Song: I See Red
Artist: Split Enz
Songwriter: Tim Finn
Release date: 1978
Key: F Major
Chords in Key:
I See Red is written for vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards (organ, synthesiser and piano), and drums.
I See Red begins with the tonic chord on guitar with distortion on the drums, with a lively 4/4 beat behind it. Other instruments are introduced in the proceeding bars: the bass guitar playing quavers to emphasise the driving beat, followed by the organ playing a sustained E major chord. By staying on one chord and adding instruments to it, it builds anticipation towards the first verse.
In the first verse the vocals enter, with backing vocals emphasising the title line of the song along with chord stabs on the organ. This verse is harmonically simple, playing a combination of the tonic, subdominant, and dominant chords to make a four bar pattern. The electric guitar plays a syncopated series of chord stabs, keeping the tension high.
The same chord pattern from the first verse is used as a bridge. The guitar plays repeating lead parts, interspersed with the “I see red, I see red, I see red” repeated.
The vocals are sung in a diatonic/ step-wise manner as minims, before being quickly repeated as quavers. Using the title of the song in the chorus is a common way to emphasise the chorus to the audience. Both the vocal line and chord pattern have a descending feel to them, possibly to reinforce the idea of “seeing red” being a metaphor for anger/ a descent into a bad mood. This is known as word painting (another example would be a vocal line going high on the phrase “you lift me high” in Anchor Me by the Muttonbirds). Subsequent choruses add synthesiser lines in a semiquaver pattern to add variation. The chorus is based around the submediant chord, so it could be interpreted as a modulation to the relative minor, also known as D Aeolian.
Verse 2 &3/ Piano Solo Backing
I See Red has a completely different chord pattern for the second and third verse, which is not typical of rock/pop songs. A bass melody is played with a synthesiser pad playing sustained chords in the background.
The piano solo features many accidentals and discordant intervals played together, such as repeated minor 2nd intervals. These could be called tone clusters, and adds to the general theme of madness in the lyrics.
The outro effectively has no backing harmony, using a vocal canon across the lead and backing vocals over the drumkit. Harmonies are created above and below the main vocal line until the piano and organ begin a final crescendo. At this point the vocals are increasingly frantic and out of time until the sudden fermata which concludes the song.
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