Song Doctor Blog
Read how to write better songs
Her song, My Sister, was an early hit for her and here’s a very charming solo acoustic performance outside some campus many moons ago, and it stands up so well against the full performances by her then band The Juliana Hatfield Three.
Structurally, the song has no chorus – an intro, and a great outro, nail the title, and the 4 verses cite it too, but from very different angles – hate, love, sibling rivalry, adoration and lost opportunity, and all of it about a sister Juliana never had.
The lyrics are highly emotive - but with illuminating rhymes from the get go. Grabs your attention straight away.
I hate my sister, she's such a bitch.
She acts as if she doesn't even know that I exist.
The language is also terrifically sensory full of details that place the singer in family birth order, where she is in her life cycle – full angst of early-mid teenagedom, and chronologically - in the early 90s.
She's the one who would have taken me
To my first all-ages show.
It was the violent femmes and the del fuegos,
Before they had a record out.
Before they went gold,
Before they started to grow.
But its the arrangement of the song and its narrative that propel the song forward and build energy. The song uses two great riffs – one moody melancholic power chord arpeggio, and later, a second simpler two chord riff drives between F# and a higher voiced E major between verses 2, 3 and 4. These separate the verses, and level by level, crank the song right up.
But then the dynamics suddenly change, and the first two lines of that final verse 4 are pretty much sotto voce until the rhythm section cracks in again and a full throttle coda takes the song out.
The vocal melody follows a dynamic contour too – more pensive in the early verses but higher and louder as the song progresses – an octave above her starting point. Full saturation tension/release with plenty of nice surprises - no wonder the song struck such a chord for so many!
Therefore, Happy Juliana Hatfield Day to you all, and if you find someone good in your songwriting travels, don’t leave them on the shelf – rediscover the gifts they have to offer you over and over.
Talk more soon
ps Songwriting School presents BEHIND THE SCENES: Open Mic to Single Release
Join us for an hour with up and coming Chilean recording artist, Carlos Montecinos recently signed to Division Records. However when he lived in New Zealand for 3 and a half years he studied dance (hip hop) winning a year long tuition scholarship, and music (guitar/singing/live performance), all the while working as a cafe manager. He got to grips with songwriting and his home studio and began crafting his material and performance. Hear how his journey unfolded from open mics in Wellington's Cuba St to the successful release of 2 singles/videos, Te Vas and Sin Censura. This is an interview in real time via Zoom at 2pm on Saturday 2 April NZT. You will receive your Zoom invitation once you purchase your seat.