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I have a question about Michael Jackson's song - Another Part Of Me.

Considering just the first two measures (counting from drums), we have E♭ in the bass with the vamp playing chords composed of (to my ear) B♭-E♭-G♭ and C-E♭-A♭.

My question is - what is the optimal/most 'correct' way of thinking (when analysing and composing) such things?

I have some ideas:

  1. The first chord is just plain E♭- and the second is a chord-like burst of non-chord tones (13, root and 11).
  2. It's fast i-IV dorian 'progression' (with E♭ pedal) in relation to E♭-chord, which is here a tonic chord. But if this E♭- would be, let's say a ii chord, then it would be a i-IV (i/ii - IV/ii ?) progression in relation to ii. Doesn't make much sense to me thinking this way.

Also feel free to say more about further measures and anything about this song. Thanks.

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I want to make it clear that in no way am I an authority on chord theory as applied to dance tracks. However, just hearing this makes me think a few things:

-Song is in E♭ minor
-This is a progression consisting of: E♭m / E♭m / D♭m / F(half-dim)-B♭+7
-The notes you mentioned are non-chord tones (not in the chord) that outline an E♭ Dorian harmony (the C♮ makes this Dorian)
-When the chord moves down to D♭m, the same description applies, but this time it's a D♭ Dorian harmony (B♭ makes it Dorian)
-The last bar of the progression is a ii-V in minor, hence the half-diminished chord (I don't know whether dance music uses the classical "half-diminished" chord or the jazz "m7♭5"). Note that this abandons the E♭ Dorian mode entirely, switching to the harmonic minor (half-diminished ii chord and ALT chord on the V)

The progression repeats. I noticed some people analyzed the first 2 bars as D♭'s ii-V; I can see how it makes sense, but I wouldn't call it that, as this relates the entire song back to the key of D♭ whereas the song clearly revolves around the E♭ minor chord. All of Michael Jackson's vocal lines center on the E♭ minor tonic, and the clear jazz ii-V at the end resolves the weird vii chord (rather than the traditional VII in minor, which doesn't contain the phrygian-sounding note F♭) to the tonic E♭. Also, what would you call the 3rd bar? C♭ major's ii-V? It doesn't make a lot of sense from a functional harmony standpoint to relate the chords to D♭ or C♭.

The other ideas posed for the 1st bar were: E♭ Dorian's i-IV, which is similar to my take on the passage, but counting the notes as chords rather than simple notes of a musical phrase. I think that's probably an equally valid proposition, if not more valid than mine (upon further consideration, actually I hear it as an E♭m chord with some dorian background flavor, so maybe I was right). The other suggestion, however, is that the notes are all part of one large E♭m(11,♮13) chord. I don't agree with this because the notes aren't ever all played at the same time. Now, simultaneous attacks are not requirements for chords; however, the way these notes are broken up into first E♭-G♭-B♭, then the A♭-C♮ doesn't really allow the notes to really sound like one big extended chord. Yes, playing that chord over the passage works, but it doesn't seem to reflect the way the song sounds- playing them as two chords is more revealing of the arrangement of the song.

Also OP said the rest of the song could be analyzed, so
Prechorus: C♭ / E♭m / C♭ / E♭m / F♭ / E♭m / F(half-dim) / B♭+7 Chorus is same as verse.

Hope this helps!

  • Hey, sorry for late answer, and yes it helps, after a while, this seemed to me too to be the most reasonable interpretation. Just i-bvii-ii-V where i and bvii are embelished by non-chord tones coming from apropriate dorian scales. By the way - what is the difference between classical half-diminished chord and jazz min7b5? – Malinowy Klawesyn Zwątpienia May 8 '18 at 14:35
  • No real difference. Take the notes B-D-F-A, for example. In the classical tradition, generally this is called B half-diminished. In jazz, generally they call it Bm7♭5, or sometimes Dm6. The different traditions have different equally correct analyses of this particular pattern of notes. – user45266 Jun 14 '18 at 16:21
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I would definitely consider it to be a ii-V in the key of Db Major. The riff is a syncopated pair of these progressions.

Usually the dorian root is considered to be the ii even if the piece doesn't resolve to the I. In dance music like this, the dorian mode is common because the lack of resolution provides tension and motivates people to keep moving.

You might be confused about the pedal tone, and wonder why the Eb in the bass doesn't move to Ab and instead stays on Eb, and how this can still be a ii-V progression. This pedal tone trick, possibly inherited from modal jazz, offers a more contemporary and minimalist way to play a ii-V.

In 1961, Bill Evans and Scott LaFaro use this trick on the second chord and second measure of 'My Foolish Heart' on the album of the same name. This part of the song is a ii-V where a C# minor (ii chord) on the piano changes to an F#7 (V chord) while the bass stays on C#. Check out the chord changes for the song and you'll see that, regardless of key, the second measure is written as a 'ii-V'.

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