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What, exactly, is a ‘hook’?

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We all know what “hooks” are in pop tunes. But…how to describe them? The memorable part? The chunk that get’s your moneymaker shakin’? I dunno…but this weekend I came across a fantastic description:

    Any point in music in which you feel like you’ve arrived at a place of relief or well-being or familiarity or all of these. A Place like home. I’m not an avid radio, jukebox, disco or MTV listener but there are often bits of these songs which will immediately, psychoacoustically meld with my nervous system. The reason may be melodic, timbral, rhythmic, textual, dramatic, or even just temporal, but the hooks are where the hits hit. My referent at Billboard magazine has a tendency to utter the cliche, “there’s a reason you can hear why each of these songs became hits.” I think it’s true. Each really successful song, above and beyond markeing insinuation, has sonic viral elements, or hooks, which get inside you and stay there and become part of you. The virus is emotionally-laden information. When you hear one of these elements again you get emotionally engaged and your body sings along so even if some sociologically-oriented part of your mind is saying “i hate this song,” your body will ecstatically sing along with Debby Boone in “You Light Up My Life.”

And there you have it. Sonic viral elements….wish I had come up with that one.

Hats off to John Oswald: the man who brought you Plunderphonics, Plexure, and also the wonderful Dark Star-o-rama that is Grayfolded.

For more thought-provoking reading on music, get yourself a copy of Arcana: Musicians On Music. A great collection of music essays (edited by John Zorn). Brain food of the highest order.

(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)

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About Mark Saleski

  • Plunderphonics is the pinnacle of hookology. Every time I read “hello I love you” anywhere I immediately get his plundering of the Doors original – and NOT the Doors original – stuck in my head on repeat for hours. Now that’s a guy who knows a good hook.