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Hooks, Clever Elements & WOW Factors

Ex’s & Oh’s, Same Old Love, Sorry, & Stitches

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During the fourth quarter of 2015, 21 songs charted in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100,
each possessing a unique sound and vibe traversing 5 primary genres and 20 sub-genres.

Among them were the R&B/Funk-influenced Can’t Feel My Face, the Dance/Tropical remix of Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn remix), and Adele’s comeback (don’t call it a comeback) Hello – an infectious and evocative Power Ballad that showcases her stellar vocals.

Also present were influences atypical of the Top 10, such as the Rockabilly/Garage Rock-influenced Ex’s & Oh’s, and songs that incorporated material from other artists, like the Retro/Soul-influenced Hotline Bling, which samples Timmy Thomas’s 1972 hit Why Can’t We Live Together, and Alessia Cara’s Here, which samples Isaac Haye’s 1971 song Ike’s Rap II.

Despite the differences between this quarter’s hits, the key characteristic that they all have in common is their meticulously well-crafted nature.

What follows are excerpts from the Hit Songs Deconstructed Q4 Top 10 Deconstructed Report, featuring some of the most notable hooks, clever elements and WOW factors that helped launch these songs to the top of the charts.

Same Old Love

Quadruple Hook Punch: Same Old Love features three key infectious hooks in the chorus – the three-note lead synth instrumental hook, Gomez’s “I’m so sick of that same old love” song title/vocal hook, and Charli XCX’s “Oh-Oh-Oh” nonsense vocal hook. In the second half of each stanza, these hooks come together in a strategically arranged manner, which takes the impact of the section to a heightened level:

Instrumental Hook “Oh-Oh-Oh” (Charli XCX Vocal Hook)Instrumental Hook“That Same Old Love” (Selena Gomez Vocal Hook)

Clever & Engaging Vocal Characteristics: Five different vocal characteristics are employed in the bridge, which helps to keep the section fresh and engaging despite its exceptionally repetitive nature. The manner in which they interact coupled with their respective qualities makes this section one of the most infectious and engaging, as well as disparate, in the scope of the song.

Key

  • Solo lead #1 (Selena Gomez)
  • Lead + Harmony #2 (Gomez plus the effected low-pitch vocal): Gomez is featured an octave above the effected, male-sounding vocal.
  • Solo lead #3 (Heavily effected, low-pitch vocal): This vocal possesses the same characteristic as that found in harmony lead #2, except that it’s delivered an octave higher.
  • Background vocal #1 (Gomez): Features the prolonged “oh” background vocal overlay in tandem with the lead.
  • Background vocal #3 (Charli XCX): Features the “hey!” proclamations.
Bridge Vocal Type Positioning

Line 1: I’m so sick of that, so sick of that love (hey)
Line 2: I’m so sick of that, so sick of that love
Line 3: I’m so sick of that, so sick of that love (hey)
Line 4: I’m so sick of that (yeah), so sick of that love

Ex’s & Oh’s

Non-Typical Mainstream Elements: Ex’s & Oh’s features a fusion of Blues, Rockabilly, and Garage – the latter two of which are rarely found in a Top 10 hit. These, coupled with its swampy, gritty production, fuzzed out guitars, and King’s Wanda Jackson-esque vocal style, enables the song to really stand out and resonate among its mainstream contemporaries.

Infectious/Clever Title: The clever connotation of the title, Ex’s & Oh’s (e.g. xoxo), coupled with the infectious manner in which its sung in the chorus (i.e. “Ex’s and the oh, oh, oh’s they haunt me”), further accentuates the song’s impact. Additionally, these overtly Pop characteristics serve to balance out the song’s otherwise non-Pop vibe.

Hook Accentuation: The infectious title/vocal hook delivered by the “oh, oh, oh’s” in the first line of the chorus is reiterated on the subsequent lines via the lyrics “gho-oh-osts” and “all, all, all.” This cleverly reinforces the title/vocal hook in the listener’s head while accentuating the impact of the section, and the song as a whole.

Sorry

Unique Hooks: In addition to its tropical chill vibe, what really enables Sorry to stand out and connect are its hooks. Two of them, which are first established in the intro, are communicated in a unique/standout manner. The first is the ascending pitch-processed vocal hook, which is also featured in the chorus and turnaround sections. The second is the synth brass hook, which is featured in the first verse, pre-chorus, and chorus, in addition to the intro. Having two hooks that possess overtly unique qualities in relation to many of their mainstream contemporaries helps the song to stand out and resonate at a heightened level.

Stitches

Excitement Factor Build: Following the second high-energy level chorus, the energy of the song is brought down at the onset of the bridge due to all of the instruments being pulled from the mix save for the acoustic guitar. The balance of the section features the same lyrics being repeated, while the accompaniment and vocal characteristics shift from stanza to stanza. This results in an increasing intensity level as the section progresses, culminating in an excitement apex that leads into the final chorus.

First Stanza: Lead vocal and guitar

Needle in the thread,
Gotta get you out of my head
Needle and the thread,
Gonna wind up dead

Second Stanza: Lead vocal, guitar, and kick drum

Needle in the thread,
Gotta get you out of my head
Needle and the thread,
Gonna wind up dead

Third Stanza: Lead vocal (higher register), guitar, kick drum, claps, background vocals

Needle in the thread,
Gotta get you out of my head
Needle and the thread,
Gonna wind up dead

Fourth Stanza: Same as the third stanza, but curtailed with modified second line

Needle in the thread,
Gotta get you out of my head, get you out of my head

Hit Songs Deconstructed PRO subscribers can access the full Q4 Top 10 Deconstructed Report by clicking here. Not a PRO subscriber? Click here to sign up!