Instrumentation: Guitar & Synth
Lyrical Theme: Love/Relationships
Primary Lyrical P.O.V: 1st person
Section Length (Length of each individual section within the song)
Here we see that the sections are structured quite evenly in length throughout the song. The choruses all land at 0:32, the pre-choruses are close in nature (0:17 & 0:16), and the verse lands at 0:31 with a half verse at 0:15.
As an interesting side note, up until the bridge, the structure and section length of “Teenage Dream” is virtually identical to that of “California Gurls.” See below charts for reference, which give a snapshot of both songs up until the bridge.
Structure Timeline (Shows when each section hits within the timeline of the song)
Almost identical to “California Gurls”, the structural flow of “Teenage Dream” is very similar in nature to Katy’s previous #1 hit. Even the first chorus kicks in at virtually the same point in both songs (0:52 in “Teenage Dream”, 0:54 in “California Gurls”). Like they say, “if it aint broke, don’t fix it.”
Total Section Analysis (Total time consumed by each section and its percentage of the total song)
When each section of the song is totaled up as a whole, it’s easy to see that the focal point of the song is based around the chorus, which totals 42% of the entire song. Second to the chorus, we see that relatively equal importance is given to the verses, bridge and pre-choruses.
As we saw before in the Section Length “California Gurls” comparison, here we again see a similarity between the two songs from a Total Section perspective. Below is the graphic from “California Gurls” for reference:
Momentum/Intensity Factor (Evaluation of the intensity of each section within the song timeline on a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being the most intense)
Overall, “Teenage Dream” makes good use of momentum and intensity fluctuations to both keep the listener engaged and to set up the focal point of the song, the chorus.
The song begins with the clean, solo guitars before coming in with the electronic drums and vocals during the first part of the first verse. The momentum is then kicked up slightly during the second half of the verse with the introduction of the bass guitar and “pinging” synth. The overall momentum is maintained throughout the pre-chorus, before slamming into the driving, powerful chorus.
The momentum and intensity levels are then brought back down during the 2nd verse and pre-chorus (though they are slightly more powerful in nature than the 1st verse and pre-chorus sections), and then slam right back into the driving chorus. The intensity is then further increased during the bridge, specifically due to Katy Perry’s vocal delivery. At the end of the bridge, the momentum drops off significantly before exploding right back into the chorus and bridge once again. The song ends with the same “drop off” that was established at the end of the first bridge section.
Though not a “stand alone” intro section (i.e. unique to any other section within the song), the 0:04 of clean guitar instantly sets the overall vibe and tone present in “Teenage Dream.” It flows seamlessly into the first verse, since it’s also the main riff that occurs during that section. Overall, it’s a simple yet effective way to start off the song.
During the first half of the first verse, we see how great vocal phrasing and a unique delivery coupled with a simple, repetitive guitar line and beat instantly engages the listener and fosters memorability. During the second half of the first verse, we see the introduction of the bass and synth, which gives the music a more “intense” vibe in a subtle manner. Katy’s vocal delivery differs in nature from the first half of the verse in the sense that her pitch changes from low to high during each phrase, accentuating the conversational aspect of the lyrics. The overall flow established during the first verse is also the case during the second, with the exception that the rhythm section is more “driving” in nature.
Musically, the pre-chorus continues with the same vibe established during the second half of the first verse, with the exception that Katy’s vocal phrasing has changed to highlight the pre-chorus lyrical content. Overall, the section does a great job in setting up the chorus, both lyrically and musically (i.e. the large jump in momentum and intensity that occurs during the chorus).
Here’s the payoff, and what a great payoff it is. The overall momentum and intensity is kicked up with the heavier beat and thick fuzz synth, working in perfect unison with Katy’s exceptionally memorable vocal phrasing/delivery. That, in conjunction with the lyrics, make for an exceptionally effective chorus. One other thing to note is the use of “familiarity” within the section – specifically the familiar sounding synth that was used in “California Gurls.”
The bridge in “Teenage Dream” is actually more of a continuation of the chorus than being a true bridge in nature (i.e. having the overall section be more of a departure from the rest of the song). That being said, it is still exceptionally effective in the sense that the vocals are phrased in a very memorable and repetitive manner, it provides another shift in momentum (kicks things up slightly from the chorus due to the nature of the vocal delivery), and it reinforces the title of the song (i.e. “…be your teenage dream tonight”). The end of the bridge DOES provide the listener with a respite from the rest of the song, giving them a quick “breather” before exploding back into the chorus.
Here’s a perfect picture of how the production/mix of a song works well in accentuating the songs focal point, in this case the chorus. The levels are lower during the intro and verse, and gradually start to increase through the pre-chorus. Then, it’s obvious from the above graphic to tell where the chorus slams in. During the second verse and pre-chorus, we see that the levels/intensity are brought up a notch from the first verse and pre-chorus, before slamming back right into the chorus. The listener is given a “breather” during the tail end of the bridge, before once again slamming back into the chorus. The one issue with the overall production is that the levels get a little too hot during the chorus sections. As a result, if your speakers aren’t up to par, chances are you’ll get some distortion.
Compares the song being analyzed to all Pop songs that have entered the Billboard Pop top 10: Q1 through Q3-2010.
The key elements present in “Teenage Dream” are in-line with all year-to-date top 10 Pop hits EXCEPT:
- The song is being sung by a female and not a male.
- The intro length is 0:10 shorter than the average.
- It takes longer for the first chorus to hit than the average top 10 Pop song.
- The primary instrumentation features a guitar in addition to a synth. The majority of current top 10 Pop songs feature a synth exclusively as the primary instrument.
