So, should we stop using "keys" for pop songs? Do we need an alternative system to describe "modal" pop music?
By - ferniecanto
Honestly, it's very difficult for me to hear Blinding Lights as anything other than F Dorian. The synth melody as well as the vocal melody, especially in the chorus, both center F, and it would make the progression i - v - (♭)VII - IV or i - v - IV/IV - IV, which is a perfectly cromulent Dorian progression. And F minor just *feels* like the home chord to me throughout. The only part that seems a bit ambiguous is the lack of resolution at the very end - the final chord doesn't feel settled, and it's even easy to let your brain think that it "should" resolve to Eb if you've got functional harmony on the mind. But even then, the *melody* feels like it's at rest on that final F, at least to me.
Obviously, other people might have different perceptions of the song - but it feels to me that F is hammered so insistently that you have to really stretch to hear C or E♭ as the tonal center unless you're just not used to hearing modal music.
So I agree that it's probably not in a "key," if we stick to the traditional definition. But I simply have no reservations about saying it's "in" F Dorian. Regarding this:
>I know it's a bit contentious to use a mode as a "key" of sorts; many already do this, but many (me included) also believe there should be a conceptual separation between key and mode, for historical reasons. So, how do you see this? Do you think it's still fine to use keys for songs like these, or do you think we need new terms to reflect a more profound change in paradigm?
I *do* think there's a meaningful distinction between major and minor as keys and Ionian/Dorian/Phrygian/etc. as modes. But I *don't* think that means we shouldn't be able to use modes in the same way we use keys to describe the scale and tonal center used by a piece of music. The relevant distinction between keys and modes is (largely) historically related to *functional harmony*, but most people don't seem to have any problem with labeling things with major keys even when they use non-functional harmony. Not giving the same affordance to modes seems like a pretty arbitrary decision based on nothing more than Ionian being the favorite child for a couple centuries.
Besides, language, like theory, is descriptive, and many people, including academic theorists, have been using modes to label pieces like this for a long time.
I should mention that there *is* popular music that's tonally ambiguous beyond simply being modal, and maybe some people consider Blinding Lights to be in that category. And in those cases, I think describing it with some of the most likely keys/modes is an imperfect but useful way of picking out what pitches it uses and what pitches it focuses on. I'm not sure if there's an easier way to do that without just listing all the pitches that are used and/or transcribing the chord progression.
**tl;dr** In my opinion, Blinding Lights is in F Dorian. In my opinion, it's okay to say that it's "in" F Dorian. For stuff that's more ambiguous, I'm not sure if there's a better way to specify scales than choosing the closest key or mode or simply listing all the pitches used.
> But is Blinding Lights in a "key"? Is Get Lucky in a "key"? I ain't too sure.
These both sound pretty unambiguously tonical (i.e. tonal-center-having, Tagg's neologism) and Dorian to me, especially the first. The melody of "Get Lucky" on its own is ambiguous, but in context I can't get away from the feeling the tonal center is B.
I'm fine with answering "F Dorian" and "B Dorian" respectively to the question "What key is it in?" The collapsing of various modes into the two-key system has never made sense for plenty of folk music (I'd love to hear what "key" people think [this is in](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTSP0ifyhO4)), even European folk music during the Common Practice Period, and it doesn't make sense for a lot of contemporary pop music.
When it comes to songs that don't have a clear tonal center or seem to vacillate between two, I don't really know how to talk about them. A song like "Land Down Under" by Men At Work seems to be predominantly minor but partially re-contextualize the song in the relative major during the chorus.
Well, take Blinding Lights. It could be C minor and then shift keys into Eb major. Or it could be C minor. It could be Eb major. It could be F Dorian.
Being ambiguous is not the same thing as being unexplained.
The synth melody and the vocal melody are centered in F, which is why F Dorian is such a great approach for playing the song. Some of the chords might play with Eb or C as a base, but that’s because the F becomes a 9 in Eb and a 4 in C. It’s all a way to play on the power of that Dorian melody.
Or it’s not! Because music is open to interpretation.
Many if not most modern pop/R&B songs are in Lydian or Dorian because people tend to perceive these songs as moody and cool. The Weeknd is a pop/R&B artist through and through.
>Most modern pop songs are Lydian or Dorian because people tend to perceive these modes as moody and cool.
I would disagree. Dorian is fairly common, but Ionian and Aeolian are still more common. I haven't really heard many Lydian tunes. Sure, a lot of pop songs tend to put emphasis on the IV (or bVI) chord. But I have a difficult time hearing it as the actual tonal center (and we can't just say that just because a song starts on a specific chord, that must be the actual tonal center - tonal center is a "feeling", it's a sound that you hear).
Do you have some examples of Lydian pop songs?
Right, the incidence of actual lydian songs is incredibly low. Most common to least common is probably major and minor, followed by mixolydian and dorian, then phrygian way below that, then lydian even lower, and finally locrian but just barely if at all. Diatonic modes are not as prominent a force in popular music as some folks make them out to be.
I'll second Maggara's question and ask for examples. I'm not an avid listener of contemporary pop, so I'm unaware of this Lydian trend.
>But making such a distinction is completely unproductive and doesn’t really yield any interesting info about the song itself.
But that's exactly my question: how can we describe the "harmonic space" in which this song exists in a way that ***does*** *yield interesting info*? After all, the song does make very specific and deliberate choices of what notes to use. How do we describe that in a way that's not confusing and inherently ambiguous?
>Musicians have been doing this very same thing for hundreds of years. There’s really nothing special or modern about playing with relative minor in a major song or vice versa.
That only goes to show that this discussion is way more urgent and necessary than it seems, and it only isn't being discussed out of sheer academic inertia and, possibly, elitism. If we're really going to use theory as an analytical tool (and I believe we should), it's paramount to have terms and labels that are adequate for the type of music we're looking. It would be completely silly to use Western functional harmony to analyse traditional Indian music, for example.
> How do we describe that in a way that's not confusing and inherently ambiguous?
If the music is inherently ambiguous, then the theory should reflect that. There is nothing confusing about being ambiguous, unless you let there be.
>If the music is inherently ambiguous, then the theory should reflect that. There is nothing confusing about being ambiguous, unless you let there be.
But see, the key system is, by design, not ambiguous. There isn't really a lot of wiggle room when you pin something down as A major. So, when you use such a system to define a song that is tonally ambiguous, you're using inadequate terminology. Yes, ambiguity is not confusing, but the terminology should reflect that.
