Weekly Billboard Theory — Something Just Like This
A song title can say a lot. Often times it will tell us the lyrics to a chorus, the context of piece, or even the time signature of a song. Your boys The Chainsmokers and Coldplay revealed a lot with the title of their joint effort: “Something Just Like This” is a whole lot just like “Closer.”
The Chainsmokers & Coldplay
Tempo: 103 BPM
Key: D Major
So when I started writing this column (is that what this would be called?) I had a big gripe with how music reviews are written. This really hasn’t changed. People that get paid wayyyy more than me write from their ivory towers saying that this song sucks. They’re not wrong, but WHY is it garbage. Use your words. You’re a senior editor. Also, 9 SENTENCES? I know I can get wordy but holy cow write about something more than just “Coldplay isn’t as good as they were when I listened to them.”
Another major publication posted a similar (AND SOMEHOW SHORTER) review of “Something Just Like This” and came closer to hitting the mark about this song by mentioning the Chainsmokers’ “cookie cutter drops.” He’s not wrong but he fails to mention that it’s not just the drop that sounds familiar, it’s the whole dang song. Side note: If you need some writing done by someone who actually knows anything about music AND culture, not just “music culture,” hit me up.
Alright, now that I’ve calmed down a little bit we can look at this song. This will probably be a pretty short writeup this week because as I mentioned before, “Something Just Like This” is a heck of a lot like “Closer.” I’m going to be referencing this article throughout most of this so it might help to have another tab open.
Scroll up, check the tempo, compare to “Closer.” These two songs are 8 BPM apart. I’m also realizing now that I probably never mentioned what BPM stands for because it’s so commonplace in my life and I apologize for that. BPM stands for beats per minute and is how we measure the tempo, or speed, of a song. This measurement has a lot to do with the mood of a song and how “dancey” it may feel. Needless to say, “Something Just Like This” and “Closer” have pretty, pretty, pretty similar feels to one another.
Not only does the tempo feel very similar, but the introduction uses literally the exact same rhythm for the chord changes. I know that the word ‘literally’ has lost its meaning over time (that’s fine, language is fluid) but look below. Beat for beat, it is identical. Unfortunately, “Something Just Like This” keeps that same rhythm pattern going until 1:04 where we get our first “cookie cutter drop.” “Closer” at least varies the rhythm as soon as the vocals enter and gives quite a bit of space. Again, I can’t stress enough how important it is to utilize space is in creating interesting music.
Up above, you’ll see the majority of both songs. On the left, “Something Just Like This” and the right, “Closer.” Not only are the rhythms the same, but the functioning chords are the same. IV, V, and vi are always a safe bet but it might not be a great look to have them in the same rhythm and same order in two singles within the same year. Then again, this song is probably making them more money than I’ve ever made in my entire life so what the heck do I know.
It’s pretty hilarious how lazy this song is and I’m a super annoying dude so you better believe that I will go to any length to expose the lack of effort made by The Chainsmokers and I guess Coldplay too. Previously, I’ve scratched the surface about scales and accidentals a little bit but we’re about to go deeper. Actually, this stuff is a much lighter topic (no surprise there) so you can sit back and drink it in maaaaaaaan.
Let’s go back to basics. The entirety of Western music (that’s probably everything you’ve ever chosen to listen to) uses 11 notes as seen above. Those little slanted hashtags are sharps and lead up to notes while those weird looking lower case Bs are flats that walk down to other notes. “Woah that seems to be way more than 11 notes” you might notice. What if I told you that flats and sharps are THE SAME. It’s just the function that changes. Look at where they are in comparison to the notes without accidentals next to them. C# and Db (which I’ve circled above in red) both fall in between C and D (which are circled in blue). These notes sound the same but are theoretically different depending on how they’re used. You don’t really have to worry about that second note too much, but know that these two notes sound the same. When two notes sound the same but look differently like this, they are enharmonic.
So yeah, if you’re starting from one note and playing every note up to the octave, that is known as a chromatic scale. Figured I should fill ya in on that too. This is probably the most clever thing that the Chainsmokers will ever do and I don’t know if they’re aware that they did this but holy cow it’s so funny to me. “Something Just Like This” is in D major, that’s why the chromatic scale above starts on D. Go ahead and find the pitch smack dab in the middle: G#. What is the enharmonic to G#? Ab. What key is “Closer” in? Ab major. It’s literally as far away as you can get while keeping the same chords. Like, just write a different song instead. C’mon.
This was way more than I intended to write about this song. Just listen to “Closer.” It’s much better and STILL in the top 10. Pretty wild. Looking into next weeks song: “Shape of You,” “Bad and Boujee,” “That’s What I Like,” and “I Don’t Want To Live Forever” are still up top so we’ll go to number 5 with Rihanna’s “Love On The Brain.” Definitely has a very vintage vibe to it but does it use primarily IV, V, and vi? FIND OUT NEXT WEEK!