Can one chord make a song?


Because in nearly every great pop and rock song there is That Chord, the chord that makes the song special. For example, in The Beatles song “I Want To Hold Your Hand” it’s B minor, which is the chord under the word “hand”. In Def Leppard’s “Heaven” it’s the C just before the chorus. In Gnarls Barklay’s “Crazy” it’s E flat, the chord that hits on “mind”. To my mind, it’s this key chord that keeps you coming back for more, the thing you have to hear over and over again, the meth of melody.

Recently, I heard a stellar example of That Chord in Ray LaMontaigne’s song “Beg Steal or Borrow”. Actually this song has two That Chords. The first comes at the start of the chorus and it really hits you because the verse is so conventional (D flat, B, F#). Truly, listen to the tune here; you can hear the verse go twice and then the chorus hits on A and it just feels like a jolt of something chemical and illegal. Then, to further bolster your high, he hits an E before going back to D flat and you can feel it flow through you, or at least I can.

I admit, no rule is ironclad and there are plenty of great songs out there without That Chord. Equally true, my That Chord might not be your That Chord. But as I pursue my crazy dream of becoming a full-time songwriter, That Chord is something am always seeking. I’m not sure I’ve found it yet for any of my songs, but knowing it’s out there, well, it’s my Holy Grail and keeps me in the chase.