> So, when you use such a system to define a song that is tonally ambiguous, you're using inadequate terminology.
So let the analysis reflect the ambiguity. Call it the key of C/Am, or whatever.
> There isn't really a lot of wiggle room when you pin something down as A major.
Then just use "A", which can encompass both A major and A minor.
You’re really going off over this and I’m not sure why. The song is pretty simple and can easily be explained through basic music theory.
*Edit: sorry, I removed a paragraph, then apollo kept the paragraph (so I thought when the old page popped back up), so I tried to edit it again and it wouldn’t let me, so I typed a different paragraph so that the comment would finally post, and then when it posted the old edit had appeared, so then I went to fix it all for a second time. This clearly upset you— just know that it wasn’t intentional, sorry.*
For fuck's sake, how many more times are you gonna edit your posts? When I first saw your initial post, it was completely different from the version I replied to. And then, you edited it *after I replied*, thus giving the impression that I was ignoring the things you added. If you wanna do edits, please mark them down.
Anyway, if you *actually pay attention* to what I wrote (a habit that's not very popular in this sub), you'll notice that I did mention F Dorian being a possibility for this song, so you're saying nothing new. And I think it's perfectly reasonable to say the song is F Dorian, but I don't think it's that straightforward: to me, if I had to pinpoint a "key centre", I'd go with E♭ major, because the melodic climax usually tends to happen over that chord, thus making it stand out to my ears (EDIT: C minor is also reasonable, because the main synth line outlines a C minor chord twice, once over the F minor chord, and then over C minor, making this second repetition feel more like the "answer" to the previous "question"). But I wouldn't try to "convince" you that the song is not F Dorian, because *that's not the point*.
Also, it's infuriating to try to use an example when making an argument, because some people think that, if they ignore the example, then they've addressed the entire argument. But *Blinding Lights* is far from the only song that can be called "ambiguous". I mean, I didn't want to mention *Sweet Home Alabama* because I hate such cliches, but that's a **very** controversial one. There isn't a clear agreement on what is the "key centre" of that song, and it seems the very slight majority leans towards G, though I myself am more of a D guy.
EDIT. forgot about this bit:
>Instead of spending so much time trying to recreate all of music theory from scratch at the slightest sign of confusion, you could have simply searched until you found the F chord.
It's weird how, in a music theory sub, some people are absolutely terrified of, well, **theorising**. What's wrong with creating a new theory to explain music that's not properly explained by existing theory? That has happened many times over history. Art changes, music changes, and theory should reflect those changes.
Also, I insist that F Dorian, though a perfectly reasonable answer, is not necessarily unanimous. I, for one, can't hear the song in F Dorian. I tried, and it *really* doesn't work for me.
I think you’d find much better discussions if you weren’t such an angry and bitter writer.
The sub itself yields plenty of productive conversations. You’re just not experiencing them because your anger has consumed your ability to communicate about this topic.
You’re also missing the entire point that people have tried to get across to you several times: all music is open to interpretation at its very core.
>You’re also missing the entire point that people have tried to get across to you several times: all music is open to interpretation at its very core.
A large majority of replies here have done the exact opposite: they insist that the song is unequivocally F Dorian, and I'm wrong if I hear it otherwise. If anything, I think you're the only one in the entire thread openly saying music is "open to interpretation".
>I think you’d find much better discussions if you weren’t such an angry and bitter writer.
Well, what do you expect? On one side, people like you berate me for how useless and pointless it is to try to "reinvent music theory from scratch" just because of a few pop songs which are ***obviously*** in Dorian; and on the other side, someone else pulls out a few hundred music theory papers doing exactly this "reinvention" I'm accused of doing, and then completing it with "people only complain about theory because they never opened a music theory journal in their life."
So, I get fucked up the ass because what I'm saying is "stupid," and I get fucked up the ass because what I'm saying is obvious. Yeah, why should I possibly be upset? I should be ***happy and joyous***.
And this is far from the first time something like this has happened: just by trying to talk about topics that are a little bit beyond "Why does this chord progression make me nostalgic?", I'm treated like an idiot by the dilettantes, and I'm treated like an ignoramus by the schooled ones. But most amazing is the type of argumentation: one person opens their comment by saying 12tone is a terrible channel, as if that makes any difference. Another person treats me as if I discovered music yesterday ("Have you ever heard of *harmonic rhythm*?!?"). On other posts, people have responded by saying things I had already addressed in my initial post (I say "I don't think this is X, because of reasons Y and Z", and someone will reply "*Well, actually*, you're wrong because X."). In other discussions, people will actually *insist on factual errors* just to make me look stupid (even after mentioned multiple composers who have used irrational time signatures, someone kept insisting that I was making it all up and trying to "change music theory"). You say one thing, and people will beat you over the head as if you were saying something else. They'll argue against *what they think you oughta be saying*, regardless of what you actually want to say. I have seen, multiple times, people asking for help with a song, with YouTube link and all, and then getting incorrect answers because people *replied without listening*.
Honestly, it's fucking maddening.
In my opinion and in short...stop using keys...no. As long as they make no sense at all...tons of music still nowadays have a "home base" (to my ear that includes Blinding lights and Sweet home Alabama).
That being said...to me there are also many cases where "traditional" theory seems to come short to accurately describe contemporary music practices...it's essentially up to us to come up with new conventions and terms for that...which is not an easy feat!
>tons of music still nowadays have a "home base" (to my ear that includes Blinding lights and Sweet home Alabama).
I think this is true. But the problem with describing Blinding Lights as "F Dorian" or Sweet Home Alabama as "D Mixolydian" (or however you personally hear these songs - this is how I hear them) is that there are people who do not hear them in this way. So, something about the songs is in fact ambiguous.
Keys on the other hand are very unambiguous. They are very much centered around the concept of a tonal center. Sure, people do hear a tonal center in these songs, but different people may hear different tonal centers. And to me, describing Sweet Home Alabama as G major would make little sense - I just don't hear it in that way. To me, that's a totally incorrect analysis (and I do actually think the guitar solo sounds like it's in the wrong key, because the guitarist clearly treats G as the tonal center). But other people do hear it that way, and to them, it's the only analysis that makes sense.
So, is there a way of pleasing both of these camps? Maybe these songs simply are ambiguous in the way that they don't clearly suggest a single tonal center, and different people hear them in different ways. And in this case, it would make sense to use a system where you don't need to choose a tonal center, but you can still talk about the harmonies in these songs.
