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"'Love Is an Open Door', by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez"
Hey everyone! Welcome to the Spotter Syncs Vlog. Today we’re going to take a real-time look at “Love Is an Open Door”, by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, as heard in the Disney movie “Frozen.”
Now, there’s plenty of good songs in this musical movie, but none of them perked up my songwriter’s ears nearly as much as this one did.
Let’s find out why!
Okay first, the Intro—it’s 4 bars long, and grounded in a simple 1, 3, 4, 5 bass line, or do mi fa sol, if you like. Then, on top of that, are these little 2-note guitar plucks after each bass note. They’re made up of scale degrees: 1&3, 1&4, 1&3, 1&5. All together, this makes up four boom-chick chords of 113, 314, 413, and 551.
What you notice first here, is that not one of these chords has a 1-3-5 major or minor triad in it! This makes it a bit tonally ambiguous. I mean, it’s not like kittens dancing on the keyboard or anything, but it does leave room for a couple different interpretations.
So…my best offering for what to call these guys is: D, Dsus/F#, Gmaj7, Asus. I came to these chord names by filling in the blanks of what their triads would be, based on the most common diatonic chords found in the key of D major, and it just seemed to sound right.
Speaking of sounding “right” though, I’d like to point out the reason I called the second chord in the Intro and Verses a Dsus/F# chord—or a Dsus 1st inversion—and not an F# minor chord. I saw a lot of internet tabs that did call it an F#m, and, I mean--it’s just not. The reason people wrote that it was, is that F#m does work here—as a chord substitution, and, barely anyone is going to notice, or care about, the couple of notes you changed from the original guy in order to play your substitution. Still, the label F#m isn’t accurate. At the end of the day, an F#m chord is made up of scale degrees 3, 5, and 7.
So then, a chord made up of 3, 1, and 4 is indisputably one note closer to being called a D, albeit a D in first inversion.
But yeah, Mistaking Tonic-Chord-First-Inversions(I6) for Minor Threes(iii) is one of the most common mistakes in chord transcription. So it just goes to show: just because you’ve found the root of a chord, doesn’t mean that that’s the chord. Beware of inversions.
Moving on, the Verse, which is 8 bars long, has an accompaniment almost identical to the intro. The most notable difference is that in every other loop, the 3rd Bass note changes from a 4 to a 2. It sounds like this: 1, 3, 2, 5. This makes the chord 213, which sounds more like a minor two chord (ii) chord with a 9, an Em9 in this case.
Okay, but, disclaimer: like the D inversion I was just talking about a minute ago, this also has a 1 and a 3, so you could argue for this to be some kind of a D inversion chord as well. The difference here is that before, it was just a first inversion. If you wanted to call this a D chord, you’d have to call it a fifth inversion. So yeah, fifth inversions kind of freak me out, so I’m not going there.
And if your head just exploded, again—these boom-chick chords are too ambiguous for concrete monikers. I’m just having a little fun with’m, and giving you my best subjective take on it, that’s all.
Okay next, we have the Pre-chorus. Its chords go like this: Bm / D D7 E E/G# Gm7 /.
And here’s where I start jumping around and pointing at things, like a kid just waking up from a coma in the middle of Legoland, where the Legos are all made of candy. Why? Because not only does this little 4-bar section employ a ‘one’ chord with a dominant 7(I7)—and—a secondary dominant major two(II), it also ends with a borrowed chord: the minor four(iv)! And when it comes to spicing up your regular diatonic pop harmonies, the secondary chords and the borrowed chords make up about 98% of your spice rack.
Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, the Pre-chorus gives us not just one or two, but ALL 3 OF THE BLUESY NOTES! [jpg] –the bluesy notes, in case you don’t know, are the b3, b5, and b7 scale degrees! I mean, this section even has a b6 in the Gm7—and, b6 isn’t normally considered a blue note, but I mean, what the heck, join the club b6! Luke, I mean, b6 if you only knew the power of the blue side!
