Top 5 One-Word Melodies

One of the most interesting aspects of progressive music is how artists choose to deliver both message and melody. I often wonder how some of my favorite artists decide to marry certain verbiage to certain note progressions. Did they fall in love with a lyric and work to find a way to deliver it within a preexisting melody? Was that melody picked to emphasize the lyric, or perhaps the other way around? For whatever reason, some of the most interesting lyrical moments occur when a string of notes are delivered within the confines of a single word, syllables be damned. With that in mind, here are 5 of my favorite one-word melodies.

  1. Slugdge – “Slave Goo World”

In the world of over the top, epic and ridiculous lyrics, it’s hard to top Slugdge. For context, this song opens with the line “Stygian minions of esteemed erudition….” In the selected portion, I enjoy the melodies of both “time” and “mind.” They are essentially the same. Take your pick.

  1. Katatonia – “My Twin”

This one has stuck with me since I first heard this track, well before The Great Cold Distance was even released. I just appreciate how exposed the word “fire” is here and how unexpected the string of notes embodying it are.

  1. Leprous – “Mb. Indifferentia”

Dude’s got some pipes. I had so many lyrics to pick from, but I landed on the word “all,” here. I enjoy how embellished it is, and then how it’s repeated with even more passion. Check it.

  1. A Perfect Circle – “The Hollow”

I still find it funny that the first track of the first APC album is still my favorite of theirs. I’m pretty sure it’s the use of the single word “temporarily” and the melody accompanying it that carries the song. It helps to have a five syllable word to work with, but I enjoy the varying emphases Maynard delivers throughout the part. Still holds up.

  1. Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick

Speaking of holding up, I find it appropriate that J-Tull gets the number one spot, as Ian Anderson is undoubtedly one of the progenitors of this style of singing. In fact, when I first heard “The Hollow” by APC, it reminded me more of Jethro Tull than anything, specifically because of the way Maynard carried an entire melody on one word, much as Ian Anderson did so memorably. You may have guessed, I’m going with the word “feels.” Classic. Total classic.

So that’s my list. Putting a lot of notes to very few syllables has always been one of my favorite progressive tropes, an art that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon. The technique adds an unpredictability and makes moments of songs more memorable. As always, let me know what I missed. What makes your list?

1 Comment

  1. One of my all time favorite songs, “Into the White” by Caligula’s Horse, has some great one-word melodies on the word “fall” and a little bit on “silence” in the last minute of the song.


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