So, it's not that these songs *lack* a tonal center. It's that this tonal center is interpreted differently by different people. And if the song doesn't make the tonal center that explicit, then there's a possibility that different people are going to interpret it in different ways (because they hear it differently), so describing a song as being in G major, when a lot of people hear it as D Mixolydian, would just be kind of dumb, and very likely confusing (because it makes people think the way they hear it is somehow incorrect). Analysis should match what you hear, and if different people hear it in different ways, then maybe analyzing it from the perspective of a single key doesn't make that much sense.
Meh, just because a song is in a "key" doesn't mean it has to follow functional harmony. A song in c-minor and be filled with a bunch of non-diatonic harmonies and no functional ones. Because it gravitates around that chord. Home could be c-minor6 (an inverted half diminished) and still be in c-minor.
"One more time" by Daft Punk is another example people say is IV-V. From this perspective, the I is never played. But seeing it as IV-V in a diatonic sense is just another conflation of how we use modes. It's easy to understand just using I-II.
>Meh, just because a song is in a "key" doesn't mean it has to follow functional harmony. A song in c-minor and be filled with a bunch of non-diatonic harmonies and no functional ones. Because it gravitates around that chord. Home could be c-minor6 (an inverted half diminished) and still be in c-minor.
Well, if you pay close to attention to what I wrote (which, again, is something people here tend not to do), you'll see that I'm talking about songs that *do not gravitate* clearly around one specific chord in that way. I'm familiar with songs that are non-functional, even though they still have a tonal centre. That's not what I'm talking about.
The song you mentioned comes back to a minor chord. Every 4 bars starts with it. Feels like home to me. Sounds like you are making this unnecessarily complicated.
Edit: ya the song clearly comes back to i. Harmonic rhythm is a thing. I don't see how you don't hear a tonal center.
The vocal melody ABSOLUTELY DOESN'T sound Dorian to me. It's simply impossible for me to hear Blinding Lights as Dorian. I, however, don't try to impose this perception on others. So why do others try to impose their perception on me, though? Why do we get punished for being rational?
Also, why is everyone forgetting that this just ONE example? It's counterproductive to use examples in this sub, because people think that, if they disagree with the example, then they have "won" the discussion.
I totally agree. Get Lucky is another good example of an ambiguous song. Depending on which section I start from, I may hear it as B Dorian or F# minor.
And there are songs that don't really even include the tonic chord. Some good examples would be Teenage Dream, One More Time, Earfquake, and Sorry (by Justin Bieber).
Tonal ambiguity isn't that rare.
Also, I agree that the melody on its own doesn't sound very Dorian. To my ears, it sounds like a mostly C minor pentatonic melody.
But with the chords, I do find it difficult to not hear it as F Dorian. But I do recognize the ambiguity.
When deciding between major and relative minor, I find it best to simply use my perception as to which resolutions sound truly resolved and which ones sound suspended. A common trick with lots of music is to resolve to a third of a minor key and sit on it for a while, but then transition to a new section by cadencing to the root of the minors key. This gives the impression of a key change, when in fact it’s been in minor the entire time.
You might find Philip Tagg's [Everyday Tonality] (https://tagg.org/mmmsp/EverydayTonalityInfo.htm) interesting. He has two chapters on Chord Loops - the first referring to vintage pop/jazz circle progressions (vi-ii-V-I), the second to more ambiguous loops in later rock music where the chord functions are less obvious. His main thrust is to escape the attachment to Euroclassical theory (which is all about "keys" and "function"), and work out a more relevant analytical system for modern popular music (in which key concepts often play a part, but not necessarily a central one).
(He makes one small but serious mistake. He describes Sweet Home Alabama as being in D - which is debatable - but invokes a live performance as evidence, saying it ends on D. In fact, the band ended on G (a very long, sustained and underlined one) when playing it live. IOW, he fails to notice that this song is a perfect expression of the point he is trying to make, about ambiguous function!)
I actually posted a thread about this a year ago. [https://www.reddit.com/r/musictheory/comments/hfm7tl/talking\_about\_diatonic\_scales\_without\_specifying/](https://www.reddit.com/r/musictheory/comments/hfm7tl/talking_about_diatonic_scales_without_specifying/)
I do agree - a lot of pop songs tend to be more in "scales" than in "keys". They use a specific diatonic scale, but make the tonal center less obvious. And maybe there are even two possible notes that sound stable (usually the relative major and minor).
I suggested that instead of roman numerals (that require you to choose a single tonal center, unless you are writing a key change before each chord), we could use solfege to notate the diatonic position of the chord. So, the Axis progression would be Do So Lam Fa (this version is more clearly in major, but if you start on the "La" chord, it gets more tonally ambiguous, and I often don't think describing it as vi IV I V is accurate), and the Blinding Lights progression would be Rem Lam Do So. There's a problem with this, though - in many countries Do Re Mi, etc. are actually note names, so it would probably make sense to come up with a new system for notating these progressions. (I mean, we could of course just relate everything to the relative major, but I really don't like this idea, because I think it still implies a tonal center, and the point here is to come up with a way of notating these progressions without necessarily talking about "keys" or "tonal centers", and instead just using the diatonic scale as the basis.)
Get Lucky would be another good example of a tonally ambiguous loop. And Earfquake by Tyler the Creator would be even better (since I don't think it includes the tonic chord at all).
But I do think a lot of the time there actually is a clear tonal center, even if it lacks V I resolutions. For example Watermelon Sugar uses the same progression as Blinding Lights, but IMO makes the tonal center a lot more explicit. The progression starts on Dm7, and the melody is also very clearly centered around D (and mostly uses notes in the Dm pentatonic scale). In this case, I do think the song is much less ambiguously in D Dorian.
Then again, a clear tonal center still doesn't make this useless, because you can use many different ways of analyzing the same piece. For some songs, one system works better than the other (I think songs like Earfquake and Blinding Lights would make more sense analyzed from the "diatonic scale" perspective, whereas songs like Hallelujah and Can You Feel the Love make more sense analyzed from the "functional" perspective). For other songs, both systems would work well (pretty much any song that's based on a loop, but also has a fairly unambiguous tonal center).
So analyzing pop music is way outside of my expertise -- I'm classical through-and-through.
That said, what little I do consciously observe in pop music (I do actually listen to pop music but rarely do I analyze anything I'm hearing) doesn't feel like any of the music theory I ever learned.
Chords feel like they are put together because they sound good (someone else mentioned chord loops which sounds like a really good approach to all of this). Often little flourishes are added and the rhythmic movement becomes key. Melodies sound like they fit the chords, mostly, and just sound good (have nice hooks).
