This article features a musical analysis and review of ‘The Child’, which is the headline track of Monogram’s debut EP ‘Diary’, released on 23/09/2017 by Sidus HQ.
Although I aim to justify any opinions raised in this article, please respect that the views expressed are subjective. For more information, please click here
About The Composer(s)?:
Monogram are a fledgling k-pop duo featuring the vocal talents of Riwon and singer-songwriter Kevin (케빈), who is listed as the composer of ‘The Child’ [source: Naver]
I contacted Sidus HQ to request some general information regarding Kevin’s song-writing career as it was difficult to find relevant details within the group’s marketing material. Bizarrely, despite assuring that my article would not be monetized and that it would be written strictly for a non-commercial purpose, my request for information was very politely and respectfully declined by the administrator. I was disappointed to receive such a response, as I am accustomed to acknowledging the composer of every song that I analyse.
I was able to establish that the song was also arranged and produced by Denis Seo and 신승익 [source: melon]. However, this revelation leads towards more questions than it answers:
Denis Seo and 신승익 are known for their joint collaboration on the debut EP for ‘April’ in 2015, writing and producing “Thriller” with the former also arranging “Feeling”. Denis Seo was also involved in writing and arranging “Beautiful Liar” and “Love Hurts” from Dal Shabet’s 9th EP ‘Naturalness’ in 2016 [source: all music] [source: wikipedia]. Given the recognition of both Denis Seo and 신승익 as composers, I am understandably speculative as to what plausible extent ‘The Child’ is Kevin’s unassisted work. I’m unable to comment further without clarification and will revise this article if I am reliably updated on the matter.
Song Structure and Track Info:
(fig A – Bar, Timecode & Structural Diagram for ‘The Child)
- Duration of the song = 3:57.192s [source: Audacity, using m4a. file purchased from iTunes]
- Consists of 110 bars in 4/4 time signature
- Tempo – crotchet = Approx. 120 (Allegro)
- Key Signature: Eb Major with modulation to E Major at ‘Chorus 3’
- Form: Intro, ABCDEABCDEABCDE, Outro, End.
‘The Child’ is coherently structured (see fig A, above) with the only real anomaly stemming from a 9-second fade at the start of the song (which appears to be audio directly lifted from the MV edit). The song adheres to a common 4/4 time signature at approximately 120bpm (brisk) pace, featuring an eventual semi-tone (half-step) key shift from Eb to E Major.
Conveniently, Monogram’s EP release comes complete with an instrumental backing track for each song. This allows for greater accuracy when annotating individual parts but more importantly, it allows fans to sing along or for musicians to play ontop of the track.
(fig B – The first 4 bars of the ‘Intro’ section)
As previously mentioned, the song begins with a 9-second fade, featuring various different sound effects, which seem to be directly lifted from the MV. This is immediately followed by a striking and syncopated string entry, which (as can be seen in fig B above) is interrupted on the up-beat of the first and third full bars by the background acoustic guitar. Why is such an interruption significant? It acts as an example of effective arrangement, adding an audible distraction to an otherwise recurring string loop provides longevity on repetition. The song generally serves as an excellent example of prolongation through effective arrangement – I did not once become ‘bored’ during repeating passages or sections.
As can be seen from fig C below, the second half of the introduction features a broader ensemble of backing instruments with greater emphasis on the backing kick drum and shakers, with the additional support of the backing harmony, which is played by the piano. Students are often discouraged in early music theory and composition lessons from writing in intervals of a perfect fourth (a gap of 4x semi-tones or ‘half steps’ between the lower and upper notes) due to its irresolute nature. However, the piano line at the beginning of bar 4 below shows an effective use of the interval, utilising it to add a 7th degree to what would otherwise be an ordinary C-Minor chord, thereby varying the overall sound and feel of the backing in that section. It’s a subtle but very clever use of harmony.
(fig C – The Final 4 Bars of the ‘Intro’ Section)
(fig D – The Opening of Verse 1)
The first verse opens with Kevin on the vocals, supported by hit chords from the strings and guitar, as noted in fig D above. The entry is brisk in nature and contributes to a sense of ‘rhythmic movement’ on merit of his clear articulation and use of staccato (sharply-detached) phrasing in bars 1 and 2 of the passage. At the end of each phrase in the verse, the full backing ensemble respond with a melodic interjection by the upper strings, supported by scalic ascension in the piano (thereby bolstering the backing chords), with further rhythmic variation being supplied by a syncopated acoustic guitar line. All of this variety is taking place above the same 4-chord progression observed from the very beginning of the track.
