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Save Your Tears

by The Weeknd

It’s not that often you get a pop song which boasts six different chords, but nonetheless uses only the white notes! In other words, most of this song follows a C-Am-Em-G pattern, while the prechorus sections at 1:13 and 2:10 switch to Dm-Am-F-G, which means that all but one of the scale notes have triads built on them at some point in the timeline. So why was the chord on B avoided? Well, because it’s somewhat the ugly duckling amongst triads within the white-note scale, in that the notes B, D, and F make up a diminished chord, a triad that typically sounds much less euphonic in simple root-position form (with the B in the bass) than the major or minor triads formed on other root notes. Just try looping a C-Am-Em-Bdim progression and you’ll see why many song-writers never use diminished triads. C-Am-Em-Bdim-C: play_arrow | get_app However, it’s as well to point out that the tritone dissonance between the B and the F of a diminished triad becomes a lot less harmonically abrasive if the chord is used in inversion. So if you try looping C-Am-Em-Bdim/D instead, it feels a lot more musical. C-Am-Em-Bdim/D-C: play_arrow | get_app

Other than this, the main point of interest from a production perspective has to be that attention-grabbing rhythmic hiatus for the hook lines at 1:21, 1:29, 2:26, and 2:34 – and also that it’s not reiterated during the final choruses. Perhaps the feeling was that the sense of musical resolution delivered by an unimpeded rhythmic flow was more important than the startle-factor of the hiatus – especially at a point in the song where the rhythmic stunt is no longer as unexpected. That reasoning might also explain the shortening of the prechorus section when it recurs before the second chorus, and its complete absence prior to the third.

Another fun thing to check out is the differences between this song in its original released form and the remix version with additional featured vocals from Ariana Grande. First of all, it’s a bit rich calling it a remix when precious little has actually changed about the mix itself (Ms Grande’s warblings aside) – a slightly edgier tone to The Weeknd’s vocals and a decibel or so of extra mastering loudness just about sums it up. The biggest change, in fact, is that the remix jettisons the original version’s second verse section (0:40-1:13), bringing in the first chorus (and the guest vocalist) earlier and shortening the overall running time to just over three minutes. Plus there’s a return of the rhythmless title hook at the end too. Taking all those changes together, it suggests pretty clearly to me that someone decided the original vision simply wasn’t pop enough for Ariana Grande fans…