Mixtape: Chorus is Better/Worse than the Verses



monkeesThis is an Earn This Mixtape

For the sixth entry in the Earn This Mixtape Series, Grant and I came up with twenty songs that give us serious cognitive dissonance. The first half of this mixtape is a list of songs where the chorus overpowers the rest of the song. The second half is a list of songs where the chorus disappoints in comparison to the rest of the song. Add these up, and you have ten great songs!

As always, we’ve included a Spotify playlist so you can listen along as you read our thoughts. – Dan


Treacherous – Taylor Swift

The first song I thought of for this category (even though the portion I love may better be described as the “bridge” than the “chorus”). The section that starts near the two minute mark (“Two headlights shine through the sleepless night…”) is so much more beautiful and euphonious than anything else in the song — and just about anything Taylor has recorded, period. It’s raised up with layered background vocals and a momentous melody. Why she made the rest of the tune so dull is beyond me. – Dan

Dance Inside – All-American Rejects

An AAR deep cut that I love more than a few of their radio songs—and that’s due almost entirely to its chorus. I’ve previously described ‘Dance Inside’ as being about “getting all tangled up with someone hot on the dancefloor,” and there’s nothing wrong with any of it; but it has maybe the most euphoric, cathartic chorus AAR has ever written—and that’s saying something. Tyson Ritter has never sounded so good, and if the band had made this a single instead of, say, “Gives You Hell,” just as many high schoolers would have belted it out as concerts. – Grant

Daydream Believer – The Monkees

A great pop song, but one of the classic examples where I think “get to the chorus already!” every time I listen. The verses are charming enough but not nearly as catchy as the chorus, which lifts me up every time. Sing it with me: “Cheer up, Sleepy Jean! / Oh, what can it mean?” – Dan

The Best Damn Thing – Avril Lavigne

One of the largest disparities on either of these lists between a chorus and rest of the song. Like, I have utterly no idea what’s going on in for 50% of this one. Early on, over some bass mumbles and an annoying drum beat, Avril speaks—note the absence of the word ‘sing’—about a list of sophomoric complaints about guys (like not understanding that “at a certain time of month, I don’t want to hold [your] hand,” and I’m not joking). But the clouds immediately part when the chorus drops, and she’s back to being blissfully, harmoniously—albeit still bitchily—fun, reminding you how great she is, just in case you had forgotten. What a weird song. – Grant

Do Right – Jimmie’s Chicken Shack

This song was a favorite of mine in high school, with a catchy, throwback melody and cool beat. But a major flaw has prevented me from enjoying it recently: All of the energy is reserved for the kickass chorus. The verses lag, in part because the composition is kind of boring and in part because the questionable drumming is full of starts and stops. – Dan

Happy You’re Gone – Placebo

Released in 2009 (that is, after people stopped paying attention to them), ‘Happy You’re Gone’ is initially a quiet, murmuring slow-burn. But nobody wants Placebo doing a quiet slow-burn, and thankfully the chorus returns to being, well, them—full of that melodrama, the dark glam vibe, the anguish, that piercing, over-the-top Brian Molko voice, the earnest intensity about conflicted feelings. This is one of those songs I know I shouldn’t like as much as I do. – Grant

Shape of My Heart – Backstreet Boys

Producer #1: “Hey, the Backstreet Boys are coming in fifteen minutes. Can you print five copies of the sheet music?”
Producer #2: “What!? That’s today? I’ve only written a chorus.”
Producer #1: “Are you serious?”
Producer #2: “Yeah! It’s a good one, too.”
Producer #1: “Well, do you think you can write some verses in the next few minutes?”
Producer #2: “No, I have to finish eating my lunch. Can we just have them say ‘baby’ a few times?”
Producer #1: *shrugs* “I guess.” – Dan


All in Your Head – Rooney

A great f-off song that sounds considerably more innocent than it is (those are always fun). But lead singer Robert Schwartzman is pretty much just talk-singing his way through the forgettable verses in a way that makes you believe he just wants to get to the great giddy put-down of a chorus, too. There, he seems to remember the importance of melody in pop, as he reminds a girl what their status is: “I’m not what you think or dreamed of / It’s all in your head.” – Grant

Last Nite – The Strokes

There’s a classic scene in The Simpsons where Homer is at a Bachman-Turner Overdrive concert and yells at them to “get to the ‘workin’ overtime’ part!” of “Taking Care of Business,” which they reluctantly do. I feel like I would be that guy at a Strokes concert, shouting “get to the ‘last night’ part!” every time The Strokes start listing off people that don’t understand. – Dan