What I'm slowly getting at is that I suspect a lot/most pop musicians aren't think F-Dorian or C#-Locrian, or functional harmony, or non-functional harmony, or voice leading, and so on. Instead it is a series of chords that get repeated with a melody that goes into another series of chords that get repeated with melodies that don't clash with the chords and that's it.
I'm not saying that music theory must only analyze works according to how they were written (though when looking at CPP music we can be pretty certain that those composers were well aware of what was going on theoretically), but I think it can be a useful theory that works in that way.
Even where there appears to be a V-I, I'm not sure if that was an intentional cadence the way we're taught to think of them in music theory classes, it's just chords that sound cool here.
So I would like to think that there would be a different and more *useful* (to people who want to write that music) theory that can describe how composers write pop music instead of finding ways to describe it using CPP music theory.
So keys would be out and probably even scales. It seems more like there's an intuitive approach to writing melodies and chords that aren't based on a knowledge of scales but more what "sounds good" given the musical patterns they've observed and internalized throughout their lives. We can probably describe those intuitive approaches based on notes not fitting in chords, for example.
Anyway, like I said, I'm way outside my comfort zone but it does feel like we are often missing how people write songs.
PS And I am aware that there are plenty of people, especially in certain genres of rock, metal, etc, who are very aware of scales and compose to them but I'm not sure they are thinking in terms of keys and cadences but they do still use the chord loop approach.
But if this way can be observed, why wouldn't it be taught? When people come up with new sounds in classical, do you think they are thinking about them in a theoretical way, or maybe it just feels intuitive to them? I mean, functionality technically existed in chord progressions much before people actually started using roman numerals/chord functions to analyze the music. So, seems like the "functional patterns" existed in music before people thought about them that consciously. Then theorists started describing them, and now everyone understands the functional language.
Sure, pop melodies are written intuitively, but I would assume so are melodies in other styles too. If you don't use any intuition, the melody is going to sound forced. Sure, people improvise and try different things (maybe consciously), but the end result always has some intuition to it. In the end, everyone uses their ears to determine what sounds they like to hear. They may even start from a theoretical idea, but how do they choose how to use that theoretical idea? Of course they listen. Even if you "use theory" to write songs, you still use your ears to judge the musical ideas. And how do you develop your ear, so that you can make these judgements? By getting familiar with how the style works. You can do this 100% by ear, or you may learn about it more "formally".
Pop music follows certain fairly strict formulas. Sure, people know them intuitively, but intuition is learned - these formulas feel intuitive exactly because they are in so many songs, and people actually know them "by heart" (without really even having to think about these formulas). These people just learned it by learning a bunch of songs. But the question is, why not make it easier? Obviously repertoire is always important, but you can make the learning much more efficient if you make people aware of the patterns that they are using. This way these things will become "intuitive" a lot faster.
Also, if we have good theories that describe the particular style, people wouldn't get confused when the style doesn't follow the music theory they know. I mean, a lot of people on this forum are confused about theoretical concepts exactly for this reason - they go online and only find articles/videos on classical/jazz theory. And then they look at some pop or hip hop song and wonder why it doesn't follow any of the "rules" they just learned. Having music theory that more accurately describes these styles (and isn't just "well, you just got to feel it, bro") would definitely be helpful to a lot of people who are interested in learning these styles and also learning some theory.
> But if this way can be observed, why wouldn't it be taught?
I'm trying to get across a more practical type of theory for pop musicians that can be easily taught and that doesn't rely on the more complex aspects of music theory.
I think this kind of already happens. Before I started playing and studying classical music, people would sit around and teach each other chords and show chords that sounded good together in a song. There was never any talk of keys or even scales (at that stage). Or even melodies. I would think that adding a bit more sophistication to that approach would make something still pretty accessible to average pop musicians and also a lot more useful than standard music theory.
> When people come up with new sounds in classical, do you think they are thinking about them in a theoretical way, or maybe it just feels intuitive to them?
Well, the theory becomes part of their intuition so it's not an either/or. Though sometimes, especially in the 20th century, I do think composers were thinking theoretically (and/or philosophically) in their approach to new music.
> But the question is, why not make it easier? Obviously repertoire is always important, but you can make the learning much more efficient if you make people aware of the patterns that they are using.
That makes it sound like we're on the same page. Pop musicians choose chords not based on functional harmony but just because they sound good. A theory of pop music would teach simple and then advanced chords and maybe even some of the patterns and tricks to put them together in interesting ways. I'm not sure I see how going through counterpoint and functional harmony first before getting to "chord loops" is that helpful. If they want to learn more then by all means they should do so!
> Having music theory that more accurately describes these styles (and isn't just "well, you just got to feel it, bro") would definitely be helpful to a lot of people who are interested in learning these styles and also learning some theory.
That feels like what I'm trying to get at. A music theory that accurately describes how pop musicians actually work so that other pop musicians can have an easier start.
"12tone" is probably my least favorite channel out there. I really have my doubts that they could make a single "very good video", let alone multiple ones.
On the song "Blinding Lights" you use, that one clearly has a home on F. I don't really even know what's so unclear about it. Where on earth do you get C minor or Eb major from? Like, what? If it uses only notes from F dorian and has a home on F, isn't it pretty clear? The harmonic progression also isn't a "functional" progression, as you say in Db major it'd be ii-vi-I-V which means that there's no resolution to Eb major or in other words, there's no functional harmony. Hence, it's in a mode, which pretty obviously is F Dorian.
On the actual chord progression itself: From F it uses the weakest harmonic motion(raising 5th), second-weakest harmonic motion(raising 3rd), weakest harmonic motion(raising 5th) and back to the tonic with the weakest harmonic motion(raising 5th). This again is completely standard for mode writing, where you want to avoid strong haromonic motion. The whole progression sounds like a massive extension of the tonic chord - there's actually no serious progression to anything at any point - just as you would want for mode writing.
Hence we have: F as the tonic, only tones of F dorian used and nothing else, and a standard chord progression written for a mode that specifically avoids functional harmony. And it's in question what key this is in?
12tone always makes videos where he shows he has absolutely no clue how functional harmony works and talks as if he does. So infuriating. Especially the fact that some people actually consider those videos to be good.
>Where on earth do you get C minor or Eb major from? Like, what?
Listen to the [melody without the harmonic backing](https://youtu.be/Vc9Huk0hy4U). Do you still hear F as the tonal center?
