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Can someone explain to me what is going on tonally in Beyonce's song Blow? The bass notes deceptively seem to suggest the chords in the verse are G major and F major. But these chords do not sound right. It seems that the actual chords are FM7/G and EbM7/F. And then later in the song there is a C to D7, which suggests to me that the song is in G major, But then I don't understand how FM7/G and EbM7/F are fitting into this key?

I am used to understanding chord progressions as degrees in a key/scale (for example I'm Yours by Jason Mraz is I, V, vi, IV in B Ionian). I cannot wrap my head about what is going on in Blow in terms of key/mode! Any insight is much appreciated.

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Yes, chords in the verse are G and F, with G being the tonic. So it's a major key, and F is indeed out of key. In this case it could be considered a modal interchange from the key of G minor. You could notate the chord progression as I bVII.

Interestingly, while in the intro G and F are clearly outlined by the melody, in the verses the melody sticks to G minor exclusively, against the mode of underlying G. Such coexistence of minor and major probably shows influence of blues genre in this case.

There is no rule that says that a song, or even a section must stick to a single scale. In fact changing scales can be used to make music more interesting. There are many techniques, including secondary dominants, modal interchange, modulation, and they are used in many styles. Pick any jazz standard and you may find scale changing in every measure!

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    So you're saying that the chords in the verse are G and F and not FM7/G and EbM7/F like the OP suggests?
    – Dekkadeci
    Jul 25 at 15:59
  • @Dekkadeci yes. The chords are not simple triads, and various instruments add various components (consider the guitar in particular). Interestingly there seem to be both 11 and 3. Fmaj7/G and Ebmaj7/F could be valid voicings, but if we speak of harmonic analysis I hear the roots as F and G. This is particularly clear in the chorus (?) consisting of chords C (IV) and D (V) which then resolves to this "weird" G (I). Perhaps this is all subjective, but that's what I hear there. Jul 25 at 19:52
  • So why don't you call those chords G13(no3) and F13(no3), then?
    – Dekkadeci
    Jul 26 at 12:52
  • @Dekkadeci guitar does play the thirds. Yes, there are rich upper structures. But OP asked about functional analysis, so the key information is what the roots of the chords are. Jul 26 at 14:28
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The tonal centre is, indeed G, and the chords are indeed Fmaj7/G and E♭maj7/F.

Fmaj7/G is a specific voicing. It's rooted on G, but it isn't based on a G triad. There's no B, there's no D. We'd have to call it G13(sus4)(omit5) or something just as ugly. No, Fmaj7/G is fine!

There's no functional 'cycle of 5ths' stuff going on here (I seem to be writing this rather a lot lately!). There's a flavour of G7, F7.

Here's something else I've been saying a lot when looking at today's pop music. The ♭VII chord is so commonly used that it almost has to be considered diatonic. (The ♭VII NOTE has been unremarkable for a lot longer, ever since the Blues crept into Western popular music.)

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