Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sarah McLachlan, "Building A Mystery"

Song: "Building A Mystery"
Artist: Sarah McLachlan
Album: Surfacing
Written by: Sarah McLachlan/Pierre Marchand
Year: 1997
Key: Bm
Classification: SF1
Lyrical content: Goth come-on; hipster-idol glorification
Where used: Verse, chorus

At first blush, McLachlan's song seems like a "One Of Us" clone. There's the Lilith Fair-branded singer (in fact, the first tour took place during the summer that Surfacing was released) and the use of the SFCP in both the verse and chorus. And then there's the production, about which songwriter Eric Bazilian told me, "They obviously really studied the sonics of the 'One Of Us' drums. They nailed it on that."

But the structure of the song itself isn't so simple, with McLachlan making a few subtle choices to generate a slight sense of disorientation. For starters, she teases the chorus at the end of the first verse but holds off on actually delivering it until she's finished with not just the second verse but also a prechorus that offers one of the only three moments that shake up the otherwise uninterrupted SFCP. We're pretty much ready for some sort of break -- a solo, a bridge, something -- by the end of that chorus, but the song's gathered too much momentum by then, so that when McLachlan hits the third verse with the line "You woke up screaming aloud," it's both jarring and inevitable at the same time. That's a testament to the hypnotic heft provided by the constant cycling of the chords and echoed in the lyrics.

Full song: Sarah McLachlan, "Building A Mystery"
Listen to the SFCP clip for this song

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