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Thread: "Sweet Love" by Anita Baker

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    "Sweet Love" by Anita Baker

    Hi there,

    I'm writing to get your thoughts on a progression found in this song (in the intro, verse and chorus; it's hard to miss. Listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEHdYngIDuY ):

    Bbmaj7 | Gbmaj7 | Ebm7 | Gb/Ab - Eb/F :|

    So I'm asking specifically about that turnaround using the two slash chords. What's going on here?

    Here are my initial fumblings; I'm an amateur so bear with me. My roman numeral analysis is this:

    (key of Bb): I | bVI | iv | bVII7 - V7 :|
    (key of Db): VI | IV | ii | V7 - III7 :|

    I - bVI is a pretty standard rock change, borrowing from the parallel minor. And I could see the Ebm7 - Gb/Ab as a secondary dominant ii-V in the key of Db if Gb/Ab is a substitute for Ab7. And I can see the whole thing as modulating to and from Bb and Db as some kind of blues-based modal interchange.

    What is up with the Gb/Ab - Eb/F turnaround? What's making it tick? F is the relative minor of Ab, I know that much. I get a predominant to dominant sense from it, along with a feeling of shifting from minor to major; does anyone else get that? It's a really distinctive harmonic device, and I've definitely started using it in my own playing; I'd love to know more about it from the theory side. Can anyone offer some expertise?

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    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    What is up with the Gb/Ab - Eb/F turnaround? What's making it tick? F is the relative minor of Ab, I know that much. I get a predominant to dominant sense from it, along with a feeling of shifting from minor to major; does anyone else get that? It's a really distinctive harmonic device, and I've definitely started using it in my own playing; I'd love to know more about it from the theory side. Can anyone offer some expertise?
    Gb/Ab and Eb/F coming from a bassist, as I understand slash chords. On slash chords the slash is one bass note (lower note) not another full chord. The bass is taught to play that slash note and leave the other part to the "solo instruments". The songwriter wanted that lower bass note added - or inverted to become the root note - for one reason or the other.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slash_chord

    As both of the slash notes are the second degree of the chord, that, I can not explain - or see the need, or put another way, must be some other reason......

    http://www.studybass.com/lessons/rea.../slash-chords/ Read down a couple of screens.

    Now the Ab does lead to Eb and the F does lead to Bb, i.e. is the 4th of....... so you do have a pull to the next chord from the slash note. Same thing the bassist would do with the last note in a walking bass line, i.e. R-3-5-X with X being the secondary dominant of the next chord. That's probably the answer. Why a 4th is still open for thought.

    That may put a new light on your analyzation.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 02-04-2012 at 06:12 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post
    Gb/Ab and Eb/F coming from a bassist, as I understand slash chords. On slash chords the slash is one bass note (lower note) not another full chord. The bass is taught to play that slash note and leave the other part to the "solo instruments". The songwriter wanted that lower bass note added - or inverted to become the root note - for one reason or the other.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slash_chord

    As both of the slash notes are the second degree of the chord, that, I can not explain - or see the need, or put another way, must be some other reason......

    http://www.studybass.com/lessons/rea.../slash-chords/ Read down a couple of screens.

    Now the Ab does lead to Eb and the F does lead to Bb, i.e. is the 4th of....... so you do have a pull to the next chord from the slash note. Same thing the bassist would do with the last note in a walking bass line, i.e. R-3-5-X with X being the secondary dominant of the next chord. That's probably the answer. Why a 4th is still open for thought.

    That may put a new light on your analyzation.
    Thanks for your reply Malcolm. I didn't mean to imply that I didn't understand what slash chords are; sorry if that was confusing. From what I saw in your post, it seemed like you thought I was stacking two chords on top of each other -- just wanted to let you know I wasn't thinking that way.

    I definitely agree that the "function" of slash chords can be difficult to determine sometimes. What I know about this particular type of slash chord (a major triad with the 2nd in the bass) is that it's often used as a substitute for a seventh chord, since you can view it as an 11th without its 3 and 5; at least, that's how I've seen it used most often.

