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Traveling Key Changes: Two Altered Common Chord Modulations in Oasis's "All Around the World"

The Brothers Gallagher & crew travel around the diatonic & non-diatonic world, with at least two points of arrival.


The case of Oasis is one of cultural misunderstanding for most Americans. In present day, we have meme-ified the 1996 smash "Wonderwall" into oblivion. On my sole trip to the UK, the song "Don't Look Back in Anger" was an anthem I heard everywhere the summer of 2014. 

But to Brits, especially of my own generation, Oasis was a juggernaut force of nature in the mid-nineties. An average pop culturally interested Brit could tell you dozens of details about Oasis's spats with fellow Brit-poppers Blur that Americans are largely ignorant of. Either way, although they had a few big years in the States, Oasis was religion in the UK. 

Intro: The mid-1990s saw the brothers Gallagher & crew dominating airplay on both sides of “the pond”. Clearly influenced by The Beatles and somewhat by fellow Brit-rockers The Verve, the band was known both for their music and their exploits in UK tabloids. Beyond that, Oasis has won six BRIT awards and holds two Guinness World Records for their sales & success on UK charts. Their 1995 album (What's the Story) Morning Glory? holds the position of the 5th top selling UK album of all time. "All Around the World" is found on Be Here Now, the band's 1997 follow-up album.

Analysis: The group really does travel around the world of key signatures with this song. Using two Altered Common Chord modulations, one a flattened mediant and the other a major submediant (with a non-diatonic tone included), Oasis manages to keep the audience's attention without resorting to cheesy gear shifts. 

Starting in B major with fairly standard chord progressions in the first verse (B-F#-E-C#min-F#, or I-V-IV-iii-V). Some chromatic, non-diatonic chords sneak their way into the pre-chorus, starting with a common C# major (II) chord, and giving way to a flattened mediant (G major, heard first at 1:00 in the above video recording) and followed by movement between F#-F-E chords immediately preceding the chorus. 

After the second verse & chorus, there is a transitional section, indicated by movement between lyrics and "na na naaa"s (starting at 2:45 in the above video recording). This section initially follows the chord progression of the choruses, then moves to B to E (I-IV), and at 3:06, the G major chord (chromatic to the key of B major -- a flattened mediant) arrives again. The chords change between G to E until G then precedes the next chorus of the new key -- C major, making its official arrival at 3:37 -- as a the dominant (V) chord. Oasis just happened to pick a more dramatic way of moving up a half step, rather than the gear shift, which is more commonly heard in pop music.

The next key change works differently, though. Instead of moving to a flattened mediant, additional chromatic chords arrive to bring us to the next key. At 4:01, a chromatic line played by a trumpet introduces two new chromatic chords, namely A & G# (both major), which move down to G. The A to G movement over the course of the next transitional section continues, with an occasional visit from the G# major chord. The A major chord here could be referred to as a raised submediant in the key of C major. The chord is sustained at the end of the transitional material (4:18), after which it functions as the dominant (V) chord of the new key -- D major, which officially arrives at 4:25. The song remains in they key of D major (a whole step up from the prior key) for the remainder of the song. 

If you want to teach less common pop modulations, this might be a good place to start. 

Considerations for Teaching: Despite the penchant of the brothers Gallagher for fighting and bad behavior in public, which was heavily reported on in the British press, many of their songs contain no objectionable lyrics or themes. “All Around the World" seems to take on very personal meaning to singer Liam Gallagher, and the tongue-in-cheek lyric, "lost at sea / well I hope that you drown" is a little jarring, but the song contains no objectionable content.

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