- The overall style of “Teenage Dream” is guitar/synth based Pop with a Rock vibe. This differs from the majority of other current top 10 Pop songs, which are primarily Electro Pop in nature.
Does the song flow in a cohesive manner? As with most Katy Perry songs, “Teenage Dream” is meticulously well crafted and effective. Each section flows seamlessly into one another, and each provides a platform for the next section to build upon.
How does the production stand up in maximizing the songs impact? The overall production of “Teenage Dream” does a great job in accentuating each section of the song, and each instrument is well positioned and audible in the mix. As we saw in the waveform graphic, the levels are kept down during the intro and first half of the first verse, and were gradually increased during the 2nd half of the verse and pre-chorus to kick the intensity and momentum up a notch. We then saw how the levels went through the roof during the chorus – maximizing its impact. The only drawback is that depending on what type of speakers you own, the chorus may start to distort due to the ultra compressed/high levels.
Does the instrumentation and sound maximize the vibe of the song? Overall, the use of clean and distorted tones worked very well in providing sonic variation between sections and in establishing the overall vibe of the song. The addition of the “California Gurls” style synth did an effective job in creating “familiarity” within the song.
Do the lyrics serve the song and jibe with the vibe of the music? The lyrics within “Teenage Dream” do a fantastic job at taking a typical “love/relationship” theme and conveying it in a very unique and memorable manner. Most girls can identify with a time where they dreamed about whom their ideal love would be and how it would feel. “Teenage Dream” takes this past feeling, and brings into a current relationship where the woman realizes her teenage dream in her current relationship. It makes for a quite powerful and compelling story that a lot of people can identify with, or at least WISH they could identify with.
Vocal Delivery: 10/10
Does the tonality and phrasing of the vocals maximize the songs impact? This is Katy Perry’s core strength, both as a co-writer and a vocalist. The vocals within “Teenage Dream” are exceptionally well delivered, both from a phrasing and pitch standpoint. She also does a great job in accentuating the lyrical meanings within her delivery as well. Most importantly, the way she phrases her vocals in each section of the song instantly fosters memorability. Here’s a perfect example: Look at how the vocals are phrased during the chorus: “You – make – me – feel like I’m living a – Teen – age – dream – the way you turn me on…”
How easy is it to remember this song after you hear it once? The use of repetition, both instrumentally and vocally, coupled with exceptional vocal phrasing, lyrics and musical tone all work in perfect unison in creating a highly memorable song.
Does this song have its own unique vibe when compared to other songs/artists in the genre? Katy Perry definitely has her own unique vibe in the current Pop genre, and it is readily apparent in “Teenage Dream” – both from a music and lyrical perspective.
Longevity: 7/10 (Artist), 4/10 (Overall Pop Genre)
Does this song have what it takes to stand the test of time? Will it become a staple of the artist’s repertoire? “Teenage Dream” is a very good Pop song, but when compared to other exceptionally unique and memorable songs within her repertoire (such as “I Kissed a Girl” and “California Gurls”), It doesn’t stand up as strong. The two aforementioned songs are unique and engaging enough to be held next to other hit Pop songs that stand the test of time. “Teenage Dream” just doesn’t have that “extra something” that those songs have. That being said, it is still a great song, and will no doubt be considered a highlight in her overall body of work.
- “Teenage Dream” is an extremely well crafted and memorable song.
- The vocal delivery, phrasing and lyrics are all highly effective in nature.
- The overall production does a very good job at accentuating each section within the song, and the positioning of instrumentation within the mix is effective as well.
- The levels are too hot during the chorus. Cheap speakers will most likely distort during the section.
- “Teenage Dream” is a very effective and entertaining song, but it’s not unique or special enough to stand the test of time when held up against other hit Pop songs.
There are two primary factors that work together in making “Teenage Dream” a hit:
- Songwriting. As with “California Gurls”, Katy’s second single, and second #1 hit to come off of the “Teenage Dream” album, is an extremely well crafted and memorable song. All of the elements come together here – lyrics, vocal delivery & phrasing, music, repetition and fluctuations in momentum create a very effective and engaging song.
- Chart Momentum/Publicity. Coming on the heels of her #1 single, “California Gurls”, Katy Perry is still very much hot on the charts. That in conjunction with recent media events, including the “too hot for Sesame Street” media frenzy and her recent high-profile marriage to Russell Brand, Katy Perry continues to be a very high profile / public figure.
- Unless you’re contracted to compose a “sound-a-like”, always try to incorporate your own unique sound and style into your compositions. Taking and utilizing key elements learned in current hit Pop songs will make your songs more effective and marketable, but it’s your unique sound that will really enable you to stand out from the crowd. Katy Perry does this very well as an artist, and also within “Teenage Dream” as a song.
- Great vocal phrasing instantly fosters memorability. This is something that Katy Perry is a pro at. Listen to her phrasing throughout “Teenage Dream”, specifically during the chorus.
- Structuring your song in a cohesive manner is extremely important, particularly in Pop. All of the sections should flow seamlessly into one another, and each should accentuate the next. This is a trademark of a Katy Perry hit. Look in particular at the structural analysis that was presented earlier in this report, specifically the comparisons between “Teenage Dream” and “California Gurls.”
- In today’s Pop market, and Rock as well, more and more artists are utilizing retro elements within the framework of their songs (Katy Perry, Muse, etc…). Make sure that if you do this, you do it in a way that still sounds MODERN and CURRENT in nature. If you don’t, your chances of mainstream success will be quite limited, unless its intended use is as a period piece that you’re pitching for licensing, for example.