    For example, the Beach Boys use it as the V of a ii-V-I very often in their vocal harmonies (i.e. Dm7 - F/G - C). Sometimes they'll voice those first two chords with the C note on top, so only the bass note changes between the ii and V, with the common tone of C throughout; very nice. See "All Summer Long" for an example.

    That's why, even though, as you say, there seems to be some ambiguity between whether the chord is more identified as its bass tone or the chord a whole tone below, I tend to think of this chord as its bass with the 7 9 and 11.

    That said, in the case of the Anita Baker song, if we think of this variety of slash chord as a substitute for the dominant seventh, we have the V7 from the parallel minor key (Db) modulating directly down to the V7 of our home key (Bb); they have a so-called "chromatic mediant" relationship if I understand the terms right, and I can see that as a bluesy modal interchange between major and minor.

    I guess, to rephrase my question, what's making me hear these chords as predominant-to-dominant and minor-to-major? How does this movement work as a cadence?

  4. #4
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    This is a fascinating sequence, and I see it as a mix of major and parallel minor - or modal interchange.

    Looking at it, I'd have agreed with your "Bb" interpretation, and just pointed out that the Db major one is superfluous, because those chords relate to Bb minor just as well.

    But having listened to it, I don't get much sense of a Bb tonic (major or minor) in the middle of the sequence. Only at the beginning and end.

    As you know, it's not at all unusual in rock music to have a major tonic with most other chords taken from the parallel minor - without the sense of key centre being changed.
    But the unusual thing here (pointing to its R&B/jazz leanings) is the extensions: maj7, m7, and of course the slash chords (standing for 9sus4s). These do persuade me (soundwise) that the middle of the sequence belongs to Db major.
    Eg, the Ebm7 sounds to me like a major key ii chord (not a iv), and the following sus chord (as an extended V7) seems to confirm that.

    The interesting thing, perhaps, is that the first change (Bbmaj7-Gbma7) doesn't sound that unusual or surprising. It's certainly not as a dramatic as it would be if the chords were just major triads (as they would be in a rock song). Maybe it's because Gbmaj7 is Bbm with a Gb bass; it shares two notes with the previous chord (Bb and F); so it's as if it's a "development" of Bbmaj7 - it sounds like a perfectly logical move, albeit a little unusual.
    Once you have the Gbmaj7, however, then the next two chords flow quite easily, all being diatonic and even predictable (Ebm7 - Ab9sus, or Ebm7/Ab).
    But then the Ab9sus shifts down a minor 3rd, which is the most surprising change so far; we get a G natural in the harmony for the first time.
    It's that change that leads the ear back to Bb major; Bbm would fit the previous chords better, but sounds odd following Eb/F.

    So maybe a better interpretation (forgetting the Bb minor idea) would be this:
    Code:
    KEY:Bbmajor  |I            |(bVI)        |(iv)       |(bVII)  V      |
        Dbmajor  |-            |IV           |ii         |V       -
                 |Bbmaj7 - - - |Gbmaj7 - - - |Ebm7 - - - |Gb/Ab - Eb/F - |
    The bracketed chord functions are aurally less convincing, IMO.
    So we start and end with a I and V in Bb major, diverting to a IV-ii-V in Db major in between; the connection being Bb minor, of course, but that's unstated.
    Of course, the bracketed functions relate to Bb minor as well as to Bb major, but I agree with how I think you hear it - at least in the middle - which is as Db major (despite the absence of a Db chord).
    The only thing I disagree with is that Bbma7 could be a VI in Db; I don't think it sounds like that at all, and there's no theoretical need to call it that. (A VI in Db major would normally be a dom7 anyway.)

    There's one guy's opinion I'd really like to get on this, which is stevel, who you can find (with other classical experts) on this forum:
    http://forum.emusictheory.com/list.php?5
    He (they) might well have more erudite insights.
    I'll leave it to you to post there if you're interested.

  5. #5
    Hey guys this is my first post here. I actually found this post searching for Anita Baker jazz tunes. Go figure. Google is a powerful thing!

