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Critique of "Ghosts"

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Ed Durbrow's song "Ghosts" is refreshing in that he certainly didn't address the same old thing in the same old tired way! The production is tense and has a great deal of movement, which made for an enjoyable and intriguing listen. I especially appreciate being able to address the unique challenges that a composition topic such as this one creates!

This is a critique of "Ghosts" by Ed Durbrow. You'll find the original workshop here.


Form

The song has a fairly complex form, but it glides along seamlessly and I felt no awkward "warts" in the form through several listens. "Ghosts" features the following form, which I will refer to over the course of this critique.

  • Intro
  • Verse One
  • B Section or Channel
  • Chorus  
  • Verse Two
  • B Section or Channel
  • Chorus
  • Bridge
  • Solo
  • Verse Three
  • B Section 
  • Chorus

The rhyme scheme of the verses is AABB, while that of the chorus is ABAB. This is a good call, and gives the ear a break before returning to the verse rhyme scheme. 

The B section connecting the two sections has no rhyme but it works fine without it, and adds a more conversational tone. It really depends on the melody and phrasing as to whether or not this no rhyme technique works.  Trust your ears.

Plunging straight into the third verse with just a musical solo in between would have provided enough aural variation, because the form is fairly complex already. The writer, however, chose to include a bridge preceding the solo. I did not find it superfluous because he took a detour from the story line and focused on a visual description. Again, this change or topic provides a brief and welcomed recess before jumping back into the song's plot. Overall, the form works very well.


Melody

The verse melody is delivered in short, tense, punchy phrases. These then give way to a free form B section, followed by a much more drawn out delivery in the chorus. 

The chorus is short, and has a repetitive, chromatic, chanting quality that is very effective in a song about ghosts! The entire pattern is repeated again before a  long tension-building solo. 

The only section that bothered me melodically is the bridge, and it is certainly not a big problem. I would have preferred to hear more of a departure from the style of chord progression that had just been used in the chorus. It did manage to build intensity though.

Lyric

The lyric was my greatest area of concern in this song, but not because it was poorly written. For me, it had an identity crisis. 

The song does not have an overly playful tone, but almost would have worked as a song tailored for a fun scary movie. Referencing the possibility of punishment in the second verse, however, gave the song a heavier tone. This is heightened in the third verse when ridicule and rage enter the picture. 

If the song's 'monsters' had been more allegorical and less typical, the song would have had more social commentary impact. The tone ends up half way in between two moods, and doesn't do either justice.  I would either make it a fun, scary song, minus any heaviosity, or take it full force into a darker place. 

Another issue is that of a changing speaker. Sometimes a narrator is speaking in this lyric, and sometimes the boy is the speaker. Limit the voice to one or the other. 

Also watch the verb tense. The whole song is written in the present, as it is happening, so to speak. The bridge, however, is written in the past. Finally, in the third verse, the song jumps to a new projected 'present' tense in the future. It is awkward to write in an as-it-is-happening style unless a very small amount of time is covered. 

The narrator also moves from being the story teller to offering the child advice in the third verse. Again, be consistent in your voice and tense.

One last problem is the title being "Ghosts." In the chorus, the song speaks of ghosts in the plural sense. The bridge, meanwhile, describes a monster in the singular sense.

Commerciality

I could actually imagine this song as one used in a campy movie. The punishment, rage, and ridicule would have to be removed to keep it fun. 

In quite another direction, the song could be like "Luka" by Suzanne Vega, and tell the story of a child with some serious issues, be they emotional or societal. Melodically, it leans toward the former. The big production pushes it even more in that direction. 

Even though writing about seldom-touched topics can be a disadvantage due to lack of pitches, the opposite is also true. When a need for such a song arises, there are not countless songs competing! 

Every year, a certain number of halloween-themed songs are featured in cartoons, television specials, and films. If "Ghosts" was polished enough, it might find a home with a music library and onto a synch license from there! 

Typically lower budget arenas (not movies) are more apt to use pre-existing material that is not expressing written for the production. When you have complete ownership of a song, including its recording, you can explore such possibilities freely! Good luck, Ed!

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