Song ideas tend to stall before becoming fully developed, whether in production or inside the mind.
Creative forces deliver a good riff or vocal melody but that killer part fails to morph into a full-fledged composition. The Beatles used to solve this by stitching song ideas together in a single track like on “Baby, You’re A Rich Man” and “I’ve Got A Feeling.”
But the more common use for these sonic scraps is to paint up their faces and turn them into support for fully realized songs.
Much like independent and dependent clauses in the English language, neighboring songs can work together to achieve a grander meaning. One would be left incomplete or underwhelming without the other’s presence.
In regards to these subordinate songs linked onto more complete ones, there are two categories: intros and interludes.
Many albums include a short intro track to kick off the records. Two that come to mind are Mndsgn’s “Overture” from his last album Body Wash and Yo La Tengo’s 100 second opener “Return to Hot Chicken” from I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One. And how could I fail to mention The xx’s best song is coincidentally called “Intro,” with bonus points for the extended version.
A classic example is “Bookends Theme” from Bookends, where a brief acoustic guitar melody leads into Simon and Garfunkel’s proper album opener “Save the Life of My Child.”
Often musicians scatter interludes throughout albums, whether labeled or not.
These are helpful in building momentum toward climactic moments. On Solange’s new record A Seat at the Table, the track titled “Interlude: For Us By Us” adds extra depth to the following song “F.U.B.U.” without forcing the listener to hear it every playthrough.
Kanye West also includes interludes in his music creating pairings like “Lowlights” with “Highlight” and “All of the Lights (Interlude)” with “All of the Lights.”
In some cases, the material before the song is as worthwhile as the actual song. What is Boston’s “Long Time” without “Foreplay” first?
Would “With A Little Help From My Friends” have the same energy if not for “Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band” leading up to it? The intro is even reprised as an interlude before the album’s final track, “A Day In the Life.”
Both examples would most likely remain excellent without their companion pieces but the presentation would undoubtedly change. There’s nothing to prime the listeners ears for a forthcoming feast. And short, establishing tracks work like a bite of baked potatoes during a steak dinner. They break up the flavor palate while broadening the spectrum of taste.
It could be argued some interludes might be considered “filler,” but if it sounds good, it probably is and there’s nothing wrong listening to some weird underdeveloped stuff on occasion. There’s no harm in that.
I hear too much red meat is bad for you, anyway.