    Anyway, from my perspective the chords to this tune use a lot of modal interchange. They're all still Bb tonic based though. Since you specifically asked...the last 2 chords of the tune function like this

    1.Gb/Ab This is functioning as an Ab7(sus4). This chord is found in both Bb mixolydian and Bb Dorian...pick your poison This could be called bVII7(sus4) in the key of Bb.

    2. The Eb/F is just an F7(sus4). This is pretty much just a V7sus4 chord in the original key of Bb.

    Hope this helps and look forward to sharing more with the community.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    This is a fascinating sequence, and I see it as a mix of major and parallel minor - or modal interchange.
    Thanks for writing; I'm glad you think it's interesting too. See, I never learned theory the proper way in school and I'm still figuring out some of the finer points. The diatonic stuff seems to make enough sense to me most of the time, but it looks like I get interested in chord changes that end up being a little out of my reach.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    But the unusual thing here (pointing to its R&B/jazz leanings) is the extensions: maj7, m7, and of course the slash chords (standing for 9sus4s). These do persuade me (soundwise) that the middle of the sequence belongs to Db major.
    Eg, the Ebm7 sounds to me like a major key ii chord (not a iv), and the following sus chord (as an extended V7) seems to confirm that.
    Now that's interesting to me -- you're saying that the parallel minor borrowed chords make sense as triads since rock and pop are blues-derived music, but if you tack on the extensions those chords are no longer from the parallel minor (Bb minor), but instead they're from the relative major of the parallel minor (Db major)? I'm not totally sure I get it -- aren't those two keys using the same scale that's harmonized the same way?

    And thank you, by the way, for mentioning the jazz sus; I looked that up on Wikipedia. I'm glad I can start calling it something more meaningful and specific than a slash chord.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    The only thing I disagree with is that Bbma7 could be a VI in Db; I don't think it sounds like that at all, and there's no theoretical need to call it that. (A VI in Db major would normally be a dom7 anyway.)
    I think you're right; those other chords just don't mean much in the other key. I think I just felt the need to fill out the whole table. Like I said, I'm late to the party; maybe I'm getting filled in on some of the rougher points too.

    This may be rough also, but I thought I'd tell you since the Anita Baker changes clearly interest you: I was remembering an effect I'd heard in a Hall and Oates song, "Kiss On My List" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYUdldNzLNA&t=0m50s), that gave me a similar feeling and that also involved a minor third root movement. It's in the build before the chorus and the changes are like this:

    Fm7 | Dm7 | Fm7 | Dm7 | Fm7 | Dm7 | Fm7 | Dm7 G9sus | C
    The melody stays mostly on G, with the occasional C, Eb, and F.

    The ii-V-I at the end doesn't interest me, but in those initial chords, you have the minor third (Ab) of the Fm7 leading to the fifth (A natural) of the Dm7, creating this major-minor switch back and forth, but it doesn't sound too contrived to me, the way a direct shift from F minor to F major would, since there's some root movement that makes it seem more substantial.

    I may be getting caught up in the details, but it seems like that's similar to what's happening in the Anita Baker cadence, where the seventh (Gb) in the Ab9sus leads into the ninth (G natural) of the F9sus. Any opinion?

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    There's one guy's opinion I'd really like to get on this, which is stevel, who you can find (with other classical experts) on this forum:
    http://forum.emusictheory.com/list.php?5
    He (they) might well have more erudite insights.
    I'll leave it to you to post there if you're interested.
    Thanks Jon, I definitely would like to hear what they have to say. And thanks very much for your time and patience in answering my questions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DuncanM View Post
    Now that's interesting to me -- you're saying that the parallel minor borrowed chords make sense as triads since rock and pop are blues-derived music, but if you tack on the extensions those chords are no longer from the parallel minor (Bb minor), but instead they're from the relative major of the parallel minor (Db major)? I'm not totally sure I get it -- aren't those two keys using the same scale that's harmonized the same way?
    Yes - but I think it's the effect of adding 7ths that suggests a more traditional functional move in the major key those chords come from.
    It's not something I've come across (or thought about) before.
    I think in a rock song, the home key is well established. Triads (majors) from the parallel minor then sound like distortions (if you like) of that home key scale: pushing it flat (towards minor/blues).
    Once you start adding further extension to those borrowed chords, they start to assume more of a life of their own.
    In addition - perhaps more importantly - when you open a song with a maj7 chord, we know we are not in blues-rock territory! So our ears aren't ready for the "heavy" sound of borrowed chords. All you have to do is compare the sound of a Bb major triad (held for 1 or 2 bars) followed by a Gb triad, with the Bbmaj7 and Gbmaj7 used in this tune: it's very different. There's a lot more drama and surprise in the triads. The maj7s soften it.

