Sevens :: Cheap Trick, Surrender

(Sevens, a recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, pays tribute to the art of the individual song.)

51jf9nub2wl_sl500_aa280_We spend a lot of time discussing the elements of the music that moves us, whether it’s lyrics or instrumentation. However, at a certain point, there is an ineffable quality about the music we like that affects us in ways we cannot describe. One of the musical structures that is often hardest to describe is the idea of resolution. You don’t have to know anything about how music is structured to feel and hear resolution, but you may be hard pressed to describe it once you do. Long story short, resolution is the perceived ‘need’ that a listener has for a note or chord “to move from a dissonance (an unstable sound) to a consonance (a more final or stable sounding one).” It’s something we often hear, but cannot always describe.

No one would ever accuse Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen of not being a smart musician, but it’s always exciting to hear the ‘low art’ of pop music making use of a truly classical tool. “Surrender,” arguably Cheap Trick’s most well known song, uses resolution to hook listeners as it shifts from verse to chorus to pre-verse and back to the verse. My first few times really listening to “Surrender” were a bit disjointed. The song builds through its parts, not providing any sort of resolution until the 3:08 mark. The chords that are played at this point provide a connection between choruses that had been denied by the pre-verse.

It’s this use of resolution that begs for listeners to keep their ear to the song, and when the solution to the song’s discordant puzzle is finally offered, it’s like a burden being lifted. It leaves the listener hooked and eager to be taken through the blows again. The song’s addictive chorus doesn’t hurt, but truly it’s something deeper that makes the song worth returning to again and again. Good one, Rick.   words/ j. neas

MP3: Cheap Trick :: Surrender
MP3: Cheap Trick :: Surrender (outtake)

11 thoughts on “Sevens :: Cheap Trick, Surrender

  1. I was just listening to this song yesterday, when I thought how strange it is to listen to the same song dozens of times and never really hear it. I felt that about this song yesterday and It is so funny you wrote this today.

  2. Funny, but my old band and I were taking a run through covering “Surrender” a few months back. There are few songs more fun to play, far as I’m concerned. It just keeps building. It was going well enough, and then we realized we forgot that little final jump into a major progression at 3:08. Once we stuck it in, the song went from kinda great to tremendous, like a switch was flipped. “We’re all alright!” indeed!

  3. Cheap Trick is a band that I only starting paying attention to a couple of years ago. A DJ companion of mine always used “Hello There” as his show’s intro theme and I finally picked up a used copy of _In Color_ a couple of years ago and was slowly blown away by it. They really are a super smart band.

    @JK – That jump into the major that you’re talking about is the exact moment I just completely flipped the first time I really listen-listened to “Surrender.”

    Also – is this the same “we’re all alright” that got stuck onto the end of Big Star’s “Down in the Street” for the theme song to _That 70’s Show_?

  4. “That 70’s Show”– You’re absolutely right! Thanks for the “Surrender” post and the write-up. When I read “3:08 mark”, I thought, “Oh, I know exactly where this is going!” It takes a confident songwriter to keep that particular hook hidden ’til the very end. Lord knows I’dve blown it by the first chorus…. The other sneaky thing (to us half-ass musicians anyway) is that there’s not only that half-step up modulation right before the last verse but also (sneaky bastards!) one that comes right out of the gate, between the intro and first verse. Climb… climb… kaboom!

  5. Great post…and a great great band. I’ve always felt that Robin Zander is one of the most versatile, yet perhaps the most underrated, vocalist in rock’n’roll. That cat can flat-out bring it.

  6. “Also – is this the same “we’re all alright” that got stuck onto the end of Big Star’s “Down in the Street” for the theme song to _That 70’s Show_?”

    Yup, that ‘s Cheap Trick redoing that song into That 70’s Show theme song.

    Interesting posts. Liked hearing all the input about why that song is so great. Love Cheap Trick.

  7. Not sure if this the exact same thing, but I get the same feeling when listening to “Slapped Actress” by The Hold Steady. The song seems to crest repeatedly with a payoff being withheld, but in a good way. It’s really the chords in the “chorus”, since the song doesn’t really have a repeated chorus as such. At any rate it’s a tremendous song.

  8. And of course it’s great album based just on the fact that someone decided to put the two long-haired, attractive guys on the front and stick the wierdos on the back! You think Coldplay ever considered doing this?

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