Music education always & always looking forward.

Subdivision in Synths: Symmetrical Compound Meter in INXS's "Never Tear Us Apart"

A classic 80s pop song from Aussie icons in 12/8 time.


20 years on, I am still not quite over Michael Hutchence's death. I was 15 at the time, a high school freshman, and I wrote a poem about it. I hadn't latched onto alternative rock by the time Kurt Cobain passed away, so his passing only really affected me in retrospect. Hutchence was a talented and afflicted man who was dealing with extremely complex personal issues prior to his death. Additionally, the effects of depression and drug abuse were almost nonexistent in the immediate conversation surrounding his death. As the years have passed, a clearer picture of a complicated man & desperate father unable to cope with fame & family appears. I don't think I mourned a rock death quite like Hutchence until David Bowie's passing in 2016. 

Looking back, as a 15-year-old late 90s alterna-girl, hooked on the radio and oversized corduroy pants, I had comparatively little actual knowledge of Hutchence. But I had no idea how much I would continue to love the music of INXS 20 years onward. 

The opening synths in this song might be slightly off-putting to your students, who are currently 90s obsessed and not quite so much into the 80s, but it's a worthwhile listening.

Intro: Well-loved in the U.S., UK, and indomitable legends in their native Australia, INXS dominated charts in the 1980s and beyond. The band was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame in 2001. They won six other ARIA Awards prior to that, including two for "Never Tear Us Apart"; additionally, their accolades include two BRIT Awards, five MTV Video Music Awards, three Grammy nominations and a Juno nomination. "Never Tear Us Apart" comes from the band's fifth album and their most commercially successful, 1987's Kick. The album landed at #1 on the 1988 year-end Australian charts and #4 on the year-end Billboard Top 200.

It was reported by MTV that "Never Tear Us Apart" was played at Michael Hutchence's funeral in 1997 as the pall-bearers were taking down his casket. 

Analysis: Having appeared published in 12/8 time, a string section plays the subdivided eighth notes throughout much of the song, reinforcing the symmetrical compound meter. The time signature remains in 12/8 throughout the song.

Considerations for Teaching: Although a great deal of INXS's music discusses sex & drugs, "Never Tear Us Apart" contains no offensive lyrics and serves as a great (if extremely of its time) listening example.

I'm not going to lie. I'm really proud.

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