Music education always & always looking forward.

Removing Just Two Beats: Changing Meter in Rick Springfield's "Jesse's Girl"

Two stinking notes mad me lose a bet with my students. I will never stop shaking my fists at Rick Springfield.

It used to be whenever I thought of Rick Springfield, I thought of my aunt, who often talked about how obsessed she was with this particular artist as a teenage girl.  Nowadays, when I think of Rick Springfield, I think of that time I had to bring my students cookies, simply because Mr. Teen Idol had to use some changing meter in his big hit song.  Ugh.  (Yes, I made a bet with my students that every time we heard a song on the radio, it'd be strictly in 4/4, and "Jesse's Girl" marked the first time I lost the bet in five years of teaching.)

Alas.  Happy 80s Week, everyone.

“Jesse’s Girl” - Rick Springfield

Intro: Australian born, Springfield followed his career in the band Zoot and his solo career in Australia with his hit “Jesse’s Girl.” The song was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart for two weeks in 1981 as well as topping the Australian singles charts. Springfield also won the Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for the song. He would go on to garner three more Grammy nominations and have four more Top 10 US hits. 

Analysis: “Jesse’s Girl” is a good study in standard pop song structure, including each of the typical sections found in a pop song in the typical format: intro-verse-pre-chorus-chorus-verse-pre-chorus-chorus-bridge-instrumental solo-chorus. Adding interest to the standard song structure, the last measures of both the pre-chorus and the chorus sections feature stress shifts, giving the idea of changing meter. The time signatures within the song do actually change, initially as the second verse occurs (heard here at 0:42), starting with a measure of 2/4, and then again at the very end of the song, with a measure appearing in 3/4 and featuring increased syncopation before the final chord. 

Considerations for Teaching: This song contains no profanity or necessarily inappropriate language, but the line “and she’s lovin’ him with that body I just know it” is extremely sexually suggestive, and should give teachers pause before playing it as a classroom example.

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