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So I just started studying music theory, so for fun I thought I would practice by analyzing a song I remember enjoying. Marianas Trench's satirical song "Pop 101":

The song suggests using the chord progression I - IV - vi - IV. Because the song is a satire, I assumed this meant they think the chord progression was overly used in pop. However, I'm struggling to find any examples of songs using it. The progression I - V - vi - IV seems much more common, and I know how to square this with "common practice". I don't know how to make sense of "IV - vi" step with my beginner text.

Is it possible they made a mistake and ran with it? Or are there a ton of songs in I - IV - vi - IV that I'm just failing to find?

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This parody is very clever for sure. There are plenty of V chords in it though. I also can’t think of one tune offhand that uses that specific 1-4-6-4 combination. Replace either 4 with a 5 and you might have something there. Maybe they used the last “4” to get a false rhyme at 0:40 with “familiar” (familior?). A very large number of pop tunes use various combinations of I,IV,V,vi, which you pointed out. It seems to be the winning combination these days.

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  • Okay, so I'm not crazy. I was sorta excited to be in on the joke, I'm a little sad I'm still not in on the joke XD
    – Polymer
    Mar 14 at 5:07
  • I mentioned something about a joke in my answer at first (maybe they did 1-4-6-4 as a joke) but decided to take it out. Is that what you mean? Either way, you’re in on it! Mar 14 at 7:44
  • I mean I was looking forward to understanding this song lyrics and "getting the joke". But they went and threw a curve ball! Not fair!
    – Polymer
    Mar 14 at 8:26
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Hook theory has a nice database, which you can search by chord progression. It displays the corresponding songs, and the probabilities for the following chords.

Here are some results for I, IV, vi, IV, I.

enter image description here

I checked a few of the above songs (e.g. "What the hell" by Avril Lavigne, "Adam's song" by Blink 182, "Just Give Me A Reason" by Pink) and they indeed contain I, IV, vi, IV, I (e.g. C, F, Am, F, C). It's possible to select the key of the song but I just left it at "Relative".

If you look for I, V, vi, IV instead, you get a lot of corresponding songs. Some of them were used in "Axis of Awesome - Four Chords".

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