Music education always & always looking forward.

A Change in the Story: Picardy Third in Lionel Richie's "Hello"

One note moved up a half step makes for a more hopeful ending to a sad love song.

In the bigness, the excess of 80s pop music, there was definitely a place for soft, smooth R&B.  What a lot of that soft music doesn't always get credit for is its use of harmonic language.  Master composer Lionel Richie infuses this slow-burning classic with lots of very dense chords and, of course, a Picardy Third at the end.  If you were analyzing this song further, you might say that the major chord/Picardy Third tells a happy ending to the story Richie spins of someone he loves from afar, but who knows.

The video, iconic as it is, a little creepy to watch as an adult.  Seriously, a professor starts to stalk his blind student and call her at all hours of the night?  Yikes.  Maybe the clay bust that looks like a comic book exaggeration of Richie's face at the end is karmic retribution for a creepy video, but nonetheless, the song is totally solid.

"Hello" - Lionel Richie

Intro: Lionel Richie had already achieved impressive commercial & compositional success as a member of The Commodores by the 1980s. His second solo album, 1983's Can't Slow Down, featured "Hello" as its third and most successful single. The song hit #1 in the U.S. and seven other countries in 1984 and Can't Slow Down won two Grammys, including Album of the Year. Richie has won four other Grammys, and Academy Award, and has sold over 100 million albums worldwide. 

Analysis: The song, published in A minor, remains in minor until the very last chord, which is A major, utilizing a C# as its Picardy Third. This does not occur until 4:38-39 in the video recording heard here. The song also makes use of a dense harmonic language, using many 7th and 9th chords as well as a Neapolitan sixth chord in the chorus. 

*Please note: the video recording is based on the music video that was released. Like many music videos in the 1980s, the song starts and stops to add to the dramatic effect of the video.

Considerations for Teaching: While it is not necessary to play the entire song to grasp the point of the Picardy Third in the song's final chord, the song is not at all inappropriate in terms of subject matter or language and could be played in its entirety in a classroom. Its popularity over the years may make it a touchstone for many young listeners.

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