Everyone knows the chorus is the heart of a song – the hooky bit that sells it and gives everyone what they want. But whatever happened to screwing with people? We don’t have to give them what they want, not yet, and that’s why I like a good double first verse. My top three in reverse order:
3 – MICHAEL JACKSON – BILLIE JEAN
The guy had a story to tell, and one verse wasn’t enough to do it. So give your audience some credit – they’ll wait a minute and half for a chorus if you give them some tension. Besides – the release will be all the sweeter.
2 – PETER GABRIEL – SLEDGEHAMMER
Not only does Gabriel make you wait a full minute before singing any recognisable lyrics, he then braves the use of a double first verse. He knows his chorus is good and he’s going to make you wait for it.
1 – TINA TURNER – THE BEST
So we come to the greatest double first verse of all, (and let’s be honest – the main reason for this post), Tina’s synth-rock masterpiece. Try and ignore that she spends most of the video implying indecent relations with a horse and take in the double first verse in all its glory. She even goes to a bridge (“Give me everything I need”) and having heard it you’d bet on a chorus dropping, but instead you get a snare drum and another verse.
It’s so tempting to just try to give people what we think they’ll want, but since when did people know what they want? A good songwriter should tell the listener what they should like, not the other way around. Otherwise it’s not really art, just market-researched consumer dog-crap.