Analysis & Review: Dream Catcher –날아올라 Fly High

Dream Catcher –날아올라 Fly High (Link to YouTube MV)

Introduction:

This article provides a musical analysis and review of the song ‘Fly High’, composed by Seion and as performed by Dream Catcher. ‘Fly High’ is the title track of the mini-album ‘Prequel’ and was released on 27/07/2017 by Happy Face Entertainment.

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DISCLAIMER(s):

Although I aim to justify all opinions raised in this article, please respect that the views expressed are subjective. For more information, please click here

About The Composer:

‘Seion’ (이성은), is a prolific composer, singer and songwriter. She has worked with multiple prestigious k-pop artists including: Apink, Girls’ Day, Kara, I.O.I & April. [source]

Seion composed and arranged both the music and lyrics for Dream Catcher’s ‘Fly High’. She also demonstrates her ability as an accomplished instrumentalist, having provided both the piano and guitar solos which feature in the song. [source]

Song Structure and Track Info:

01 FLY HIGH bar structure

(fig A – Bar, Timecode & Structural Diagram for ‘Fly High’)

  • Duration of the song = 3:31.439s [source: Audacity, using m4a. file purchased from iTunes]
  • Consists of 132 bars of which 127 are in 4/4 time signature
  • Tempo – 4/4: approximately crotchet = 150 (Vivacissimo)
  • Key Signature: F Minor
  • Form: Intro, ABCCDEEABCCDEEFGEE, Outro

The Introduction

02 INTRODUCTION

(fig B – Annotation of Piano Introduction to ‘Fly High’)

The song begins with a piano solo, which is played by Seion herself. The melody of the first bar, as annotated in fig B above, briefly alludes to the main vocal melody in the chorus. However, the solo quickly expands into a virtuosic display of movement (by octaves) in the right hand (see bar 3 of fig B above) before a period of smooth cross-handed arpeggiation (see the 4th bar).

It is difficult to provide an accurate metronome reading for this extract as the passage is played in a relatively ‘free’ (rubato) tempo and slows significantly towards the 4th bar, before picking up a new faster tempo just before the end of the section. Therefore it is also difficult to accurately assign the faster notes in the 4th bar to their respective tuplets (groups of notes fitting within the main beat). I am, however, confident in the accuracy of my pitch-notation for this bar, having slowed the audio playback to 20% of the original speed in order to identify the intervallic shifts(!)

I have also included appropriate hand positions and fingering for anyone who wishes to learn the piano solo for themselves – Good luck!

The Instrumentals:

Whilst looking at the Bar, Structure and Timecode diagram in fig A, you may have noticed that the opening instrumental passage has been divided into two sections (A and B). Seion does not fully repeat the instrumental passage later in the song, but instead, borrows elements from the 8 bars of ‘A’ and three bars of ‘B’ later in the song. I have labeled the instrumental sub-sections in this way to make it absolutely clear which element (and how much of it) is being repeated.

03 INSTRUMENTAL A1

(fig C – Skeletal Annotation for the opening 4-bars of the 1st ‘Instrumental’ Passage.)

The 8-bar ‘Instrumental A’ explodes into the song at 0:13, giving the listener a first glimpse at the core chord progression and backing instrumentals. There are some ‘vocals’ however these are mainly panned vocal embellishments using a ‘phaser’ effect and don’t impact on the main melody of the passage, which is predominantly covered by the synthesized strings and electric guitar.

The first 4 bars of fig C feature the chord progression of Db, Eb, Ab7, Fm. Although VI-VII-IV-I progressions are very commonly used in popular music (Coldplay wrote a whole song using the progression: Viva La Vida), Seion does well to embellish the progression syncopating changes between the 1st-3rd and 2nd-4th bars in the bass line.

As can be seen in fig D below, Seion quickly moves away from the VI-VII-IV-I progression and instead uses the chords Db, C7 (1st inversion – emphasis on the ‘e’), Fm and F Major – this progression is juxtaposed during the first 3 bars of the bass line with the repeating notes Db – E Natural – F, otherwise known as the ending of a F-Harmonic Minor scale. Such juxtaposition is an effective way of highlighting the home key.

For clarification, the final 3 bars of fig D below are what I have labeled as Instrumental ‘B’ and mostly feature syncopated octave doubling, providing variety and ‘distraction’ and, most importantly, paving the way for a new element (in this case a core vocal melody) to be introduced to the song.

04 INSTRUMENTAL A2

(fig D – Skeletal Annotation of the closing bars of the 1st ‘Instrumental Passage’).

 The Verses:

05 Verse 1A

(fig E – Skeletal Annotation of the first half/8-bars of Verse 1)

The verses are similarly styled to an array of rock songs, featuring recurring octaves in the bass with syncopated movement between chords on the last quaver (8th note) upbeat of the bar (this is the same in Fig E above and Fig F below). The guitar part is mosty refrained throughout the verse and is intended to provide crucial backing harmony for the vocals. As can be seen in fig F below, the vocals branch out with an overhead vocal backing embellishing the melody.

06 Verse 1B

(fig F – Skeletal Annotation of vocal and bass line for the 2nd half of Verse 1)

I have not included annotations of the second verse in this article as, harmonically, the passage is resonant with verse 1 with variety instead being (mostly) found in the vocal lines (particularly the use of call and response between said and sung vocals).

