Hayley Williams’ ‘Dead Horse’

Written whilst listening on repeat. I recommend listening as you read.

I have strong feelings about this song. About a lot of songs, in fact, which I want to start documenting.

I really, really love this song.

There’s something that I’ve discussed with my partner a lot with regards to rhythm in music and it’s a topic that almost always comes up when discussing the best of Hayley, Taylor, Zac and their work within Paramore and without. They seem to have a mastery of ingraining rhythm into all of their songs in a way that a lot of other artists don’t quite have the same skill over – and I’m not just talking about drums. Every single aspect of Dead Horse in particular, from the overall Ska swing, to the drum beat that keeps the 4/4 going strong whilst playing around that basic beat, to the bass guitar that puncuates that syncopated Ska style and reminds the listener that that’s what they’re hearing. It all serves the rhythm, the vibe, the feeling that is so strongly desired in good music. The entire song is an experience, something that seamlessly falls together.

I suppose what I’m really getting at is the language of the song, which again is something pretty well documented already by *checks notes* most other music writers. Still, it’s worth going into again because this is a perfect example of it. The focal point for most music that has vocals in is those vocals, we naturally gravitate towards paying attention to what is being said before properly listening to the rest of the song. However, in Dead Horse everything else in the song is punctuating, enunciating and other linguistical-terms-ing those vocals to make them pop and sing (haha) with so much more strength. If you want an example of this, listen to the post-choruses and bridge of the song and pay attention to what the drums and bass guitar are doing underneath the syllables of the vocals. It’s not constant, but where it matters they are matching and enforcing Hayley’s singing.

It’s also really well structured in general, as a narrative being delivered over the course of the song. We get some ‘non-diegetic’ words from Hayley at the beginning, but underneath those words we have the main riff she will go onto sing in the choruses introduced to us in wavy, slightly distorted tones. The layout is pretty standard, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-final chorus and post-chorus to end, but the lyrics tell us a story all of their own which, again, are then punctuated and given strength by the rest of the ensemble around them.

Just –

It’s good. It’s real good. I listened to it maybe 9 times while writing this, so … a ranking of 9? 9 listens? I don’t know, I’m still working that bit out.

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