I always love a great example of a strong use of prosody in a song. When the words and the music work together towards the same idea, you can create some really magical musical moments. This is especially true when those moments span the length of the entire song, for the most impactful listening experience.
One of my favorite examples of this happens in Carole King’s song from the early 70’s, “I Feel the Earth Move.” It’s a great example of a song with good prosody working on a several different levels.
There are essentially two sections in this song. The first is very upbeat and bouncy, while the second is more laid back. The upbeat section of the song kicks off the song. The more laid back portion of the song aligns with the words “oh baby, when I see your face.” The song’s structure simply flips back and forth between those two sections. Check it out on YouTube if you’re not familiar with it, or you need a refresher.
What’s interesting is how the two sections are addressed. When the song begins, the upbeat nature of the first section is highlighted with its lyrics. Lines like “I feel the earth move under my feet,” and “I feel my heart start to tremble” go hand in hand with such bouncy music underneath. That idea continues throughout each of the upbeat sections.
On the other hand, once we get to the section that lays back, its subtler intent is also reflected in its lyrics. In these sections, she uses lines like “Mellow as the month of May,” and “You tenderly call my name.” These are lines ask for music that’s more laid back, as opposed to music that would make the earth move under your feet. And those lyrics get what they deserve, in music that’s appropriate for them.
But the prosody doesn’t stop there. At the end of the last mellow section, King sings the line “I know that my emotions are something I just can’t tame” just as the song heads back into the upbeat section. Again, here the lyrics are directly tied to the music. She sings about something she can’t tame, just as the laid back section gets away from her and slams back into the upbeat section, where she gets back into the “I feel the earth move under my feet” lyrics. Almost as if she couldn’t tame the music. Awesome.
And if ending one of her sections with appropriate prosody wasn’t enough, she also ends the entire song that way too. The song ends on King repeating the latter half of the line “I feel the sky tumbling down.” As she repeats “tumbling down,” the music seems to tumble down along with her words, as it slows to a crawl before it fades out altogether. You can hear it clearly if you listen to the tail end of the song. It’s a really nice way to attach what she’s singing about to her actual music.
As you saw here, what’s cool about this song is not only does it have great prosody, but the prosody happens on a few different levels. It happens within each section of the song, by having the lyrical content match the mood of the music. It also happens from section to section when the lyrics that “can’t be tamed” propel us into a more upbeat section, musically. Finally, it happens as a way to end the whole song, which is also a great way to remind us what we heard throughout the song, since it’s the last thing in our minds. If you can start thinking about prosody in your music the way Carole King has in “I Feel the Earth Move,” you’ll be on your way to putting together some really effective songs.