You know, it’s not every day you hear tuplets in pop music. But I’ve found myself whistling the hook of Britney Spears’s new song, Till The World Ends numerous times of late.
Wow, that’s embarrassing. But I will redeem myself by claiming that the only reason it gets stuck in my head is because it’s so rhythmically complex (by pop standards). By essentially evenly dividing 4 notes evenly across 3 beats, Britney (or rather, the writers of the song) created a pretty compelling polyrhythm unlike anything we’ve heard in pop music before.
Ok, so I might have lied a bit in the title. There are technically two ways you could notate this rhythm, the easier of which does not involve tuplets, but a series of dotted eighth notes:
However, when I initially heard the rhythm, I intuitively interpreted it as a tuplet. When you try to cram a certain number of notes into a different number of beats, that screams tuplet in my mind. The funny thing is, it took me a while to figure out exactly what the ratio of notes was. Once you hear the song, it’s super easy to sing the rhythm, but breaking it down takes a little bit of time.
So when I found that she was putting 4 notes into 3 beats, I fired up Sibelius to try to notate it. The problem ended up being that in Sibelius you can’t easily spread a tuplet over a bar line. And that’s what this rhythm would require if it was written in 4/4. As you can see in the music above, the rhythm is split across the second bar line when she sings “no more.”
So to kind of cheat the system, I changed it to 8/4 time, which is not the time signature of this piece, but it allowed me to notate it. So here it is:
Check out the polyrhythm here:
So while I was reading up on this song, I stumbled upon the writers of the song. Guess what. Ke$ha is one of the writers. Weird.