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General Information
At a Glance
Structural Analysis
Sectional Analysis
Primary Instrumentation, Tone & Mix
Benchmark Analysis
Overall Assessment
Hit Factor Assessment
Why it’s a Hit
Take Aways

Audio/Video Back to Top

General Information Back to Top

Artist: Rihanna
Song/Album: Only Girl (In The World) / Loud
Songwriter(s): C. Johnson, M. Eriksen, T. Hermansen, S. Wilhelm
Week on BB Chart: December 18, 2010
Chart Position: #1 Pop Song
Genre: Pop
Sub Genre: Electro/Dance Pop

At a Glance Back to Top

Length: 3:51
Structure: A-B-A-B-C-B
Tempo: Mid/Up
First Chorus: 0:45 (19% into the song)
Intro Length: 0:14
Outro Length: 0:16
Primary Tone (Electric/Acoustic): Electric
Primary Instrumentation: Synth
Lyrical Theme: Love/Relationships, Hooking Up
Primary Lyrical P.O.V: 1st Person

Structural Analysis Back to Top


Section Length (Length of each individual section within the song)

Here’s a great example of a very proportionate song. The verse, chorus and pre-chorus sections all land at 0:31, with the exception being the first chorus (since it has an extra section thrown into the build). Both the intro and outro sections are almost exact as well, landing at 0:14 and 0:16 respectively.

Structure Timeline (Shows when each section hits within the timeline of the song)

Total Section Analysis (Total time consumed by each section and its percentage of the total song)

It’s easy to see here that the focal point of “Only Girl in the World” is the chorus, comprising 47% of the total song. The verse only accounts for 27%.

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)

“Only Girl in the World” kicks off with a mid tempo groove propelled by a kick/snare/clap backbeat and roaming synth line. The momentum is brought up a notch during the first verse with the introduction of the vocals and bass, keeping it steady throughout until the synth “swoosh”, leading into the first part of the chorus.

Once we hit the chorus, the entire vibe of the song shifts, from one of grooving elegance to one of urgency. We see the intensity level increase, not due to a more propelling/fast beat, but due to both the nature of the instrumentation (the bright “club” synth) and the urgency present in the vocal delivery.

The second part of the chorus adds the fast picked, “live” sounding bass and frantic breakbeat, present in the back of the mix, both further increasing the intensity level of the section. At the end of the second section of the chorus, we’re “swooshed” into the heavy driven club beat of the third section, which is propelled by both the solid backbeat and fuzz synth bass that is up front in the mix.

The intensity level is then brought back down during the second verse, going back into the “elegant groove” theme. The same build is repeated through the chorus, with the exception being that we go straight from the first part of the chorus right to the “club” third part. The second section, characterized by the fast picked bass and breakbeat, is bypassed.

The intensity level is then brought down a notch during the first part of the bridge. The tempo remains the same, but both the instrumentation and vocal delivery are quelled in their delivery. The momentum/intensity level increases during the second part of the section, with the addition of the background synth and higher key of the vocals. This continues until the final, major “swoosh”, bringing the momentum to a halt for a moment, before launching back into the club portion of the chorus. The momentum and intensity levels are constant throughout the outro section until the end.

Sectional Analysis Back to Top

Intro: 8/10
The intro to “Only Girl in the World” is effective on a number of levels:

  • The groove and vibe are immediately established, instantly engaging the listener.
  • Since the intro theme is virtually the same as the verse (minus the bass line), it enables a seamless transition into the next section (verse).
  • The length of the section is perfect. It’s long enough to engage the listener and short enough where they won’t get bored.
  • The “La La La” vocals both differentiate the section from the rest of the song and provide the song with a unique identifier. The unique identifier enables the listener to instantly recognize the song from the first few notes – increasing “engagement effectiveness” on further listens.

Verses: 8.5/10
The verse sections are very strong for the following reasons:

  • The addition of the bass line adds a new dimension to the melody that was established during the intro. It provides a cool, slightly dark groove that provides a great counterpoint within the section.
  • The nature of the vocals jibe very well with the music, both in the phrasing and the “sensual yearning” of Rihanna’s delivery.
  • The lyrics perfectly set the scene for the upcoming chorus.
  • Overall the section is very memorable in nature.

