Apr 18 / Asaf Peres

The Postchorus-Bridge Switcheroo

In this post ​I wrote about the most dominant defining trait of a bridge in modern pop, which I call the fall and rise—a sharp drop in sonic energy followed by a buildup that culminates in the final chorus.
In that same article, I also mentioned that it’s very common to recycle a previous section in the bridge. Most commonly it’s the prechorus that gets recycled because it provides an easy way to build up to the final chorus in a familiar way, but occasionally the verse or the chorus will be the ones that get recycled.

​When it comes to recycling the chorus, it’s usually done in the context of a rise subsection, like this:
But in a handful of songs, the chorus material occupies the entire bridge.

This doesn't happen very often, and for good reason--in the most common versions of the verse-chorus song form, the bridge is sandwiched between the second and third chorus. This means that using only the chorus in the bridge can lead to three consecutive iterations of the exact same topline, like this:

In the songs that I've come across in which the chorus is recycled in the bridge the following things happen:

First, a postchorus follows the second chorus (but not the first). This provides the melodic separation and contrast between the second and third choruses.

​Then, the melodically contrasting postchorus is followed by a sonically contrasting bridge that uses the chorus as its topline, but follows the fall and rise convention and builds up to a final, climactic "real" third chorus. It looks like this:

In essence, there are two dimensions working in parallel and diverging in their timeline: the traditional dimension (melody, lyrics, and sometimes harmony), and the sonic dimension (density and intensity of texture; amplitude of frequencies across the spectrum). This creates tension and adds interest to the song.

Here are some examples of songs that include this switcheroo:

Hey Violet - Guys My Age
​Postchorus starts at 2:09; Bridge starts at 2:25

Taylor Swift - Wildest Dreams
Postchorus starts at 2:07; Bridge starts at 2:37

Lana Del Rey - Summertime Sadness
​​Postchorus starts at 3:08; Bridge starts at 3:30

Some music theorists, especially the more traditional ones, would insist that what I call the postchorus is the “real” bridge, and that just because the chorus that follows is sonically stripped down, that doesn’t mean that it’s not a chorus. I think they may have a case when it comes to a song like Summertime Sadness, and less with songs like Guys My Age and Wildest Dreams. I personally prefer to prioritize the sonic dimension over the traditional dimension when labeling the postchorus and bridge because I find the fall and rise in almost every pop song in the last decade, and more importantly because I’ve never heard any producer not define a section with a fall and rise as a bridge, regardless of the topline.

In any case, I’m a firm believer that both perspectives can be simultaneously correct, and how you define sections matters less than understanding the principle. First there is a melodic contrast which is followed by a return to the chorus. The sonic contrast starts at the chorus and builds up toward a peak. The peak section is usually a chorus but can also be a postchorus. The diverging of the two dimensions creates another layer of tension that resolves in this peak, when they finally come back together.
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