Tension

April 17, 2010

Do you know, I never understood what it was about the song “Maps” (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) that made it simultaneously so addictive and so completely nerve-wracking to listen to.

And then I read an interview with Diplo in the course of some research for a paper on remix works and social contexts, and he nails it – the high guitar string that the song starts out with?  It never stops.  For four minutes straight, albeit at many times subliminally, there’s that constant agitation of two guitar notes rapidly alternating.  When the song drops into a break?  It’s still there.  When the song slows down to feature a vocal?  It’s there.  You can’t get away from it, and it ought to put some kind of alarm into your spine every time you hear it.  It’s intended to set you back on your heels, ready to fight or flee, and it just stays there.  For four minutes.  “Maps” is still one of my favorite examples of a song that I can’t (I suppose, given this post, couldn’t) explain the emotional effect of – but every time I hear it, I’m caught between tears and exaltation.  I can’t really ask more out of music.

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