Chorus: 9/10
The highlight of “Only Girl in the World” is no doubt the chorus. Its effectiveness is achieved on a number of levels, including:

  • The first part of the chorus instantly changes the entire vibe of the song, from one of elegance and sensuality to one of almost brash urgency. What’s great is that this is achieved while still staying within the context of the song. It doesn’t feel out of place. Instead, it brings the song to a whole new level.
  • The way that the first chorus of the song builds throughout the three sections is fantastic. The tension is increased from the first section to the second, with the addition of the breakbeat and fast picked bass, before “swooshing” into the payoff, the huge beat present in the third section.
  • The use of repetition in the vocal phrasing throughout each section of the chorus does a great job of fostering memorability.
  • The title “Only Girl in the World” is reinforced throughout the section, appearing three times in the first chorus (at the beginning of each part), twice in the second, and twice in the third.

Bridge 8.5/10
The bridge provides an almost a “hypnotic” departure from the chorus while maintaining the same pace, specifically due to the repetitive vocal phrasing and pulsating fuzz synth and kick. The second part of the bridge increases the intensity level by introducing the higher vocal pitch and additional synth. All in all, it does a good job of adding an additional facet to the song, thereby keeping the listener engaged, without losing the overall club vibe and momentum.

Outro 8/10
The outro of the song is basically a continuation of the chorus, featuring some additional synth, background vocals and the repetition of the title (four times). It does a good job of keeping the momentum going while summing up the song and bringing it to a conclusion. The song also provides a false ending, though not as effective as other false endings currently present in quite a few top charting Pop hits, it still does a good job of leaving the listener wanting more.

Waveform Back to Top

Keeping in line with the industry, it’s no surprise to see that “Only Girl in the World” is highly compressed for maximum sonic impact. There’s a little bit of breathing room during the verses and bridge, but the choruses are compressed to the max, almost to the point of distorting depending on the type of speaker system you have. This is a club song, though, so louder is definitely more effective.

Primary Instrumentation, Tone & Mix Back to Top

Benchmark Analysis Back to Top

Compares the song being analyzed to all Pop songs that have entered the Billboard Pop top 10, Q1 through Q4-2010.

The key elements present in “Only Girl in the World” are in-line with all year-to-date top 10 Pop hits EXCEPT:

  • The song is being sung by a female instead of a male

Overall Assessment Back to Top

Structure: 9/10
Does the song flow in a cohesive manner? This is an example of a very well structured song that has each section building on the next. The intro flows seamlessly into the first verse, before transitioning into the new vibe established in the chorus. Each section within the chorus builds on one another before repeating the flow. The bridge perfectly transitions out of the chorus, before going back into the chorus and outro.

Production: 8.5/10
How does the production stand up in maximizing the songs impact? “Only Girl in the World” is meant for the clubs. As a result, the song is highly compressed for maximum sonic impact. All of the instruments are clearly audible in the mix, though at times during the chorus the sound will start to distort depending on the type of speakers you’re listening through. Overall, the production is well suited for the clubs.

Tone: 9/10
Does the instrumentation and sound maximize the vibe of the song? Being a club song, the tone of everything from the electronic drums, to the synths and bass are spot for accentuating the intended club vibe.

Lyrics: 8.5/10
Do the lyrics serve the song and jibe with the vibe of the music? The lyrics work well in both setting up the chorus from a story standpoint and also from a prosody standpoint. They jibe perfectly with both the vocal delivery and music. As far as theme goes, it’s a hook up song. The lyrics are simple and effective, with a great title that is repeated throughout the chorus sections and outro.

Vocal Delivery: 9/10
Does the tonality and phrasing of the vocals maximize the songs impact? Rihanna does a fantastic job of accentuating the vibe and emotions present in different sections of the song. From the sensual yearning of the verse, to the intense proclamations during the chorus, to the seductive delivery during the bridge, her delivery is confident and effective.

Hit Factor Assessment Back to Top

Memorability: 9/10
How easy is it to remember this song after you hear it once? “Only Girl in the World” is an exceptionally memorable song, due to great vocal phrasing, repetition in both the vocal and instrumentation passages and easy to remember lyrics.

Originality: 5/10
Does this song have its own unique vibe when compared to other songs/artists in the genre? It’s definitely not the most original song in the world, blending right in with other current Pop/Club themed songs. It’s an effective song, but there isn’t anything that sets it apart from the pack.

