Music education always & always looking forward.

Bringing Love Back to Life: Picardy Third (and Symmetrical Compound & Changing Meter) in Seal's "Kiss from a Rose"

Interesting harmonic (& meter) analysis here in a 90s no. 1 smash hit.


It could be argued that Seal is not an ideal representative for the worldwide community of Black musicians. Just ask the organization Human Rights Foundation about their concerns regarding Seal performing in Chechnya in 2011, after which Seal responded, “Leave me out of your politics.”

I’ve also seen it argued that in Great Britain, there is a dearth of representation regarding Black soul singers, with the UK churning out tons of blue-eyed soul crooners (Adele & Sam Smith are just the latest examples of such).

But these sort of controversies for extremely famous musicians are more commonplace than they seem (like when Queen played at Sun City at the height of South African apartheid), and no community is a monolith. And while Seal may be underappreciated in the United States, this song is an deeply embedded bit of 90s pop memorabilia. And fantastic use of an oboe solo in a number one hit.

NOTE: the Picardy Third at the end of this song cannot be heard in this video recording, which was hugely popular and received a massive amount of MTV airplay. The Picardy Third is heard best on the original 1994 album recording of the song, which you can find here.

Intro: Seal was a well-known British soul singer catapulted into international fame with the popularity of this particular song. He had already been nominated for several Grammys by the year 1994, the year his second eponymous album was released. “Kiss from a Rose” appeared on that album and was first released as a single in July of that year, to extremely modest success. At the behest of director Joel Schumacher, the song appeared in in the 1995 film Batman Forever, helped anchor sales of the multi-platinum soundtrack album, and eventually won three Grammys: Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Male Pop Performance. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number one on the Australian charts as well. “Kiss from a Rose” is considered Seal’s signature song. To date, he has won three BRIT Awards and one additional Grammy.

Analysis: The song is written & performed in G minor, starting on a G minor chord. Oddly enough, the G major chord appears throughout the song (with an often repeated i-VII-I progression), adding harmonic interest. Because the G major chord is used so often in the song, it could be argued that the final chord in the song is simply a repetition of the previously appearing chord, but it also works as a Picardy Third — with the Bb changing to a B natural so as to end on a major chord.

The song is also written in 6/8 time, with several measures of 9/8 thrown in (the first appearing at : ), hence checking off boxes for symmetrical compound meter and changing meter, as well.

Considerations for Teaching: This song contains no objectionable lyrics, and contains some harmonic content ripe for analysis. While it might sound very dated, I listened to both the Batman Forever soundtrack and Seal’s second eponymous album so much in the mid-90s it’s impossible for me to be impartial about this song.

Happy 10th Birthday, Middle Cyclone!

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