Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Identifying music elements


Hi, I was wondering if you can help me identify four central musical elements that take place in the song 'Young and Beautiful' by Lana Del Rey. If you can please state specific examples when each element takes place and the exact time in the song that would be wonderful!! THANKS :)

Jamie, I'm so sorry it's taken so long for me to respond.  I'm in the throes of the exam season - practical exams, getting marks in to exam boards and, to cap everything, Ofsted turned up last week.  "Rushed off my feet" doesn't begin to cover it.  Thank you for being patient.

There appear to be two versions of this song - the version appearing as the soundtrack to "The Great Gatsby" has different harmony to the Vevo video  There's also a clip of her performing it live in SF which I couldn't bear to listen to all the way through as she's out of tune (the problem with live performance is that the singer can't rely on Auto-tune), but initially at least it uses the Vevo harmony so I assume that's the definitive version.

The problem with your question is that there aren't four central musical elements in the song.  There's no melody to speak of and the reiteration of four chords ad nauseam can't be described as harmonic progression.  There's nothing of particular rhythmic interest and the word-setting is particularly inept - di-a-MONDS, bri-lli-ANT, chan-nel-LING.  There's not a lot of material to analyse, but I'll do my best.

The form is standard - two verses + chorus and a middle section followed by the chorus.  

The Gatsby version is based around VI flattened VII I III so although it's in a minor key it's continually passing through the relative major - since neither key is definitely established the whole tonality is ambiguous.  Once in each verse I III is reversed so there's a more definite feeling of the relative major, but we don't stay there.  The chorus doesn't help to resolve the ambiguity as the melody line consists of two notes in the first part and three in the second part.

The Vevo version is based around VI IV I so we have a constant series of plagal cadences.  The second part of each verse ("hot summer nights") reverts to VI flattened VII I III so there's a bit more harmonic variety, but the chorus each time is VI IV I III so we're once again fluctuating between minor key and relative major.

It's the in middle section ("dear lord when I get to heaven") that the differences in each version become most apparent.  Each start with their standard chord sequence, but as the section develops ("oh that grace") the Gatsby version has a bass line moving mainly in fourths and the Vevo version has a bass line moving in thirds and by step.  The Gatsby version is definitely in the relative major, although we haven't modulated there, and its harmony is II V III VI II V IV7.  The Vevo version stays in the tonic minor, and its harmony is IV VI I flattened VII IV VI flattened II.

Then we're back to the chorus which repeats the final phrase until the piece ends.

Hope this helps.  

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Clare Redfarn


All aspects of the academic/theoretical side of music, including harmony, counterpoint, elementary composition, history, harmonic analysis, aural training, sightreading - the lot! Please note I'm not primarily a composer so I can't help with composition beyond what's required for Grade 8 theory or A'level. And don't ask me about psychoacoustics or music psychology as I have no knowledge of, nor interest in, either subject.


57 years as pianist (soloist and accompanist); 42 years as harpsichordist (soloist and continuist); 10 years as violinist and 6 years as bassoonist (youth orchestras/chamber groups); 45 years as piano teacher, coach in performance/interpretation (all ages, instruments and levels) and private tutor (mainly the old O'level, Grade VI+ ABRSM theory/practical musicianship, A'level and undergraduates); 20 years as ballet pianist (Cecchetti syllabus).

Member of Musicians' Union in Britain 1978-1989 and 1991-2009.

I've been writing professionally since I was 20 - too many programme notes to count over the years and a number of articles. Additionally, from 1996-2000 I was a Music Assessor for London Arts and as such regularly wrote critiques of concerts given by recipients of Arts Council funding.

MA in European Cultural Policy & Administration (Warwick University, 1994)
B Mus with Honours (London University, 1977)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Administration (City University, 1982)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Piano Teaching (1976)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Harpsichord Teaching (1978)

Studied RAM Junior School (1966-74), then as full-time student (1974-78).

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