But I agree with you, I do hear it in F Dorian when I listen to the full song. The starting note of the melody sounds like the 5th scale degree to my ears. And I also hear the chorus starting on scale degree 1.
Regardless of your opinion on 12tone's videos, their pronouns are they/them and it would be courteous to not misgender them.
you could make this said without being sanctimonious. am i supposed to know this from watching 2-3 of their bad videos?
I don't think we should STOP USING keys, but I think as 12Tone talked about in his last video on the subject, we need to change how we think about keys. I think we just need to accept that something can be in C major and A minor, for example.
However, even in contemporary pop music, most of it is tonal, even if that tone center changes section to section. Lots of songs just go the IV in choruses. While it doesn't use the traditional chord functions, it still makes perfect sense to say a song is in C major with choruses in F.
I also don't know that "keys" versus "modal" is really the right language here. The better distinguishing feature is "functional" versus "modal" harmony, whether we need to preserve traditional functions or let chords be separated from function and use different structural ideas (like loops, for example).
Using the term "keys" doesn't make much sense, because most pop songs do still use a heavily centralized note (or sometimes two) in a section and (almost) exclusively notes from a particular scale to support the centralization of that note. THIS is what keys are, and any talk of chord function is just correlation of two separate concepts by many years of classical training.
Something that could be weird here is, at least in my education, I never understood the separation of keys and modes. I basically treated every mode the exact same as I would the major or minor keys (except locrian because I'm not smart enough to use it, lol). The only real difference to me was that major/minor had some historical reasons and were the most common, so they also had key signatures associated and such. Saying a song is in F lydian shouldn't get treated much differently than a song that's in F major. But saying it's in C major would definitely make no sense...
Right! Very sensible attitude. :-)
In most modern music, you really can think of modes as keys in (slightly) different guise. Or (OTOH) think of keys as *modally flexible* - "modal interchange" being the ruling principle. I.e., in either case, no real separation, as you say.
Where there are (or at least can be) differences is in how the harmony is treated, and sometimes in the formal aspects of composition. IOW, you can gravitate towards the traditional "Euroclassical" habits of tertial chord forms and functional harmony (major / minor, roman numerals, cadences and all that) - or you can gravitate towards the other "pole": the way modal jazz (mostly) did, which is focus on one-chord grooves or vamps, chords built largely in 4ths, and so on. "Static" harmony, rather than "forward motion". Or, of course, you can settle somewhere in between, which is what most pop and rock music does.
You may already know or suspect my feelings on the matter.
I think it's well past time for new terminology.
However, some of the groundwork has already been laid.
The concept some authors have a "Center" is valuable here.
Tonality might be described as Centric Music that promotes that center through rather specific means: functional harmonic progression, exclusive scale sets, and so on.
Contemporary popular music often promotes a Center, but does so through other means, such as the first chord of a looping progression, or a drone/pedal, etc.
However, I think it sounds like you're looking for *one* encompassing idea (or if you're not, at least many are) for a style that really uses multiple approaches simultaneously and your Cohen example is a good one.
For a long time I've noted the existence of "Dual Centers". Not Bitonality where they happen simultaneously, but where they happen in alternation but in a way where neither seems to be the more prominent Center.
So my point is that Common Practice Period had a common practice! So it's a little easier or maybe sensible to say "Tonality" covers all of that well.
But today, there is no one "common practice" but a number of related practices that have varying degrees of Centered-ness and various means or promoting these when they are present.
Thus I would see this as Chapters in a book, where one chapter focuses on the use od more traditional tonal means of creating a more traditional key. Another chapter that focuses on the "Dual Center" principle. Another chapter that focuses on the "Ambiguous Center" principle and so on.
IOW, unlike the CPP where there was one primary approach, we now live in an era where multiple approaches co-exist.
So I don't feel like an "all encompassing" approach would be all that informative - it might be a "cop out" like "Eclecticism" can be.
I've thought about various terms. I've never liked terms like Extended or Expanded Tonality or Neo-Tonality and things like that. If anything, Modality in a more historical form is a big player so "Neo-Modality" is probably better - assuming the word "modal" implies it includes Aeolian and Ionian, as well as things like Lydian Dominant or other exotic scale resources.
There is also a "scale" approach or "pitch set" approach going on...
I've toyed with the idea of words like "Modo-Tonal" or "Tono-Modal" or "Hyrbrid Modal-Tonality" and things like that.
I like "Composite Modality" but again it would have to be assumed that Major and Minor, even in their traditional forms, are part of this.
That would be a nice blanket, all-encompassing term yet the more specific approaches would need to be broken down.
But yes, I do think it's time. You need to have the personality of a Beato or Collier though to get people to listen ;-)
There's a pretty substantial literature at this point on [tonal pairing](https://mtosmt.org/issues/mto.12.18.4/mto.12.18.4.schultz.html), [double tonic complexes](https://cpb-us-e1.wpmucdn.com/blogs.uoregon.edu/dist/a/14036/files/2017/01/DTCs-in-Rock-Proposal-SMT-2017-27t8eq4.pdf) (included because of the examples, but [this one became a publication as well](https://academic.oup.com/mts/article-abstract/42/2/207/5828430)), [auxiliary cadences](https://www.jstor.org/stable/25171366), [modal tonicization](https://trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1081&context=gamut&httpsredir=1&referer=), and [axis progressions](https://mtosmt.org/issues/mto.17.23.3/mto.17.23.3.richards.html) that "can be swayed towards either the major or Aeolian mode in varying degrees." Not to mention [fragile, emergent, and absent tonics](https://mtosmt.org/issues/mto.17.23.2/mto.17.23.2.spicer.html), [sectional tonality/centricity](https://libres.uncg.edu/ir/uncg/f/G_Capuzzo_Sectional_2009.pdf), and [just calling minor tonics in diatonic songs "vi" and leaving it at that](http://www.midside.com/publications/declercq_2019_jmtp.pdf), though de Clercq [acknowledges](http://www.midside.com/publications/declercq_2021_fdomc.pdf) that what is really going on is more complex than a single system can handle:
>>In this regard, it is worth mentioning that encoding the minor tonic as "one," which is the default method for classically trained musicians, is not the standard practice among many commercial musicians. Users of the Nashville number system, for example, normally encode the root of minor tonic as scale-degree 6, which highlights similar chord patterns between the minor key and its relative major. I am not advocating here that we always encode the root of the minor tonic as scale-degree 6 or as scale-degree 1. Until we have a better understanding of harmonic behavior in popular music, we probably need both methods.
