Weekly Billboard Theory — Perfect
Hey what’s up hello. I know that I have been posting these every Thursday for almost a year now (W I L D) but I figured that I’d push this one back a day because of turkeys and whatnot. Anyways, I ate way too much and will probably never eat again so we’ll see how long this goes. Kinda surprised that it’s taken this long to write about another Ed Sheeran song but here I am and here we are.
Key: Ab Major
Tempo: 63 BPM
If you’ve been reading these write-ups every week then you might have immediately noticed some of the characteristics of this song. Easy structure, (primarily) pentatonic melody, good production, and simple chords. The first thing that jumps out at me is the rhythm. It’s a triple meter that is incredibly reminiscent to doo-wop ballads of the 50s and 60s. I feel like the most recognizable song in this style would have to be The Flamingos’ 1959 recording of “I Only Have Eyes For You.” Either that or Rihanna’s “Love On The Brain”. If you feel like you’re having deja vu, that’s because I used some of those exact sentences months ago when I wrote about Rihanna. Obviously, Ed Sheeran doesn’t draw as many similarities because he’s using modern production techniques but the rhythm takes us back to a “simpler” time.
The chord progression is nothing special. Verses and choruses are I-vi-IV-V while bridges just flipped the order with vi-IV-I-V. This is a rare case where we get an authentic cadence as every phrase ends with a V chord. Most pop modern pop music doesn’t care about the V chord but “Perfect” uses old techniques as homage to past hits. I’ve definitely mentioned how those four chords make up a million pop songs, but Ed uses a slightly different permutation that does something kind of clever. “Clever” is kind of a stretch in this scenario so maybe it would be more appropriate to say it’s a practice in minimalism? Idk. Ed Sheeran is already making a lot of a little by using the same chords in the verse and chorus but I’ll explain what I mean.
Alright alright, look above. The first three chords of the verse/chorus sections all contain the tonic (Ab) within. It’s not until the last chord of every phrase that we don’t hear the tonic. If it WAS used in the final chord (the V) we would have a suspended chord and it would create tension that wouldn’t be resolved until the beginning of the next phrase. I haven’t listened to the song a million times like I normally do for these write-ups but I’m pretty sure this never happens. The same phenomenon happens in the bridge as the V chord ends each section and the remaining chords are the same.
Is this just something to take any note of or is there any actual meaning behind this? One could make the argument that the carrying of the tonic until the last chord might represent how there is not such thing as “perfection” in relationships no matter how “perfect” they might actually seem. But yeah, that’s definitely a stretch as normally I try to make these writeups around 1000 words and I’m reaching while under 600 right now. Ya know what though? It’s a holiday. “Perfect” is a fine tune that I’m sure will be used as a first dance wedding song for plenty of couples but I can’t imagine that it will have the staying power of “Shape Of You”. And that’s fine! It always surprises me when a ballad love song gets up this high. Good for Ed.
Let’s see them charts! Post Malone is STILL at number one with “Rockstar” and I’m honestly really shocked at this point. “Havana” is still number two as we are missing the hot weather of the summer. The number three song is something new with Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang”. I haven’t been too kind to Soundcloud rappers during these write-ups. Will this be the exception? Find out next week at our regular time!