The Bridge (A):

07 BRIDGE

(fig G – Skeletal Annotation of the 4-bar Bridge ‘A’ 0:55 – 1:01, 2:01 – 2:07)

The bridge passage is characterised by a switch from ‘spoken’ vocals (seen in the first 2 bars of fig G above) to naturally sung vocals in the remaining two bars. This is backed up by some syncopated octave doubling between the bass and distorted electric guitar during the first two bars before all parts break into harmony for the last two bars in order to set up an imperfect I-V progression ending with a C7 chord on the 4th bar.

The Chorus:

08 Chorus

(fig H – Skeletal Annotation of the first half of ‘Chorus 1’ – 1:01 – 1:15)

Each chorus section is made up of two 8-bar passages, predominantly featuring the core melody being carried by the main vocals and being supported by frequently recurring backing chords which help to bring out the harmony. The first chorus sees the synth strings playing a kind of overlapping background ‘2nd melody’ against the vocal line and the passage cleverly sets up a second round of 8-bars with the use of the Eb-diminished (add7) and Ab(aug 5) chords as shown during bar 8 of fig H above.

The second part of the chorus, for the first 4 bars, embellishes what was heard during the opening of fig H, with the final 4 bars building towards another C7 imperfect cadence to prompt the introduction of another new section.

The chorus section is repeated 3 times and remains harmonically consistent throughout. Variety is achieved on every repetition by subtle changes in backing and for instance, at the start of verse 3, temporarily removing the very heavy backing drum beat.

The Guitar Solo:

9 GUIT SOLO

(fig I – Annotation of the ‘Guitar Solo’ Passage – 2:32 – 2:40)

In keeping with the pseudo-rock composition theme, Seion has kindly provided us with a distorted/overdrive solo for electric guitar. It’s a pleasant surprise to be met with a rock solo (in a k-pop song) which utilises: pitch bends (see bar 1 of fig I), fast picking (bars 3 and 4) and a frequently moving ‘glissando’ of hammer-ons (bar 5), which I presume, based on the quality and speed of performance, are using the guitar pick itself rather than fingertapping.

Bridge B:

10 BRIDGE B F MOD

(fig J – Annotation of ‘Bridge B’ – Modulation to F Major – 2:40 – 2:52)

Bridge B immediately follows the guitar solo and shifts the predominantly minor harmonic backing to a temporary home key of F-Major. Similar to the juxtaposition techniques mentioned during ‘Instrumental A’, Seion successfully highlights the new key signature by fixing a descending F-Major Scale against the shifting backing chords in bars 1 – 3 of fig J above. The second half of the Bridge B builds tension through harmonic dissonance – This is achieved by juxtaposing the rising notes in the guitar, keyboard and strings in bars 5 and 6, against a pedal note of ‘G’ in the bass line. The passage concludes with another imperfect cadence ending on C Major and appropriately heralds the beginning of a new Chorus.

The Outro:

11 OUTRO

(fig K – Skeletal Annotation of the ‘Outro’ – 3:17 – End)

Musically, the outro is defined by spoken vocals which are supported by a recurring bass pedal, embellished by a recurring and eventually descending piano line. Although the tempo has not physically dropped, there is a sense of ‘slowing down’ which is achieved by simply removing the intense main drum-beat from the mix. It is not my place to comment on the meaning of the lyrics or what the song means to the listener, that bit is up to you! If you made it this far, leave some suggestions in the comments below!

Personal Opinion:

I thought ‘Fly High’ was, stylistically speaking, a very brave choice of title single for a fledgling mini-album. That said, I thought the production and performance by Seion and the members of Dream Catcher was well accomplished and characteristically ‘unique’ from other singles in the charts presently.

There are 7 elements that I particularly enjoyed from the experience of listening to ‘Fly High’:

  • The fact the mini-album comes complete with full vocal mix and a separate instrumental version (It makes my life so much easier when annotating extracts to score! – and is great for fans who want to sing along or musicians who want to jam ontop of the music)
  • The inclusion of two virtuosic solos, one on the piano, one on the electric guitar. They serve to exemplify Seion as an accomplished musician (as well as composer/arranger/lyricist) and provide an added ‘dimension’ to the song.
  • The song effectively merges features of rock music with common k-pop composition trends. The result is one of stylistic diversity without pulling too far from the target consumer.
  • Seion’s composition features several repeating sections, however she cleverly achieves some form of ‘variety’ upon every repetition (particularly in the choruses).
  • I enjoyed the shock contrast achieved by including ‘Bridge B’ after the electric guitar solo. The key modulation to F-Major is a genuine surprise on the first listen, it again provides variety and effectively builds towards an imperfect cadence to herald the next chorus. It’s brilliantly written.
  • The conceptual ending to the song. Although it is not my place to comment on the significance, I have enjoyed surfing across various forums and video comments discussing the significance of the lyrics.

In short, ‘Fly High’ offers something for both the casual and formal listener. It is a well-composed song and has been a rewarding purchase. I have listened to the other songs on the ‘Prequel’ Mini-album and can wholeheartedly recommend the purchase to anyone considering whether to add it to their library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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