Last night Adele ruled the Grammys. One could say the basis of her appeal is how her songs can make the tears flow.
Music undeniably has an impact on our emotions and can even evoke physiological reactions – like goose bumps and tears. Does this impact come from the lyrics or from the notes themselves? Psychologists have been trying to figure this out, and it turns out it’s the music, not the words. So if you’ve cried listening to Adele’s song “Someone Like You,” it’s not your fault. The Grammy-winning song has all of the signatures of emotionally provocative music.
In particular, Adele embellishes the song with unexpected notes called appoggiaturas, or grace notes. Appoggiatura means “a propping up.” Musically speaking, it is a note that is not essential to the harmony or the melody. The appoggiatura contrasts the melody and creates tension, according to musical psychologists. This tension is relieved when the singer returns to the melody and provides emotional relief to the listener.Then the tears start flowing.
For a more in-depth analysis of the “Anatomy of a Tear Jerker” see this article at the Wall Street Journal.
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