    BTW, there is a jazz rule that any chord can follow any chord of the same type. It's quite common for a maj7 to be followed by a maj7 from a different key, without any parallel minor relationship (or any other kind). Just the fact they're maj7s makes it work. So (IMO) the "parallel minor" effect is reduced in this case, and we're listening for functional changes (the kind we'd expect in a tune of this type). When the Gbmaj7 is followed by Ebm7, we feel (or I do anyway) we know where this is going; it sounds familiar. And - given that we know the Gbmaj7 is not the key chord (even if we can't, by ear, tell what it is) - a IV-ii seems a most likely guess.

    Remember that even in triadic rock, borrowed chords are not used in this way. Even if a bVI chord and a minor iv are used in the same song, you won't get one followed by the other. (If you know of any examples, I'd like to know - they'd make an interesting comparison.) The minor iv is a rarity, and almost always follows the major IV or the I, and tends to return straight to I. Generally borrowed chords in rock are the major triads alone (bVII, bIII, bVI). The minor iv is a special one, and rock players who use it know this. The majors add a straightforward muscular heaviness. The minor iv adds mystery, almost spookiness. So they would probably be kept well apart: the minor iv being used in songs which are otherwise solidly in major key territory, where just a little subtle mystery needs to be added. The borrowed majors are saved for the more "in your face" heavy stuff.

    Quote Originally Posted by DuncanM View Post
    This may be rough also, but I thought I'd tell you since the Anita Baker changes clearly interest you: I was remembering an effect I'd heard in a Hall and Oates song, "Kiss On My List" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYUdldNzLNA&t=0m50s), that gave me a similar feeling and that also involved a minor third root movement. It's in the build before the chorus and the changes are like this:

    Fm7 | Dm7 | Fm7 | Dm7 | Fm7 | Dm7 | Fm7 | Dm7 G9sus | C
    The melody stays mostly on G, with the occasional C, Eb, and F.

    The ii-V-I at the end doesn't interest me, but in those initial chords, you have the minor third (Ab) of the Fm7 leading to the fifth (A natural) of the Dm7, creating this major-minor switch back and forth, but it doesn't sound too contrived to me, the way a direct shift from F minor to F major would, since there's some root movement that makes it seem more substantial.
    I know that song, but I haven't looked at the chords before. You're right it's interesting, and I'm reminded immediately of Light My Fire, which has the same alternation in the verse: Am-F#m.
    I'll have to listen to this one and see if anything else strikes me.
    Quote Originally Posted by DuncanM View Post
    I may be getting caught up in the details, but it seems like that's similar to what's happening in the Anita Baker cadence, where the seventh (Gb) in the Ab9sus leads into the ninth (G natural) of the F9sus. Any opinion?
    Yes, there are similarities. The root descent is the same.
    In fact if you think of the chords as Ebm7/Ab and Cm7/F (pretty much the same thing), you get the same minor chord relationship, and the same half-step voice move as in the Hall and Oates.
    Last edited by JonR; 02-06-2012 at 09:22 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Yes - but I think it's the effect of adding 7ths that suggests a more traditional functional move in the major key those chords come from.
    It's not something I've come across (or thought about) before.
    I think in a rock song, the home key is well established. Triads (majors) from the parallel minor then sound like distortions (if you like) of that home key scale: pushing it flat (towards minor/blues).
    Once you start adding further extension to those borrowed chords, they start to assume more of a life of their own.
    In addition - perhaps more importantly - when you open a song with a maj7 chord, we know we are not in blues-rock territory! So our ears aren't ready for the "heavy" sound of borrowed chords. All you have to do is compare the sound of a Bb major triad (held for 1 or 2 bars) followed by a Gb triad, with the Bbmaj7 and Gbmaj7 used in this tune: it's very different. There's a lot more drama and surprise in the triads. The maj7s soften it.
    That's very interesting. I was thinking about borrowed chords in rock, and how the blues blurs the distinction between major and minor, and how it's more difficult to maintain that ambiguity when you're using fuller harmonies. It got me thinking maybe this was Anita Baker's (and her co-writers') way of trying to to accomplish that kind of frequent modal interchange after stating a major-seventh as the home chord; it seems like a sophisticated solution if that's what they were going for.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    BTW, there is a jazz rule that any chord can follow any chord of the same type. It's quite common for a maj7 to be followed by a maj7 from a different key, without any parallel minor relationship (or any other kind). Just the fact they're maj7s makes it work. So (IMO) the "parallel minor" effect is reduced in this case, and we're listening for functional changes (the kind we'd expect in a tune of this type). When the Gbmaj7 is followed by Ebm7, we feel (or I do anyway) we know where this is going; it sounds familiar. And - given that we know the Gbmaj7 is not the key chord (even if we can't, by ear, tell what it is) - a IV-ii seems a most likely guess.
    Sure, I follow you; I've heard it called "planing" or "parallelism" and that it's associated with the Impressionists. Seems like something that some early jazz writers would have had fresh in their minds.

