Music education always & always looking forward.

Ascending Perfect Fifth (and Descending Perfect Fourth) in Usher et. al.'s "Yeah!"

I know what you're thinking.  There is no way I'm teaching this to my kids.  No.  Way.  

Well, if you want to bring them in on a particular Throwback Thursday and demonstrate the ascending perfect fifth and mirroring descending perfect fourth (in the context of Aeolian mode, or natural minor, no less!), you might want to play just the intro to this song.

I am not at all endorsing playing Ludacris's verse, however, despite how ubiquitous some of his words have become in the cultural lexicon over the last decade since this song dominated the airwaves.  I didn't quite grasp it at age 21, but Ludacris's verse is a good example of why mainstream hip-hop gets a bad (forgive me) rap for the way it objectifies women.  But a catchy beat and a truly well-constructed song can make listeners forgive a multitude of sins.

Yeah!” - Usher ft. Ludacris & Li'l Jon

Intro: Starting his career in the 1990s, R&B singer Usher has achieved nine #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, including 2004’s “Yeah!”, which topped the charts for 12 consecutive weeks. It went on to be crowned the year-end number 1 single on the Billboard charts, as well as to number 1 in 14 other countries outside of the US. The song won the Grammy in 2005 for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. Making use of traditional R&B singing, the song also crossed over into the popular mid-2000s rap subgenre known as crunk, which originated in Usher's hometown of Atlanta. Overall, Usher has won eight Grammys and continues to record today.

Analysis: Published in G minor (natural minor, or Aeolian mode), the ascending perfect fifth is the first interval heard in the song, in the very first two notes. The melodic motif of G-D-G-Eb-G-Eb-G-D is heard throughout the song. When the vocals enter, particularly at the start of the chorus at 0:20 in the music video, the main vocal motif is a descending perfect fourth. 

Considerations for Teaching: Although this song is already extremely popular and still very well known, the subject matter is questionable for the classroom. The sung portion discusses a possible illicit romance beginning at a club and contains suggestive themes, although it lacks major profanity (but includes the words “damn”, “hell”). The rapped portion of the song, performed by Ludacris, contains a great deal of sexualized language, overtly inappropriate subject material, and total objectification of women, thus making this portion of the song totally inappropriate for classroom use. The major theoretical concepts can be expressed by just listening to the opening notes, but teachers should proceed with great caution if this song is chosen as a listening example.

Ascending Major Sixth (and Perfect Fifth) in Robbie Williams's "Angels"

Ascending Minor (and then Major!) Sixth in The Beatles' "In My Life"