So we have plenty of terminology and analysis out there right now. People who complain that "theory" isn't able to offer insights on music that appears not to conform to the stylistic norms of 18th century court music should try cracking open a theory journal sometime.
>IOW, unlike the CPP where there was one primary approach, we now live in an era where multiple approaches co-exist.
It came as a surprise to no one [that Walter Everett was right](https://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.04.10.4/mto.04.10.4.w_everett.html).
>So I don't feel like an "all encompassing" approach would be all that informative - it might be a "cop out" like "Eclecticism" can be.
>So we have plenty of terminology and analysis out there right now. People who complain that "theory" isn't able to offer insights on music that appears not to conform to the stylistic norms of 18th century court music should try cracking open a theory journal sometime.
Yeah, there's all that literature out there, but just look at the amount of resistance and grief I'm getting from people here with the mere suggestion that tonal centres aren't always that clear cut ("**Of course** *Blinding Lights* is in F Dorian! How could you **possibly** not hear that? Your entire argument is wrong! You shouldn't *ReInVeNt ThEoRy FrOm ScRaTch* just because of a few pop songs!").
On the other hand, just the sheer amount of completely different names and overly technical jargon seems to suggest that theory as a whole is *trying* to reach some sort of new terminology, but it's still facing trouble. I mean, the paper you linked on Double Tonic Complexes refer to its usage in rock music as "a puzzling feature" (puzzling *for who*, buddy? It's 2017 and you're *still* puzzled?). And I agree with 65TR that we won't necessarily find a single, all-encompassing system is possible to describe the overall pop scenario; but, Jesus Christ, if even just saying that a tonal centre might be ambiguous is this controversial, imagine trying to introduce "tonal pairing", "double tonic complexes", "fragile tonic", "emergent tonic", "absent tonic" ***and*** "sectional tonality" to that kind of people? I suppose this inertia I'm calling out maybe doesn't come from academia, but *from* ***US***, because of this bizarre attitude: I say "hey, *Blinding Lights* doesn't sound Dorian to me, but I wouldn't try to impose that on you, 'cause that's just how I hear it," and the reply I get is "*Of course* it's Dorian, are you *STUPID*??"
> I mean, the paper you linked on Double Tonic Complexes refer to its usage in rock music as "a puzzling feature" (puzzling for who, buddy? It's 2017 and you're still puzzled?).
You're making a bit much out of a mediocre sentence from a conference proposal. The abstract of the published article is clearer:
>>Most analysts consider a song either to be in a single key or to exhibit competition or ambiguity among multiple possible keys. This article proposes an alternative in which two keys combine to create a coherent, stable tonality.
>You're making a bit much out of a mediocre sentence from a conference proposal.
You're kinda doing the same towards me, aren't ya? You replied to a single, solitary sentence, and ignored the argument as a whole.
I mean, I think it's pretty reasonable here to say that this thread evidences a pretty big problem: I'm getting beaten over the head because my ideas are apparently absurd, yet the things I'm talking about *are already old news* in actual academic research. So, for some people, I'm a raving lunatic, and for you, I'm an uncultured dweeb. I'l lying face down at the bottom of a chasm, getting shat on by people standing on the two edges. Honestly, this is pretty fucking frustrating.
I’m not trying to be combative, I just think it's uncharitable to take one word out of context (he's just trying to say the tonality of these songs is worth considering; it's a lead-in to the rest of the proposal) when the meaning is elucidated later in the proposal and strengthened in the publication version.
As for the arguments in this thread and the OP, I don't know, I haven't heard Blinding Lights except for a few seconds of the isolated vocal track someone else posted. Sounds to me like C minor, so I’m guessing the pairing of C minor/E♭ major is probably at play. I wasn't going to comment though because, again, I didn't listen.
Tonal ambiguity is not something that I give much thought. If I think there's a strong case in an analysis for an absent tonic or sectional tonality, I'll bring it up, but it doesn't send me into a crisis of whether keys exist. There is pop music that is very much monotonal, and there is pop music where tonality is less decided. All this stuff is ultimately just interpretation and discourse. With that said, I do think the YouTube commentators overstate the implications of such cases. It's one of the shortcomings of infotainment.
As for the peanut gallery, that's how things will always be on the internet. The best we can do is start threads like this one, make our cases, and link sources so some the ideas we use enter the discussion. I do think the situation has improved compared to a couple decades ago before there were YouTubers making serious theory content and before places existed where non-specialists could seek out answers to music questions. There were forums, mind you, but they didn't invite the same amount of discussion as Reddit does.
>I’m not trying to be combative, I just think it's uncharitable to take one word out of context (he's just trying to say the tonality of these songs is worth considering; it's a lead-in to the rest of the proposal) when the meaning is elucidated later in the proposal and strengthened in the publication version.
I think it sounds uncharitable when you look at my critique in isolation, but I definitely wasn't making a mockery of that phrase. I just stressed that bit to show much much this subject of songs without one clear tonal centre is still a topic of ongoing debate, and there isn't one clear consensus about it in music theory circles. So, in reality, I called attention to how "puzzling" rock songs are just to say how petty and ignorant it is of *other* people in this thread to treat me like I'm crazy or stupid for not accepting that *Blinding Lights* is obviously in F Dorian, as if there is no other margin for interpretation. No to mention that some people are trying to embarrass me for proposing and idea *which is already being proposed* in actual academic circles. I think those people should be reading your reply, but I be they're gleefully ignoring it. Your original comment should have about a dozen upvotes, but it's sitting idly at 1.
So this is the scenario we live in: the people here just want to keep shoving new things into old boxes, and even daring to propose a new box will get you treated like you're crazy. It's a sin to discuss music theory in a music theory sub.
>Tonal ambiguity is not something that I give much thought. If I think there's a strong case in an analysis for an absent tonic or sectional tonality, I'll bring it up, but it doesn't send me into a crisis of whether keys exist. There is pop music that is very much monotonal, and there is pop music where tonality is less decided. All this stuff is ultimately just interpretation and discourse.
I guess it might be, but I think it's interesting if we have actual tools and terminology to make this discourse more focused and accurate. I mean, we will often say that theory is "descriptive, not prescriptive," and that it's primary goal is to make communication and analysis easier; so having descriptors *is* useful, and if the descriptors we have happen to be inadequate, we should come up with new ones--and as the papers you have linked have shown, people are doing that.
