Better Place by Rachel Platten

Track: Better Place
Album: Wildfire
Artist: Rachel Platten
Genre: pop, singer-songwriter
Music Rating: 9/10
Lyrics Rating: 7/10
Overall: 8/10
Sounds Like: Andy Grammer, A Great Big World, Christina Perri
Interesting Fact: Rachel studied classical piano from the age of 5.
Best thing About this Track: Piano. For sure. The simple maturity with which it was written carries a beautifully refined elegance. It’s also pretty amazing how those ethereal vocal harmonies come in when she says “the wind sings our song”. What!?
One thing I wish was different: The lyrics are not bad, but it is a bit of a let down after the writing on “Fight Song”.
Website: Rachel Platten

When I first heard this song, I instantly thought that it was a beautiful modern take on an Elton John classic.

When I first heard "Better Place", I instantly thought that it was a beautiful modern take on an Elton John classic.

I find the lyrics in the chorus of this song very interesting. I sometimes dislike it when lyrics in the chorus change. What usually bothers me about it is that it can be an indicator of poor writing or a lack of creativity. If you have to alter the chorus to fit various verses, then you did not do your job correctly, and it probably means your chorus is not strong enough. ’Tis not so in this song. I actually really like the lyrical changes in the second chorus. She could have left the chorus just how it was with no problems, but the extra variety really adds just what this song needed lyrically at that point. Enough of the chorus was left the same that you don’t really feel a loss, but you do gain some beautiful imagery and a genius conceptual execution of an ethereal conviction. It wouldn’t have had the same impact had that line been in every chorus, but it was placed just perfectly for the song.

While the lyrics of this song are fairly simple and straightforward, the music is every bit as complex and interwoven. The amazing thing about that is that when you break it down, the individual pieces seem like they should be fairly plain. For example: every other note for the first thirty-two seconds of the song is an open C chord. Every single offbeat, you get a G and a C. That’s crazy! How does that not sound repetitive or annoying? Well the rest of the parts are so interesting and interwoven that the first time you really take full notice of it is when the deviation occurs and the piano hits the seventh instead. Your ear is suddenly like, “Wait, what? What is happening? I did not even realize I was accustomed to that!”

It’s like gravity. You don’t particularly notice it when you’re going about your everyday life. It’s just a part of the atmosphere. It’s only when you stumble or try to jump that you recognize the effects that these ever-present forces have on you. That is how you know this is a well-written song. It creates its own world, its own atmosphere so seamlessly that you did not even realize that you were living within the perception that the song has dictated for you. It takes you out of your own world and builds a new one around you without ever yanking you out of what you perceive to be reality, creating a flawless musical experience that can transcend the world your mind normally occupies.

But the open C chord is just one example on the smallest scale. As we zoom out through the track, we find more and more of these patterns and pieces, building up and detailing the atmosphere in an imaginative yet synthetic imitation of the building blocks of life. The track is so detailed and patterned in fact, that approaching the task of decomposing and analyzing separate parts seems quite daunting. There is just too much greatness going on. What’s more, it is all so particular, analytical, and detailed that I find it hard to describe without discussing at great length and with some level of technicality. You’ll really have to listen to the track to gain the full scope of what is happening. I’ll just point out a few of the patterns here and there.

Let’s rewind to the open C chord pattern for a moment. In a brilliant quasi-arpeggiated offset, we get this genius repetition of an E on the second and fourth beat of each measure. So, while we have an open C on every offbeat, we get the missing note of the chord on every other downbeat. I cannot even tell you how utterly genius that is. Now, as the overall chord progression changes, we get some variety, lest it sound like we are only ever playing a C with a random bass line. So, the pattern stays vigilant plus or minus a whole step on the E.

As far as the bass line, it oscillates between a crawling and walking line, which is not only fun to say but very fun to listen to. We begin at the root and start crawling down the scale, but just when you start to get the hang of what is happening and are anticipating what will be, it jumps down to the third and begins walking back up until it hits the fifth. Three notes crawling, three notes walking.

This song is not a case of the notes being dictated by the chord progression, but the chord progression being dictated by the notes. In any case, it’s a very fun and interesting progression both temporally and structurally. At first glance, it may seem somewhat pedestrian, but the overall to and fro of the pattern is really interesting. It feels like someone took an open chord, ran it up the scale, and then threw in some slight tonal modifications. Boom. It’s a song! As a guitar player (very chordally driven), I kind of have to sit back and take it in for a second. *Start the slow clap* Why is this not a thing that people do? I mean, I suppose it is a thing that people try to do. The general concept is not really new. The execution, though. It’s just phenomenal.

I can’t even with the strings, so we won’t even go there. Too perfect. Too beautifully complicated. Cannot express. Will not attempt.

See? This song broke me with its beauty. I cannot English anymore. Rachel Platten, I love your beautiful face and heart and mind. I have only one thing left to say to you: “It’s a better place since you came along.”

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Lyrics:
I’ll tell the world, I’ll sing a song
It’s a better place since you came along
Since you came along
Your touch is sunlight through the trees
Your kisses are the ocean breeze
Everything’s alright when you’re with me

And, you’re my favorite thing
Ah, oh the love that you bring
But it feels like I’ve opened my eyes again
And the colors are golden and bright again
There’s a song in my heart. I feel like I belong
It’s a better place since you came along
It’s a better place since you came along

I see the whole world in your eyes
It’s like I’ve known you all my life
We just feel so right
So I pour my heart into your hands
It’s like you really understand
You love the way I am

And ah, you’re my favorite thing
Ah, oh the happiness you bring
But it feels like I’ve opened my eyes again
And the colors are golden and bright again
And the sun paints the skies and the wind sings our song
It’s a better place since you came along
It’s a better place since you came along

Now I’m alright
Now I’m alright
Everything’s alright

‘Cause it feels like I’ve opened my eyes again
And the colors are golden and bright again
There’s a song in my heart. I feel like I belong
It’s a better place since you came along
It’s a better place since you came along

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