You’ve seen our 50 most explosive choruses of all time. But what about songs that do just fine without any kind of chorus at all?
10 Squeeze – ‘Up The Junction’
Glenn Tilbrook’s tale of the rise and fall of a relationship takes in a party, pregnancy, marriage, cheating and divorce – all within three minutes. So it’s hardly surprising that they decided to chuck the chorus – how else would they fit everything else in?
Fittingly for an album about a fictionalized relationship with Anne Frank, the title track dispenses with a chorus. And it’s glorious. Jeff Mangum’s vocals are sweet and nostalgic. When you’ve got lyrics like “What a beautiful face I have found in this place/That is circling all around the sun“, who needs a chorus?
Good old Bo-Rap. Instead of having one chorus, it has six. Which one do you want to focus on? The opening Mama, just killed a man“? Or how about “Figaro“? Or “Nothing really matters“? Or how about all of them? Whatever your preference, Mercury, Taylor and co proved that a track didn’t need to be linear to be a hit.
The driving force behind this track is the strings (sampled from an orchestral version of the Rolling Stones’ ‘The Last Time’). Omnipresent, they push the track forward. To add a refrain would only detract from that sense of surging momentum.
The Who were never a group to do things by halves. ‘Pinball Wizard’ comes from the soundtrack to Tommy, a rock opera about a deaf, dumb and blind boy who excels at pinball, so they were hardly going to do something so mundane as include a chorus, were they?
Inspired by ‘Gladiator’, Mike Skinner layered up some strings and opened ‘Original Pirate Material’. Rapping over tense violins, he alludes to his ancestors, noting “There’s sense in what I say, because I’m 45th generation Roman“. Sure ‘Fit But You Know It’’s got a chorus, but this is the real deal.
Not only a No.1 that featured a stealth mandolin, but also a No.1 that tricked listeners into thinking it had a chorus. Though there’s a refrain of “I’ve said too much/I haven’t said enough“, there’s no chorus proper. Not that it needs one, thank you very much.
‘Thunder Road’ is an incitement to lead a dead-end town in search of adventure. It’s a track about not looking back, or always facing forward. It makes sense then that’d there’d be nothing to hold the protagonist back, nothing to tie him to a format. No regrets, no choruses.
From ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ to ‘Fitter Happier’, uncommon song forms aren’t unfamiliar to the Oxford quartet. ‘Pyramid Song’’s unsettling rhythm combines with a slurred melody, and lyrics that change slightly but not enough. To add a comforting chorus to the track would have diminished its impact – there can be nothing familiar here.
Though most of Dylan’s tracks dispense with choruses (see also ‘All Around The Watchtower’), ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ ups the ante by instead having every couplet be as hooky as a chorus ever could be. Add that to an iconic video and who needs repetition?