There is a Light That Never Goes Out – The Smiths

For me, there really isn’t anything special about this one initially. But the chorus, and those Morrissey vocals, are so exquisite, that they wash all of that away, to the point where you can’t think about anything but the good stuff when it’s over. – Grant



Get Lucky – Daft Punk feat. Pharell

“Get Lucky” is an obvious pick for this category. I LOVE this song so much for most of its duration. It has such a great groove, a catchy tune, enjoyable lyrics, and fantastic vocals… But that furshlugginer chorus! I would love this song so much more if the “she’s up all night to the sun” part of chorus wasn’t so inert. Why would such a great song be cursed with such a repetitive refrain? Why? – Dan

Is There a Ghost – Band of Horses

So much of ‘Ghost’ is outstanding, especially at the outset, when it shoots off with clean, echoey guitars that build to a frenzied climax. (And I hate to mention the cliché, but you try listening to the part from 0:55 to 1:20 without hearing U2.) But it peaks too early, like a basketball team hitting its stride in January; and every time I wonder why, I come back to the absence of a truly memorable chorus. (The mere repetition of ‘Is there a ghost in this house?’ doesn’t cut it.) So close to greatness. – Grant

This Love – Maroon 5

My friends and I used to argue so much about this song. We all thought it’s a good song, but for different reasons. I can’t stand the monotonous “THIS.. LOVE.. HAS TAken IT’S toll.. ON me..” portion of the song (even if the dramatic “ohhh” at the end of the chorus is great). My friends always thought the verses were boring, but I think they’re the best part. I love the way the bassline provides a counterpoint to the melody. – Dan

Nuclear Family – Green Day

I’ve touched on this one—the lead-off hitter to their 2012 album trilogy—before. Initially (and in concert), this song sounds fantastic. But when it hits the strangely underwhelming chorus, it just feels like GD can’t keep up the pace long enough anymore. Such a frustrating one. – Grant

You Are Everything – The Stylistics

One of the great soul groups, The Stylistics recorded several solid ballads that I really enjoy. I can always recognize a Stylistics song because of lead singer Russell Thompkins’ falsetto and the distinct glossy production used for every track. “You Are Everything” is the song of theirs I’m most attached to thanks to a prominent part in an emotional scene of The Wonder Years (although “You Make Me Feel Brand New” is probably the better song). But I always thought the silly chorus — “you are everything / and everything is you” — drags the song down a bit. The emotional, longing verses hit me hard every time I listen. – Dan

Work – Jimmy Eat World

This high school prom power ballad became a hit for Jimmy, and it’s not hard to see why. That earnest delivery and romantic and very listenable melody keep it a cut above the typical ‘set to a montage in a teen soap opera’ fare. But it stalls with a chorus that’s trying to take it in a grander and less satisfying direction. This is one that doesn’t need to be anthemic; when it stays more restrained and intimate, it’s a classic. – Grant

Only Wanna Be With You – Hootie and the Blowfish

This is not a particularly strong song on any dimension in my esteem, but I’ve always thought that chorus of “Only Want to Be With You” is particularly horrific. Who came up with the brilliant idea: “For the chorus, let’s just say — not even sing — the title of the song over one measure”? The verses don’t have much energy or melody, but at least they have SOME of it. – Dan

You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid – The Offspring

Much of this song clicks along in pulse-pounding, fist-waving harmony—another underrated doozy from an unfortunately-pigeonholed band—and when Dexter Holland exclaims, “And no one even knew / It was really only you,” I’m buying everything he’s selling. But then they sort of just start flailing around wildly and aimlessly in search of something to grab onto. That’s not a horrible feeling, but it somewhat deflates a song that’s otherwise so assertive. – Grant

Growin’ Up – Bruce Springsteen

Perhaps the all-time king in my ranking of “disproportionately dull choruses.” Most of the song is funny and catchy, featuring great lyrics about Bruce’s rebellious streak. So why did he forget to write a chorus? “Oooohhh….. growin’ up” does not count, and it sucks the wind out of the song’s sails every time it comes up. If this song had a chorus more like “Blinded By the Light,” rhythmic and fun with an emotional vocal part, it might have ended up one of his best songs. – Dan

I Will Follow – U2

For a while, I’ve wondered why I don’t like this song more. Undeniably a fan and concert favorite, U2’s first major hit nearly made the Edge’s chiming guitar licks a cliché from the very beginning. But Bono’s throwaway approach to some of his early lyrics and choruses keeps this one safely below U2’s pantheon; I need more than “If you walk away, I will follow” repeated blandly over and over again. – Grant

Dan and Brian from Earn This now have a film review site and podcast:

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