Verse/Chorus Format and Strophic Music

by Jungreis

In class Tuesday, it was remarked that the standard verse/chorus song is strophic. I contested this, saying that if the verses are markedly different from the chorus, then the criterion that all stanzas be set to the same music is not met. There was an argument against this, though I believed there to be counterexamples but could not think of one at the time.

The first song that came to mind was “Don’t Cry” by GNR. None of the choruses are the same. The first is a clean guitar, the second is a distorted guitar, and the third has Slash soloing over everything. This doesn’t seem like the emphatic counterexample that I want, though; it’s perhaps too subtle. The choruses are just changes in the guitar tone, and they at worst represent some sort of AA’A’’ format. More importantly, the choruses can be seen as obvious continuations of the verses.

(I don’t believe a lick of this argument against GNR, though that it can be contested leave me wanting a better counterexample to show that verse/chorus need not imply strophic.)

“Cemetery Gates” by Pantera works as a strong counterexample. It starts as a pretty ballad with a clean guitar. There’s some singing and a lead guitar line, but nothing really breaks the pattern. Then they shatter the pattern when that distorted guitar crashes in on that A5 powerchord. As it turns out, the calm guitar parts are played under the verse lyrics, and the more intense guitar parts are played under the choruses. “Cemetery Gates” does not follow the pattern of having the stanzas set to the same or even similar music.

The argument in class that verse/chorus implies strophic was quite emphatic, so if I’ve still not proved my claim, okay, but have I indeed found a counterexample proving that verse/chorus format is not a form of strophic music? If not, why?

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