“I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 is in A♭ and is better than most other songs I know. I can’t think of any other songs in A♭ off the top of my head, and the fact that A♭ seems so foreign to me makes me feel musically boring.
I know these keys aren’t totally alien. When I was little I overheard my Dad talking about how Stevie Wonder tends to write songs on the black keys. I remember wondering if this was because he’s blind and those keys stick up further from the piano. Like they’re black-key braille-bumps for him to boogie on à la reggae woman. In retrospect this theory seems unassailably valid.
The bassline from “I Want You Back” is my favourite bassline. It hiccups like Buddy Holly down a spindly road of rhythm, all round sounds and sharp turns. It laughs with you and not at you. It manages to be both dense and spacious over its almost three-minute lifespan, each note a pin-prick of pop that lands with the weight of percussion. It is staccato straccietella ice-cream. It stands toe-to-toe in the mix with Michael Jackson’s gorgeous childhood range and it could be debated which of the two are singing the hook. Honestly the track is basically their duet. It’s perfect.
“I Want You Back” is a birthday cake of a pop song. It is in A♭ and Wilton Felder played the bass on it. I am so very thankful.
from the desk of the arby’s witch.