“This Is America”: We’ve found the first of this year’s modulating pop tunes: changing from a gospelly F major to what I hear as E♭ Phrygian, which happens whenever Gambino shoots someone (in the video). I hear it as Phrygian because of the shark-in-the-water E♭ and E (or “F♭” if you’re being kosher theory-wise), and then the high-pitched whistle being a solid B♭, so there you go: E♭ Phrygian. Elements from the two tonalities fuse in places, like at 1:35 where there’s what sounds like a sample of previous F major vocals that drone on the very-not-Phrygian notes A and C, creating a heavy tension. This fusion is also present in the outro. Rhythmically, watch out after the second chorus, where it sounds like they added or skipped a beat, but they didn’t. It all flattens out after a few thumps.
The problem is that these tendencies are the exact opposite of what we should be doing if we want to see real improvement, according to Dr. Anders Ericsson. And we might be wise to listen. Dr. Ericsson is widely considered one of the foremost thinkers on the subject of “expertise.” His research is one of the primary sources that inspired Malcolm Gladwell’s now-famous “10,000 Hour Rule” — that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to be an expert in anything. But that rule, though memorable, is far from the whole story.