There's another aspect that I haven't even had the opportunity to mention: I think this "shifting tonality" of a song like *Blinding Lights* is a beautiful thing. Writing a song that seems to drift over a "modal ocean" instead of being planted firmly on one tonic is a powerful, expressive thing. It's a kind of songwriting that I haven't been able to implement yet. So, having a theoretical grasp of a song like this could maybe open my mind to try to make this kind of composing in a near future. On the other hand, trying to pigeonhole the song as "F Dorian and that's it" just kills the thrill for me. The song doesn't work as well for me if I put it in this "tonal mindspace" that **does** work for *other* songs. As a musician myself, it's in my interest to keep my mind open for new possibilities, and it's a wee bit disheartening when other people preach the opposite attitude, and make me look silly for trying to learn a new approach.
>So, in reality, I called attention to how "puzzling" rock songs are just to say how petty and ignorant it is of other people in this thread to treat me like I'm crazy or stupid for not accepting that Blinding Lights is obviously in F Dorian
My apologies, I misunderstood. Thank you for your clarification.
>So this is the scenario we live in: the people here just want to keep shoving new things into old boxes, and even daring to propose a new box will get you treated like you're crazy. It's a sin to discuss music theory in a music theory sub.
The sub has 400k subscribers, so I think this is partly a problem of noise-to-signal ratio: there's a lot of content that isn't so deep, so the deeper stuff gets obscured, then readers who would contribute deep content don't feel like they would get much of a discussion so they don't post, so the deep stuff diminishes while the shallow stuff increases. I don't mean to belittle anyone, I think it's fine to bring basic questions to the sub since we all have to start somewhere, but I know I definitely had less nuanced opinions a decade ago and a stronger desire to defend them to boot. I suspect we're seeing a similar effect with users who know enough to think they know everything.
On the other hand, [some threads are nothing but quality content and good discussion](https://www.reddit.com/r/musictheory/comments/pokxnn/verse_chorus_chord_progressions/). Personally, I filter out most stuff here and pump out the most theoretically dense comments I can write with the hopes that enough people will eventually read and we will have a sea change in another 10 or 20 years. I sensed that something changed with how people on the internet talked about modes between ~2005 and ~2015, and that suggests to me that we could motivate the discourse in the future.
>There's another aspect that I haven't even had the opportunity to mention: I think this "shifting tonality" of a song like Blinding Lights is a beautiful thing. Writing a song that seems to drift over a "modal ocean" instead of being planted firmly on one tonic is a powerful, expressive thing. It's a kind of songwriting that I haven't been able to implement yet.
Oh, definitely. Music analysis is always best, to me, when it animates our hearing. Given the choice between a static schema and a dynamic process, I'll always go with the process. Janet Schmalfeldt's [*In the Process of Becoming*](https://global.oup.com/academic/product/in-the-process-of-becoming-9780190258184?cc=ca&lang=en&) shows that retrospective reinterpretation (reconsidering what you heard in the past as new musical information is revealed) is a potent mode of listening and analysis for Romantic music, but I think it's very applicable for popular music where we have the option of playing the recording over again and hearing a song with knowledge of where it's going to go.
> So we have plenty of terminology and analysis out there right now. People who complain that "theory" isn't able to offer insights on music that appears not to conform to the stylistic norms of 18th century court music should try cracking open a theory journal sometime.
I figured as much, the problem is, these don't really get widespread attention outside of the academic community. If a tree falls in the forest and all...
Trickle down at its worst maybe!
So dramatic. You say "trickle down" because you perceive a top-down process of people on high passing down information in an authoritative way. However, what you neglect to acknowledge is that many if the people writing these publications are of the same stock of music aficionados that post on forums like these. I'll grant that credentialism is an annoying and destructive social tendency, but in what way is an analysis in a journal different from an article in a guitar magazine, or a video someone uploads online, or even a post on a forum, except that it is extremely thorough and makes an attempt at being rigorous with respect to method and crediting where ideas came from?
In so-called "trickle down economics," the promise goes that removing taxes and deregulating financial markets will result in more efficient distribution of resources through increased employment. What happens in reality is that such policies allow monopolists to accumulate capital at an exponential rate, speculating all the while to further plunder surplus value from the global working class. In time, excess production from economic expansion cannot be absorbed through consumption, unemployment increases, and the economy stagnates, resulting in a secular crisis. Companies find ways to liquidate their workers, and that joblessness means skills and talents depreciate. When some of that excess capital can finally be absorbed (through capital investment or war or public spending or what have you) and technologies and patents are developed to make firms more profitable again, there is a gap between the number of people who lost their jobs during the recession and the number who are employed afterwards. (I would rather say that the gap is in the amount of capital distributed among workers, however, because the firms may well employ many more people in the third world at a fraction of the cost of those in the first world.) Due to the depreciated skills of the incoming labor and development of automation technology in the meantime, there is a need to train people for more specialized jobs ("learn to code bro") and the firms do not close the gap. This is referred to as the "ratchet effect."
In short, the problem with trickle-down economics is that people who have to earn a wage to pay rent to live are robbed with the promise from the robbers that they will see a return in their involuntary investment. This return never comes. Note that this is a different problem from the oversimplified "top-down" metaphor, because there are plenty of top-down systems that don't do this, such as business tax codes (which, by the way, trickle-down economics is against; you can't reconcile the two just because they both came from an authoritative directive). Now, I'm no fan of academia, and I agree that a lot of it can be cliquish. But, in my estimation, the knowledge created by academia is much less of a problem than the bureaucracy it produces. If anything, the knowledge is the bright side (as, indeed, the technology produced through the course of capital accumulation is the bright side, although these can be used to nefarious ends). Paywalls are bullshit, but increasingly academics are publishing in open access journals, so that knowledge is out there for anyone to evaluate. The ideas put forth in these articles represent a return on social investment. It's not a net return, because academia is embedded in our economic system, but if the theory is good then there really is no need to have a problem with using it. You certainly won't entrench yourself further in economic crisis by reading a free article, academia does the entrenching fine without your readership. Those papers represent concentrated, diligent work on topics that are apparently of interest to musicians and listeners, so it is worth considering them and using that knowledge.
> You say "trickle down" because you perceive a top-down process of people on high passing down information in an authoritative way.
I said nothing about that.
I said "trickle down" because it takes a while for the information to "leak out" from academic sources to the general public.
Most people equate the term with top-down structures, i.e. authority. Where do you hear people complaining that information doesn't come down to the public from academia fast enough?
>Where do you hear people complaining that information doesn't come down to the public from academia fast enough?
