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Workshop Critique: Brother Needs A Brother

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After listening to a dozen or so submissions, I chose "Brother Needs A Brother" for my September critique. I wish I had a lyric sheet to follow because I could not make out a few of the lines. The song caught my ear instantly, though, and has a strong flavor that drew me in. There are countless takes on the blues out there, but this one has its own voice and did not feel like just another contender in the genre. Please take the time to listen to this song by Bailey Rise before reading this critique. Is is bound to make a lot more sense!

This is a critique of "Brother Needs a Brother" by Rise Bailey Rise. You can check out the original workshop here.

Form

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One suggestion I might make, at the risk of sounding like a stickler, is to set up the rhyme of the hook.

For the most part, the form of this composition works well to my ear. It is composed of an appropriately brief intro, two verses, followed by an instrumental break, a bridge with an A and B section and an outro that reprises the hook.

One suggestion I might make, at the risk of sounding like a stickler, is to set up the rhyme of the hook. It is a really strong hook and being that it takes quite a while to get to it, a little poetic foreshadowing would propel the song forward and give the release the ear is unconsciously waiting for.

This could be achieved in the third line of each verse by picking up the ‘night’ rhyme. It’s an easy word to rhyme and should be an easy fix without sacrificing content. Alternatively, keep the three matching end rhymes, and set up the hook rhyme in the middle of the long fourth line preceding the hook.

The section which I call the A section of the bridge that immediately follows the instrumental break was the least effective part of the song for me. I was ready for a break in the very effective drone by this point. If it were my song, I would omit this section entirely and only use the B section of the bridge, rearranging lyric content as necessary.

I really like the sparse feel change of those lines. An additional verse ending in the outro would work to bring the song to a close also. The song is a good length in my opinion, but to remove part of it might indicate adding another section.


Lyric

The writer deliberately left unanswered questions for his listeners.

I can only comment on the parts I could decipher, but it is readily apparent that the lyric is colorful, somewhat abstract, and has a tone that enhances the feel of the song.

The first verse lyric felt less cohesive to me than the second. The lines stood separately, rather than feeding off of each other. The writer deliberately left unanswered questions for his listeners but given the somewhat sinister subject matter, the covertness is very appealing.

The second verse is increasingly edgy with tones of sadness, bitter sarcasm, and futility.

Only friend is his echo.

For me, this line conjures up the harsh acoustics of prison cells and concrete walls. I could feel the racing of the man’s mind, the desperateness of his thoughts."

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The mention of something as frivolous as a game show provided bitter contrast. It sounded very fresh and raw. I loved it!

The bridge lyric moves us deeper into the insanity of a fading mind, and a wonderfully tortured freeze frame, rewind metaphor. The regret is thick in this section. Very well executed, indeed!


Melody

Actually, the second line in blues usually moves to different chords.

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The bluesy melody is effective if not entirely unpredictable. Actually the second line in blues usually moves to different chords from the first line, and being that this writer didn’t, he has already defied convention!

By the bridge, I was definitely ready for some new ground sonically, and the first section remained to close to what had preceded it. That being said, too much melody really doesn’t work in this kind of blues. Overall, the vibe is there and I believe the writer achieved the tone he was looking for.


Originality

The lyric exploded with originality in the second verse.

For me, the lyric and hook are the most original attributes of this song. Not a lot of new ground was covered melodically but nothing was overly familiar either.

The lyric exploded with originality in the second verse. The hook is an excellent one also. It feels really good on the ear and adds dimension to the overly-thrown-around word brother. I heartily applaud this clever phrase. It is the kind that could potentially have wheels!


Commerciality

Bluesy songs are timeless and especially useful to depict urban situations in film. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to project this song into television or an edgy movie. It conveys a very timely feel and does it with both urgency and compassion.

After a few tweaks, I would be tracking down some music directors!


Demo

The scritchy guitars and moaning harmonica are right on the money.

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I have no problem with the simplicity of the demo. The scritchy guitars and moaning harmonica are right on the money. A slicker production might very well detract from the flavor.

I would however vary the intensity thereby giving the song a chance to build more. The second verse ought to feel a lot heftier than the first. Coming down to the sparse reality of the bridge paves the way for coming back in full tilt and then winding down. I like the vocal very much too. Very effective!


Final Comments

I have always said that coming up with a great hook is half the battle.

When you have one, all you have to do is write the song decently and you really have something. Sure, dull hooks do occur in hit songs but the song has to prove itself in some other way.

I know of one hugely successful female composer who writes the most mundane, predictable lyrics and hooks, but her melodies are so amazing that nobody cares.

"Brother Needs A Brother" is an example of a really strong hook in a comparatively well-written song. The writing could be a little stronger here and there, but I am not sure that it matters much in this case. Good luck with it!

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