Belle & Sebastian – If You Find Yourself Caught in Love

Belle & Sebastian, chords, chord progressions, melody, lyrics, songwriting

I’ve always thought Stuart Murdoch was a very “mature” songwriter – because he takes whatever he comes up with lyric-wise or chord-wise and makes it into a good song. He doesn’t rely on arrangement or production trends to give his music the appearance that he’s being creative, he just crafts the song into something that is thoroughly enjoyable. In a way, that is the classical way of songwriting – to work with the structure of the song, the chords, the melody and the form, so that the song is timelessly good regardless of what the prevailing aesthetic of the day is when it  comes to overall sound.

That’s why I wanted to write about a song which is from his later album, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, which, one could argue is overproduced, but still demonstrates the solid skill that Murdoch has when it comes to crafting a beautiful song. The focus of this entry also comes by way of one of the readers of indie songwriting, who wanted to see how lyrics interact with and inform the choices made in writing the melody, chords and structuring the form of the song.

When I looked up the lyrics to If You Find Yourself Caught in Love, I was pretty surprised to find that the lyrics followed an AABB rhyme scheme almost consistently throughout the song. Now, I thought, and still do think, that varying the rhyme scheme of the lyrics is extremely beneficial to distinguish your choruses from the verses, and vice verse. However, Stuart Murdoch makes it work in spite of writing almost the entire song in a series of rhymed couplets (AA BB CC DD etc.).
I would like you to read the lyrics and just say the words out loud – spoken, not sung.

Lyrics

[excerpt]
If you find yourself caught in love            
Say a prayer to the man above
Thank him for everything you know
You should thank him for every breath you blow
If you find yourself caught in love
Say a prayer to the man above
Thank him for every day you pass
You should Thank him for saving your sorry ass
If you’re single, but looking out
You must raise your prayer to a shout
Another partner must be found
Someone to take your life beyond
Another TV “I Love 1999”
Just one more box of cheapo wine

I think you may have got the sense that the lyrics, devoid of music and melody, almost have sort of a naive quality – where ever line is rhymed exactly with the end of the following line.

Now, with the addition of different chord progressions to differentiate verse from chorus from bridge, and especially with the addition of different melodic phrases to different lines, the song does not seem monotonous or childish. And I think that’s a real testament to the ability of the songwriting craft to bring the song above the level of the lyrics. Not that I’m saying the lyrics are “bad”, I just think that the simplistic rhyme scheme and the consistency of the length and number of syllables in each line of lyrics could, in less capable hands, be turned into a pretty mediocre, and even boring, song. I don’t think that’s the case here and I hope you agree.

The Chords

[You can find the chords here]

Turning to the chords initially, I want to use the chord progressions to distinguish on paper the different ‘parts’ of the song. (I will try naming the parts in the subsequent section).

Key of D Major

Part A:
D, Dmaj7, G, D;
G, D, G, D;

Part B:
E, E, A, A;
G, G, Gm, Gm;
D, D, A, A;

Part B2:
E, E, A, A;
G, G, Gm, Gm;
D, D, B7, B7;

Part C:
G, A, Bm, G;
A, A, G, A;

 

One thing I would like to make a note of here and that’s the harmonic length – or, the number of bars that are spent on each chord. A very common technique employed by songwriters is to vary the duration of spent on chords from the Verse to the Chorus to the Bridge.
In this song, you can see that, in the first part, each chord gets one bar or measure, whereas, in Part B, the chords are repeated for two bars. In Part C, we are back to spending one bar per chord to contrast with the previous section. This is a good way to break monotony within the song from section to section.

The Form

Now, this is not entirely clear, but I would say that the first section of the song functions both as Verse AND Chorus, which is interesting. It contains the title of the song – “If You Find Yourself Caught in Love” and it is also repeated with the first two lines in tact. The variation of the last two lines, allowing for different lyrical content, gives the section the ability to function as a verse as well. So, in order to be diplomatic, I will say that the first section is a Verse/Chorus part.

After that, we have a section of 6 lines of lyrics. I will call this Bridge 1 because the section that begins “Give up your will to him…” can also be viewed as a bridge – Bridge 2.