Well go on any forum and see how many people are familiar with a concept like say, The Hollywood Cadence which was in an article in MTO. It's not something the general public tends to be aware or, or seek out. Paywalls are one thing, but it's like because they're "academic" there's a stigma against them, but also people just don't seem to look to those as a "go to". So while something might be published online for free, like MTO, basically no one's going to hear about it.
It's going to take someone like maybe 12 Tone to do a video on it, and then raise awareness (which is a good thing) before it becomes a "pop" thing and more widespread.
I mean, don't forget that most general musicians don't even know what an Augmented 6th chord is or does. And since there are fewer things on pop music in general, it even takes longer for them to sort of reach "general population level" and become common knowledge as it were (inasmuch as anything in music theory is common knowledge!).
Unless I intentionally sought out the articles you linked to, I'm not going to encounter them in my non-academic every day life as a working musician.
So while people are working on these concepts, they're just simply not widespread yet.
No one really "complains" about because they're just unaware of its existence...
So if we say "there needs to be new terms" and you say "there are!" the issue seems to be that they're not reaching the people who might be going "we need new terms" or others who might benefit from it.
I can agree with that. This is something that many professional societies are trying to address right now, namely through "public music theory" and "public musicology." [SMT-V](https://www.smt-v.org/), for example. Unfortunately, I think the goals of academia are at odds with the demands that non-academic musicians have. There are some broadly applicable ideas in theory and analysis, but as I'm sure you're aware, the economy of academia is all about scholars establishing themselves in increasingly rarefied corners of knowledge. For example, it's going to be difficult for a pop musician to see much application for Deleuzian philosophy to writing a chord progression, but an academic might well snap up something like that for a dissertation and then proceed to attract accolades and citations from their peers. I don't think the reason guitarists and bassists buy books of scale patterns and chord diagrams is because they haven't stepped up to the level of theorizing that academics exercise, but that those books represent theory that is applicable in a variety of situations they encounter every day. (On the whole though, I think music theory as a discipline does a good job of writing theory for the sake of music and not for the sake of theory.) Intermediaries like the YouTube crowd do encapsulate some academic ideas well, but I feel that many of the popular commentators also motivated by a drive to the novel and toward making analytic claims for the sake of viewership rather than laying out models musicians can readily use.
> I feel that many of the popular commentators also motivated by a drive to the novel and toward making analytic claims for the sake of viewership rather than laying out models musicians can readily use.
[Signals Sound Studio](https://youtu.be/j-j4g0ktPGw) does a good job of doing application. Speculative composition theory is something that really went by the wayside in professional music theory though. You don't see works like Gradus ad Parnassum coming out of academia. The exception is some of the partimento/schema theory stuff, but this is generally concerned with 18th century style.
> But consider a song like Blinding Lights, by The Weeknd: the chords are Fm - Cm - E♭ - B♭.
No they're not. The chords are Fm - Fm - Fm - Fm - Fm - Fm - Fm - Fm and THEN Fm - Cm - Eb - Bb repeating. It's not so ambiguous anymore if you write it out accurately. Describing this song as using a loop as if that's the only thing happening is simply incorrect.
Rhythm matters. Timing matters. Fm is the first sound introduced and stays around awhile before anything else happens. Fm happens at the beginning of every 4 bar section. Fm happens at the beginning of every verse, every chorus, every everything.
Key has to do with pitch hierarchy, nothing more nothing less. There is a clear hierarchy in this song, and F is at the top.
>No they're not. The chords are Fm - Fm - Fm - Fm - Fm - Fm - Fm - Fm and THEN Fm - Cm - Eb - Bb repeating.
So you're unfamiliar with songs that do not start on the tonic?
The Cure's *Pictures of You* stars with a very long E - F♯m vamp before it finally reaches the tonic A, where the song stays on until the end.
Queen's *I'm in Love with My Car* starts blasting loudly a D major chord for several bars, even though the song's in E minor (or is it G major?).
*Get Up, Stand Up*, by the Wailers, starts out grooving in B♭, but it then moves to its actual tonic, Cm.
Pink Floyd's *Time* opens with a huge intro that alternates between E and F♯m, suggesting a I - ii vamp, and it takes a long, long time to make it clear that F♯m is the actual centre. Also, on the subject of Pink Floyd, *Poles Apart* starts with a long G chord, before it falls to its D tonic.
David Bowie starts *Be My Wife* with a rowdy intro in G major before the song rises to its central A minor. And what to say with the rousing E♭7 that opens *Let's Dance*?
New Order's *Face Up* has a long intro over an A♭m tonic, but then the whole rest of the song is in... E♭ major?
I think Take on Me would be an even better example (since Blinding Lights is pretty clearly making some kind of a reference to that song). And Take on Me starts on a long ii chord. If you look at the song that Blinding Lights took most influence from, I don't think it's far fetched to argue that Blinding Lights could also start on a long ii chord.
And Take on Me also uses a chord loop that always starts on the ii chord, except in the chorus. But I do think the tonal center is already established before the chorus starts.
Yes, I'm familiar with songs that don't start on the tonic. This song is not one of them.
Go ask 100 musicians of any level to sing the note with the most gravity while listening to this song. They'll all sing F.
This thread is a solution in search of a problem.
Okay, then you do that research. But keep in mind that asking for "the note with the most gravity" is ALREADY making a loaded question. You're being dogmatic.
Tons of folk music uses ostinatos or melodic fragments that are replayed (with some variations) on different scale degree, so we have modal modulation in the same scale (the tonic shifts).
Chords are just accompaniment in pop music, you can reharmonize it any way you want (as long it is not dissonant or noone will like it). Better analyze the stable points in the melody to determine the tonic(s). In this type of songs (no real heptonic key changes, no chromaticism/out of scale notes), the scale is used as pseudo gamut from a bigger system (like European classical keyboard repertoire was based on 12-14 meantone notes out of some bigger system as gamut), so you may analyze the "keys" in this specific scale, ignoring the bigger system (ignore 12 ET framework, treat the actual song scale as 7 ET unequal temperament)
> Chords are just accompaniment in pop music, you can reharmonize it any way you want (as long it is not dissonant or noone will like it). Better analyze the stable points in the melody to determine the tonic(s).
This was true in the Tin Pan Alley era and for all of the pop music that was grist for jazz's mill, but I'm not convinced it's true now. It seems increasingly like the melody is a sort of a hook that merely doesn't clash with the chords and doesn't care much about the tonic that's established (or not) by the chord progression which is always written first. Melodies seem less able to stand on their own than ever.