I was playing along to Poison and noticed a curious chord progression:


(in Dm)
i            VI       III         VII
Dm           Bb       F           C
  Your cruel, device, Your blood, like ice

(in Gm)
i          VI           III     V
Gm         Eb           Bb      D
  One look, could kill, my pain, your thrill
(in Gm)
i         VI              III         VII
Gm        Eb              Bb          F
  I wanna love you but I better not touch
(in Cm)
i         VI              III    VII
Cm        Ab              Eb     Bb
  I wanna hold you but my senses tell me to
(in Am)
i            VI             III         VII
Am           F              C           G
stop - I wanna kiss you but I want it too much

(in Dm)
i         VI                  III      VII
Dm        Bb                  F        C
  I wanna taste you but your lips are venomous -
i    VI  III VII
Dm   Bb  F   C

       i      VI       III        VII
       Dm     Bb       F          C
You're poison running through my veins you're

i    VI   III VII
Dm   Bb   F   C

i       VI     III         VII
Dm      Bb     F           C
I don't wanna break these chains

Apart from the leadup into the chorus, there seems to be a i VI III VII progression (if I've labelled those correctly) that runs throughout; looking at the chorus, the key changes from Gm → Cm → Am → Dm, staying in Dm for the last few lines.

I couldn't see any consistent relation between those keys (or with the last chord of the previous progression) but the chords obviously work well with the melody; does anyone have insight on how Cooper might have chosen those key changes or if this is a known technique?

1 Answer 1


It's just a walk "up" the cycle of fifths. The reverse VII-III-VI would be a common pattern; in a minor key, it tends to would like V-I-IV in the relative major. The reversed pattern doesn't sound like one is moving to the relative major. I don't know if that's the reason it was composed, it is an effect. One important point is that the voice-leading is going to be fine so things sound good. Reversed cycle of fifths movement isn't unusual; it isn't strongly functional but does make a nice passing progression.

  • I'm not sure if I follow walking up the cycle of fifths, if we're walking up from G, it would be G -> D -> A -> E?
    – xdl
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 14:08
  • Yes. Here it's Bb-F-C.
    – ttw
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 17:37
  • Ah apologies, I realise I wasn't asking the question clearly (have edited it from chord progressions to the key change) - I've seen i VII III VI used a lot in pop music (youtube.com/watch?v=E6dlIJrjmME) and as you pointed out the last 3 are cycle of fifth walk ups - my question was more around why those key changes were chosen (Gm → Cm → Am → Dm)
    – xdl
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 19:05

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