Okay, next, here’s how all these spicy notes make sense with all their spicy chords:
First, when the lady singer sings “la-la-la-FACE,” that’s a b7 bluesy note. And that corresponds to our dominant I7 chord, D7. Then, when the guy sings NOTHING-nah, nah-nahnahnah, that’s a b5 bluesy note. And, some people say the b5 is the bluest blue note because it’s not in the pentatonic scale, sometimes referring to it as thee blue note. But yeah, anyways that’s another topic, moving on, the b5 can be found in our major two(II) secondary chord, E; then it’s the girl’s turn again; when she sings lalala-be-FORE and then LOVE—both “fore and love” are b3 bluesy notes over our minor four(iv) borrowed chord, Gm7.
Also, concerning m7’s, some people call’m “jazz chords.” So yeah it’s like, jazzy and bluesy!
Next up, as far as spicy chords and notes go, the Chorus takes out the One Seven(I7), and leaves in the Major Two(II) and Minor Four(iv). Its accompaniment goes like this: D F#m E Gm.
This loop is played for 6 bars, which is worth pointing out, because now, we’ve got three different form lengths: 4 bars, 8 bars, and 6 bars! See, most songs only have one or two size boxes they put their sections in. So, three sizes is something special when you see it.
Next, real quick, also want to take a look at this F#m chord here. This time, there’s no doubt about the F# bass note rooting down a minor iii. Why? Because this time, the 5th and 7th scale degrees can be heard over the 3rd scale degree root. Remember, before, in the intro and verse, it didn’t have the 5 of the triad, or the 3rd of the triad, so we couldn’t call it a minor iii like we can now. Okay so that brings us to 9 total triads types! Beefy!
Anyways, ambiguous boom-chicks, secondary chords, borrowed chords, bluesy notes, triple form lengths, etc.—that’s about as many songwriting tonal tricks as anybody could fit into only one minute of music, right? I mean, what else could they possibly do?
Oh, I know! They can change the key! It’s like, so they got all the spice they want in the soup, why not turn up the heat?
So yeah, this key change, at 1:01, goes from D up to E major. This particular one is what some refer to as a Phrase modulation, or Direct modulation—that means it’s totally unprepared, they just go for it; there’s no transitional material to indicate they’re about to change the key. The only thing you could argue that gives a split second clue that they’re turning up the heat, are the pickup notes that the guy sings. “I mean it’s.” I mean it’s super quick, and yeah, you could just as easily argue that that’s the start of the modulation right there, and not when everyone else comes in on the lyric “crazy.”
Anyways, after the key change, it’s pretty much the same shebang as the first half. The only thing I’d like to add, is that at 1:30, we should listen for the horn orchestrations! I love how they reinforce the non diatonic tones, or the bluesy notes, from the Secondary and Borrowed chords! But we’ll look at that when we get there.
Alright, let’s sync this up!
[does the sync]
Okay so that’s the sync! In closing, I want to express that perhaps the slickest thing about this song, isn’t the music theory behind it, but the way the lyrics slip in certain plot elements you’re almost certain to miss, unless you’re paying laser-eyed attention. And yeah SPOILER ALERT! If you don’t want to know how the story ends, stop watching now. Okay, I confess that upon first viewing, I didn’t like the plot twist at the end of this film, when the prince turns out to be the villain. I was like–dude, there were no hints—and if you’re going to have a twist like the Prince turning out to be the villain, you got to at least leave some clues, man! Plus, you know the guy who gets the ice from the lake, I wanted him to end up with the Queen, the one who makes the ice. I mean, he gets the ice, she makes the ice, hello, match.com!
But anyways, yeah, upon a second look, the songwriters did in fact leave us some clues, well hidden, in the context of the lyrics:
The first one is when he says “I love crazy.” No you don’t bud, nobody loves crazy. If you love crazy, you’re crazy. And maybe okay, that’s fine, like, maybe he didn’t mean like crazy crazy, but the next thing he sings is that he’s been searching for “My own place,” – not his own girlfriend, not his own soulmate, not his own Princess, but his own Place.
And then there’s the thing about the “finish each other’s sandwiches? that’s what I was gonna say.” It’s like--that’s what you were gonna say too? No you weren’t buddy, nobody says that. Nobody loves crazy, and no one finishes other people’s sandwiches—looks to me like you’re about to take this little princess on a long train-ride down the track of…Disney Deception…Disneption.
Okay well, that’s it! I hope you enjoyed this Spotter Syncs Vlog, and make sure to like and follow us on all the websites if you like, and yeah, we’ll see you next time here at tonaltrends.com!