    So you're saying that moves our sense of the tonic since the interval structure's the same, and then the IV-ii-V being "functional" diatonic changes, our ear latches on to them instead of hearing them as borrowed?

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Remember that even in triadic rock, borrowed chords are not used in this way. Even if a bVI chord and a minor iv are used in the same song, you won't get one followed by the other. (If you know of any examples, I'd like to know - they'd make an interesting comparison.)
    Well, when I think I bVI IV, I think grunge -- Kurt Cobain uses this in Heart Shaped Box and a handful of other songs. But that's with the major IV, so I guess it's an example of parallelism instead of the borrowed minor iv you're talking about. But I found an example from Nirvana's predecessors the Pixies; it's right before the bridge of "Allison":

    | C E7 | F C | Ab | Fm | C |
    This link should take you to the right point in the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGtnI3EPkKw&t=0m43s

    Seems like the Fm is just substituting for the Ab; they just want some root movement to maintain the suspense.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    I'm reminded immediately of Light My Fire, which has the same alternation in the verse: Am-F#m.
    You know, that verse always sounded interesting to me but I never picked that out before; thanks for telling me about it.
    Last edited by DuncanM; 02-06-2012 at 04:12 PM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by DuncanM View Post
    So you're saying that moves our sense of the tonic since the interval structure's the same, and then the IV-ii-V being "functional" diatonic changes, our ear latches on to them instead of hearing them as borrowed?
    Exactly - that's the way I hear it anyway.
    It certainly sounds very different to me from the way borrowed chords are used in rock.
    The principle is obviously the same, but - due partly to the way they string 3 borrowed chords together, and partly due to the extensions - the effect is very different.
    Quote Originally Posted by DuncanM View Post
    | C E7 | F C | Ab | Fm | C |
    This link should take you to the right point in the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGtnI3EPkKw&t=0m43s

    Seems like the Fm is just substituting for the Ab; they just want some root movement to maintain the suspense.
    Thanks, that's a good one. I always liked the Pixies, but never actually transcribed any of their tunes.

    In comparison with "Sweet Love", although they are using bVI and IVm together, the Fm is still resolving back to C in the conventional way (and there's a 6th on the chord too, in the lead guitar).
    Usually when I think of minor iv in a major key, I think of the Beatles - who used IVm6 chords in a very similar way - or Radiohead.

    Even allowing for the very different instrumental sound (mellow R&B vs grunge! ) "Allison" still sounds quite different from how it would if (like Sweet Love) they'd used Abmaj7-Fm7 and followed it with Bb9sus!
    Ie, I still get the traditional sense of "borrowing from the parallel minor" with "Allison" - not (quite) a sense of a different key, although (given they spend 8 bars on those 2 chords) it's close.

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