Song of the Month: Feelin’ Love by Paula Cole from This Fire

This song was never a single from Paula Cole’s second album, but it really should have been.

In his song, Cole manages to convey in music and lyrics the feeling of sex perfectly. Some of it is in the doubles-entrendes lyrics, but it also comes from the music itself. Cole’s breathy singing conveys a sense of longing and desire that can’t be misunderstood and at the bottom of it all is Tony Levin’s brilliant bass playing.

This is the part where I get a little music nerdy on you.

In most pop-rock music, there’s a chord progression underlying the song with one chord per measure.¹

In Feelin’ Love, the chords in the verses mostly alternate between G and C with a handful of Fs and E♭s thrown in for good measure. Most of the time, with this sort of chord progression, on the first beat of the measure, the bass player would play the root note of the chord and then play something that pulls the harmony to the next chord. For example, in a jazz player, the bass player might play G A B♭ B♮ under the G chord to lead into the C chord and then perhaps pull back to the G with C A F F♯. 

But Levin’s bass line inverts expectations he doesn’t even play on the first note of the measure² but comes in off the beat and then not with the root note of the chord but rather the 5³. Then, he plays a 7 and 8 to bring us to the root but pulls back to the 7 right away. The effect is to mimic the effect of a lover bringing their partner to the brink of orgasm and then stopping to prolong the experience. Quite simply, there is no more sexual bass line in all of music than this one.

  1. More or less. Sometimes, there might be a long stretch without changes as is the case in modal jazz, or there might be more rapid changes of chord, but we can pretend that this is close enough to the truth for our needs.
  2. Coming in after the one is one of the characteristics of reggae music, although it tends not to be done on every bar, but rather would be prepared by coming in an eight note after the 3 on the previous bar. Levin isn’t quite doing that here.
  3. That is the fifth note of the scale under the chord, so for a G chord, we would have G₁A₂B₃C₄D₅E₆F₇G₈⁴
  4. Those of you who know a little music might be saying, “shouldn’t that be F♯ and not F for the seventh note? But in this case, because the song itself is in C, G acts as a V chord which means that it will keep the notes of the C scale and have a flattened 7th note.






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