Performer: Major Lazer is a group comprised of Diplo, Walshy Fire, and Jillionaire. "Cold Water" is currently #1 on the Pop Songs chart, and #2 on the Hot 100. Major Lazer's previous hit, "Lean On," peaked at #4 on the Hot 100.
Writers: Ed Sheeran, Benjamin Levin, Karen Marie Orsted, Thomas Pentz, Justin Bieber, Jamie Scott, Philip Meckseper, Henry Allen. Produced by Thomas Pentz, Benjamin Levin, Philip Meckseper, Henry Allen.
Title: Two words, but it still points to a specific idea.
Structure: Verse / Chorus / Drop / Verse / Chorus / Drop / Bridge / Drop
Points of Interest:
1) One of my favorite podcasts, "Switched on Pop," had a recent episode about the chorus in pop songs being replaced by what the EDM world calls the drop, which is a structure of EDM that plays a similar role for songs in that genre. "Cold Water" not only gives us a good example of this shift, it also shows the subtle differences between the two structures pretty clearly, due at least in part to the song's skillfully written lyrics.
2) In pop music, the chorus contains the main idea of the song, both lyrically and melodically. The main idea is traditionally (and suitably) stated in the title, and the vocal melody attached to the title/main idea is traditionally (and suitably) the most memorable and singable melody in the song. In "Cold Water," this chorus section happens in between the verse and the drop, where we would usually expect a prechorus ("And if you feel you're sinking, I will jump right over / Into cold, cold water for you..."). This is where we find the title, the main idea, and the memorable melodies. This is the part of the song that we want to hear and sing along with over and over again.
3) In EDM, the drop is the part of the song where suddenly everyone is jumping up and down in unison. There may be a vocal phrase that people want to shout as they jump, or the drop may be instrumental. The drop serves the same purpose as the chorus in a song that people dance to rather than sing with. In "Cold Water," the drop is the most intense part of the song. We do hear a minimal vocal ("I'll be your lifeline tonight") the the vocal is mixed way back into the soup, often overwhelmed by the synth, bass, and drums.
4) Has the chorus been under-utilized in this song, relegated to being a transitional moment between the verse and the drop; a pre-drop, if you will? Or is the drop in this pop context really just an over-hyped instrumental transition between the chorus and the next verse? Either way, I'd like to hear the chorus again at the end of the song. I like synth leads, and I use them in my own work, but no synth lead is going to outshine a good lead vocal in a well-written chorus.
5) As briefly mentioned earlier, these are lovely, thoughtful, sweet lyrics. And notice the attention to syllabic stress, phrasing, assonance, alliteration, and all those other central aspects of the craft. You can listen to this song without a lyric sheet and still understand the lyrics on the first time through. No small feat.