WOW Factors: 8/10
Does this song possess any standout elements or contain special moments that aid in catapulting it to HIT status? I would consider the transitioning in vibe from the verse to the chorus as a “Wow” factor. From the intro through the first verse, one vibe is prevalent in the song. Once we “swoosh” into the chorus, a whole new vibe is established, taking the song to a whole new, unexpected level – providing the listener with a great payoff.

Longevity: 9/10 (Artist), 5/10 (Overall genre Genre)
Does this song have what it takes to stand the test of time? Will it become a staple of the artist’s repertoire? “Only Girl in the World” is a great song that will no doubt be featured as a highlight within Rihanna’s body of work. That being said, I can see it surviving in the clubs while this genre (and Rihanna) are still hot, but it will fall into obscurity once this style falls out of favor. There isn’t anything unique or special enough to enable it to stand the test of time with other major Pop/Club hits. Then again, I don’t think they were trying to reinvent the wheel with this song. It’s highly effective, for TODAY’S market.

Conclusion: 8.5/10 Back to Top

The Good:

  • “Only Girl in the World” is a very well crafted, highly memorable song.
  • The transitioning from the verse to the chorus serves as a “Wow” factor – taking the song to a new, unexpected level with a high payoff.
  • Rihanna’s vocal delivery is very strong throughout, accentuating the emotion present in each section of the song.

The Bad:

  • The song lacks originality, and as a result its longevity will be limited.

Why it’s a Hit Back to Top

There are three primary factors that work together in making “Only Girl in the World” a hit:

  1. Songwriting. Only Girl in the World possesses some superior songwriting, instantly wrapping the listener in and keeping them engaged throughout. The song provides the listener with three primary vibes that repeat throughout the song (elegance and sensual yearning during the verse, intense proclamation during the chorus, and the seductiveness of the bridge) and Rihanna’s vocal delivery maximizes the effectiveness of each section. The tension that builds during each of the three parts of the chorus provides the listener with a fantastic payoff.
  2. Memorability: Overall it is a highly memorable song, due to great phrasing, tone and use of repetition.
  3. Purpose: “Only Girl in the World” is a club themed song, and the nature of the writing perfectly nails that intended vibe – from the instrumentation, to lyrical content to the production. It’s a fun song that’s packed with emotion and easy to dance to.

Take Aways Back to Top

  • Sing like you mean it! One of the highlights of this song is Rihanna’s vocal delivery. She packs a great amount of emotion into her vocals – making you FEEL each section of the song she’s singing. So many singers today sound like they’re just going through the motions. Separate yourself from the pack and really go for it and hammer it home. There’s no doubt that it will take your song to the next level and maximize your chances for success. EMOTION IS KEY.
  • Try fluctuating momentum and intensity levels throughout your song. “Only Girl in the World” made great use of building intensity during the chorus (the three different parts as mentioned earlier in the report), as well as in the overall flow of the song. Doing so will provide your listener with more of a payoff and in keeping them engaged throughout.
  • Repetition is key is fostering memorability. “Only Girl in the World” did this effectively from both a lyrical (title) standpoint and phrasing throughout the song – both vocally and instrumentally.
  • Unexpected “Wow” factors will make a big difference in increasing the value of your song. This was exceptionally done within “Only Girl in the World” – the abrupt change in vibe from the verse to the chorus. It’s not easy to do this, and definitely not easy to do it as seamlessly as was done in this song. However, if you can pull it off, you’ll be providing a much greater payoff for the listener and will take your song to a whole new level.
  • Target your song to the genre in which you’re composing it for. This song was obviously composed for the clubs, and all the elements came together in making it a highly effective song for that genre. Try doing this – take your song and think about who your target audience is or what the intended use is (i.e. clubs, TV scene, etc…).  Then, close your eyes and listen to the song. If it’s a club song, picture your song playing in a club and people dancing to it. If it’s a rock anthem, picture a stadium filled with people reacting to your huge chorus. You’ll know INSTANTLY whether it’s effective or not. I couldn’t tell you why, but I’ve done this for myself and I know it works. You’ll know whether you’ve got it right or if you need to go back for a re-write to make it more effective.
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