Let’s take it up. Oh, I do like a good key change. That adjusted tonality, also known as a modulation, is a somewhat rare but still powerful tool to punctuate a song, most often towards the end as it builds to its climax (although the The Beach Boys, never ones to adhere to convention, placed one in ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ a grand total of 7 seconds into the song). The Beatles practically hid a key change right near the end of ‘Penny Lane;’ Michael Jackson makes that change (literally) midway through ‘Man In The Mirror;’ wedding receptions have long been counted on to escalate after Whitney Houston shifts things up in ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ and even more so when Bon Jovi jumps the last chorus of ‘Livin’ On A Prayer;’ and though some might prefer to ignore them, ‘I Want It That Way’ by The Backstreet Boys and, of course, ‘My Heart Will Go On’ by Celine Dion mark two of the most memorable, albeit sensationally cheesy, employments of the modulated move in pop history. Those were all single key changes, and all duly impressive. And then there’s Beyoncé, not infrequently in a world of her own. In 2011’s ‘Love On Top’ Queen Bey incorporates – wait for it – four key changes. And it sounds simply magnificent. You can listen for them exactly at 1:44, again at 2:04, still another at 2:25, and finally, when you’re sure she can’t possibly go any higher, incredibly once more at 2:45 (and that’s D-flat major to D major to E-flat major to E major, for those of you scoring at home). It’s truly an amazing singing performance, taken to heights that few would likely have even thought to attempt. Beyoncé is The Queen for plenty of reasons, but let it not be forgotten that amongst her many majestic traits she also possesses one astounding voice. One, that is, that ecstatically rises keys four times; on this song that’s unmistakably, well, the key.
In a related note(s), four attempted modulations brings a cover of ‘Delta Dawn’ by the world’s greatest cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes to an abrupt and argumentative end, painfully ruining Johnny Bar Mitzvah.
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