It’s summer! So, today I have a really quick and fun post for you.
In tonal music, by definition, songs are always seeking the I chord (the tonic).
But some songs never quite make it there!
Today, we will check out 14 songs that never resolve.
Warning: Reading this post may make you feel extremely frustrated. Consider yourself warned.
1. Ed Sheeran – “Tenerife Sea”
Ed Sheeran – Tenerife Sea
There are many ways you can end a song.
It is very common to end a studio recording by simply looping a section and fading out.
It is also very common to end a song by resolving the chord progression to the tonic (the I chord). This is common because all tonal music, by definition, is moving towards the I chord.
However, some songs – like this one – simply don’t resolve. Ed Sheeran abruptly leaves us hanging on the four chord.
2. Jason Mraz – “Did You Get My Message?”
Jason Mraz – Did You Get My Message?
Some musicians (my brother, for example) just simply can’t handle when a song doesn’t resolve.
These affected individuals often resort to singing or playing the resolution themselves, simply to avoid going insane.
If you are feeling a little frustrated after this example, just play an F-major chord on your instrument and the tension should begin to fade.
3. Edward Maya, Vika Jigulina – “Stereo Love”
Edward Maya, Vika Jigulina – Stereo Love
Really? The G-sharp minor chord? We’re really gonna end with that??
Well, to be frank, this song is annoying anyways. So, who cares?
4. Weezer – “Jacked Up”
Weezer – Jacked Up
The heartless members of Weezer could have just played that last chord… It would have been so easy. But they didn’t.
5. Counting Crows – “Mr. Jones”
Counting Crows – Mr. Jones
This song is in the key of C-major.
So, one would figure that you would finish the song the normal way… by playing a C-major chord.
Instead, why not just end on the dominant chord, the chord which makes you want to resolve to the I the most!
Is Adam Duritz trying to make us go crazy on purpose?
6. Coldplay – “Yellow”
Coldplay – Yellow
The Coldplay album “Parachutes” is notorious for not resolving final chord progressions.
Song after song, they upset OCD musicians the world over by ending songs without resolving. WHY!?!?
7. Coldplay – “Don’t Panic”
Coldplay – Don’t Panic
Another song from “Parachutes” which ends by just hanging on the IV chord (actually I am hearing an E, so that would make this a IV7 chord.)
8. Green Day – “Basket Case”
Green Day – Basket Case
Do you have the time to listen to me whine? About how all these songs keep ending on the V?
9. AC/DC – “You Shook Me All Night Long”
AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long
Ummmm…. Hello. Seriously? That’s it!?
Just like the Counting Crows and the Green Day example, this song also ends on the dominant (the V chord).
10. Weezer – “Buddy Holly”
Weezer – Buddy Holly
This Weezer song ends on the submediant chord. Thanks Weezer. Thanks.
11. Led Zeppelin – “Stairway to Heaven”
Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven
If you’ve been following the news, apparently Stairway to Heaven may be “the biggest ripoff in history” which could cost Zeppelin millions.
Perhaps the bigger tragedy is that the final chord progression doesn’t resolve, ending on the F-chord. This is also the submediant chord, just like our previous example.
On the other hand, the vocal melody gives a sense of resolution by ending on the first scale degree.
Maybe the jury could weigh in on this issue as well?
12. The Band – “The Weight”
The Band – The Weight
This song is in A major. But, it ends on D major, which is the IV chord. I love this song though, so all is forgiven.
13. A Perfect Circle – “The Hollow”
A Perfect Circle – The Hollow
This one ends on the subtonic (VII♭ chord).
Feeling overwhelmed with frustration? Hang in there. Only one more example.
14. Sonic Youth – “Incinerate”
Sonic Youth – Incinerate
This Sonic Youth song is in the key of E♭ Major.
The vocal melody ends on the note D, which is the seventh scale degree and the leading tone.
This note has an extremely strong affinity to move towards the tonic. So, why not make this the last note of the song? Simply cruel.
That’s all folks.
Big thanks to my brother – Dana Strom – for inspiring this post and helping to collect the examples below. Thanks bro!
If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe below for more fun and educational music theory articles!
Also, can you think of any songs to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.