The Melody

I spend a lot of time focusing on phrasing in melody and I really think that this is a very underrated aspect of melody. I believe that the phrasing is perhaps more important in giving interest to the melody than the actual melodic content of each phrase. Moreover I think it is Stuart Murdoch’s use of varied phrases that allows him to create interest using lyrics that, by themselves, don’t appear to lend themselves to an interesting melody.

Now, if you listen to the song, you should be able to hear the variation and repetition of the phrases which defies the order dictated by the rhyme scheme of the lyrics. I have rather crudely used the letters of the alphabet (at the beginning of each line) to describe each individual melodic phrase and how it is repeated. If you listen to the song as you read the lyrics, you should be able to hear how the first phrase of the song is unique (Phrase A) while the following three are identical (Phrase B).

Verse/Chorus:

A If you find yourself caught in love
B Say a prayer to the man above
B Thank him for everything you know
B You should thank him for every breath you blow

A If you find yourself caught in love
B Say a prayer to the man above
B Thank him for every day you pass
B You should Thank him for saving your sorry ass

Bridge:

C If you’re single, but looking out
D You must raise your prayer to a shout
E Another partner must be found
E Someone to take your life beyond
F Another TV “I Love 1999”
F2 Just one more box of cheapo wine

Verse/Chorus:

A If you find yourself caught in love
B Say a prayer to the man above

Bridge:

C But If you don’t listen to the voices
D Then my friend you’ll soon run out of choices
E What a pity it would be
E You talk of freedom don’t you see
F The only freedom that you’ll ever really know
F2 Is written in books from long ago

Bridge 2:

G Give up your will to Him that loves you
Things will change,
H I’m not saying overnight
E2 You’ve gotta start somewhere
E2 Start by kidding on you care

Verse/Chorus:

A If you find yourself out of love
B Shed a tear for the one you love
B Tell your boss that you’ve gone away
B Down your tools for a holiday

Bridge:

C But If you’re going off to war
D Then I wish you well but don’t be sore
E If I cheer the other team
E ‘Cause killing people’s not my scene
F I prefer to give the inhabitants a say
F2 Before you blow their town away
G I like to watch them play I like to marvel at the random beauty of
E2 A simple village girl
E2 Why should she be the one who’s killed?

After you have read the lyrics with phrases and listened to the song, imagine if Stuart Murdoch had allowed the melodic phrases to follow the rhyme scheme (which is A A B B for the first Verse). That would mean the first two lines of lyrics would be sung identically as follows:

example 1.

A If you find yourself caught in love
A Say a prayer to the man above
B Thank him for everything you know
B You should thank him for every breath you blow

If you can hear this in your head, I think you’ll agree that it sounds bad, at least significantly less interesting.

Similarly, if you were slightly more adventurous and chose to alternate the melodic phrases (A B A B) over a the A A B B rhyme scheme:

example 2.

A If you find yourself caught in love
B Say a prayer to the man above
A Thank him for everything you know
B You should thank him for every breath you blow

We’re not doing a whole lot better and this is going to get boring pretty quickly.

Part of the support for NOT singing the lyrics in this way comes from the chords.

The chords going on under the first phrase, Phrase A are: D and Dmaj7. The chords going on under the three iterations of Phrase B that follow are G then D, G then D and again G then D.

So, it’s pretty apparent that, after having written the lyrics (that is, if Stuart Murdoch writes the lyrics first before the music…I don’t know if he does), Murdoch tried to create interest in the standard A A B B rhymed quatrain (4 lines of lyrics or poetry) by using different chords under each lyrics. It is possible that he tried chord progressions suited to the lyrical ‘bad examples’ above, such as:

A A B B (example 1.)

D, Dmaj 7;

D, Dmaj7;

G, D;

G, D;

OR

A B A B (example 2.)

D, Dmaj7;

G, D;

D, Dmaj7;

G, D;

I’m glad that he chose to go with what he did because it creates a lot more interest in the song, especially with the lyrics we start out with.

Anyway, I think that’s about as in-depth as anyone needs from this song. Feel free to apply this same logic to the other sections in the song – The Bridge, Bridge 2 – seeing as they also have similar rhymed couplets of lyrics which need to be made more interesting.

Thank you for making it all the way through this entry.

 

 


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