As can be seen from fig E below, the closing 4 bars of the first verse are similar in nature to the previous 4 with the exceptions of a slight variation in the string line in bars 3 and 4 (to help set up the switch to the bridge section), as well as the introduction of Riwon’s gentle vocals.
(fig E – Final 4 Bars of Verse 1)
Variety is achieved in the second verse by featuring both vocalists singing in harmony and in the third verse by heavily reducing the backing to acoustic guitar and delegating the introductory vocals to Riwon before splitting to Kevin. In essence, despite recurring themes and devices, there is something new to enjoy in every verse.
The Bridge Section:
(fig F – The Opening of the Bridge Section – Verse 1)
The bridge section sees the introduction of what can either be argued as a separate synth backing or an artificial manipulation of the backing strings by the producers. The presence of a synth bass is undeniable in this passage due to the obvious bass glissando in bar 2 above. To avoid argument, I have annotated the instruments in fig F as if both elements are individual elements within the score. For the opening 2 bars, there is an interplay between the vocals and upper strings with the backing keys/synth. We are introduced to a first example of extended instrumental techniques in bar two with the strings briefly playing two ‘pizz’ (pizzicato – plucked) notes before returning to ‘arco’ (bowed) notation in the following bar. During bars 3 and 4, it becomes apparent that the string line has been sonically manipulated with the use of artificially controlled ‘gliss’ (glissando –slides). Furthermore, the timbre or overall quality of the sound of the strings begins ‘closed’ and ‘expands’ with the crescendo in bar 3.
The final 4 bars of the bridge section, as illustrated in fig G below feature a more intense and quick string backing. In this passage, the strings take on a new role, interplaying with Kevin’s vocals in-between sentences before building up a potential section change, with a scalic flurry leading towards two chord hits on the dominant key of Bb Major. Leaving the harmony unresolved in this way provides an effective means of setting up a comfortable section change.
The Bridge prior to ‘Chorus 3’ is suspended with an additional bar of silence, allowing for a shift of key signature to take place from Eb to E Major.
(fig G – The Closing 4 Bars of The Bridge Section – Verse 1)
(fig H – The Opening to Chorus 1)
The ensemble backing to the first chorus matches that of the introduction. However, variety is being achieved by the unison vocals (separated by an octave), which traverse figs H and I, and the interjecting background vocals, which switch the singing from unison to harmony.
(fig I – The Closing to Chorus 1)
The Chorus ‘B’
The song features a natural 6-bar extension to each chorus. This passage is mainly defined by an intensification of the vocal melody, which previously featured in the main chorus. This more frequently recurring melody is now accompanied on its first rendition by intense sustained chords in the upper strings before the backing vocals interject at the start of bar 4. Immediately following this, the instrumental texture breaks down to solo vocals and piano for the last two bars (see fig J, below).
(fig J – Chorus 1 ‘B’)
‘The Child’ is a fantastic example of harnessing creativity to achieve interesting variety despite being restricted by a simple and repetitive 4-chord progression. My annotations and analysis support that the song was intelligently arranged and there are many aspects of the song that I personally enjoyed, for example:
- The interplay between the different backing instruments, as well as between the vocals and backing instrumentation, throughout the song.
- The amount of variety achieved from the vocalists alone – this was achieved, in part, by use of distinct isolated solo sections, unison passages, creative use of articulation to enhance rhythmic effect and the gentle switches from unison to harmony by inclusion of interjecting backing vocals.
- The seamless modulation from Eb Major to E Major via the simple use of a 1-bar pause. A common technique, but tastefully executed in this song.
- The use of ‘unconventional’ intervals to add variety to elements of an otherwise straightforward backing harmony.
I did not become ‘bored’ with the repetition whilst listening to the song and I attribute this to the quality of the arrangement and the vocalists. I greatly enjoyed Monogram’s debut and I am interested to hear how they develop their concept in the future. In all, a very pleasant way to kick off the Autumn!