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Creatures of 5/4: Asymmetrical Simple Meter & Cross-Rhythm in Muse's "Animals"

Good study in straightforward 5/4 time.

While I personally think that with their theatrics and major arena effects, Muse qualifies as a modern prog rock band than a classic alternative rock act, the somewhat nihilistic, anti-corporation punch of this song definitely takes a cue from early 90s grunge.  Either way, it's a good exercise in identifying meter.  


(CN: The video contains cartoonish violence, but it might be disturbing to young viewers.)

“Animals” - Muse

Intro: Formed in England in 1994, Muse released their first album in 1999 and is often categorized as an alternative rock band, although the influence of progressive rock is clearly demonstrated in their music. “Animals” is evidence of this with its 5/4 meter and extended instrumental solos. The song appears on the band’s sixth studio album The 2nd Law, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and #1 on the UK Albums chart upon its 2012 release. The band has won five BRIT awards and one Grammy award and sold approximately 15 million albums worldwide.

Spoiler Alert: The whole song is performed in 5/4 time. If you can find the beat, you can find beat groupings of 5 instead of pop standard beat groups of 4.

Analysis: “Animals” was written and is performed entirely in 5/4, featuring an instrumental intro on an electric piano. The piano line, which reoccurs throughout the song, provides a cross-rhythmic feel with an uneven 3+3+2 grouping, working against the duple meter. This compound note grouping is also reinforced by the drumset rhythm, although a steady duple pattern in the 5/4 time signature is continually played on the hi-hat. The guitar solos are also played in 5/4.

Considerations for Teaching: This song contains no profanity, but the last two lines of the song could cause major controversy in a classroom setting. One possible interpretation of this song is that it is referring to corporations and their owners as the titular animals, as it makes reference to corporate vernacular (“advertise...expand...franchise...downsize”). The last lines of the song state “kill yourself / come on do us all a favor,” which although theses words may be directed at corporate giants, they are not appropriate for the classroom. However, a shortened portion of the song can still be played as a listening example in order to convey the musical concept without exposing students to any inappropriate subject matter.

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