A comprehensive musical analysis of Clean Bandit’s ‘Symphony’
13 March 2019, 16:41 | Updated: 13 March 2019, 16:46
It's two years since the hit song was released, so we’ve done a deep dive into this love song to classical music
The clue is in the title: Clean Bandit’s ‘Symphony’ is a love song to the power of music – and specifically to orchestral music.
Not convinced? Read on…
Let’s take a look at the music video first. Before you even hear the opening melody of the song, we’re shown a shot of an orchestra tuning up. The bassoon even gets a moment in the spotlight.
The video then sets up the premise of the story it’s going to tell: a professional conductor’s partner is killed in a road accident, and music becomes one of the ways the conductor deals with this loss.
Even before we’ve heard a note, we learn that the song is going to be about love, music and the interplay of the two.
To underline the point, the first thing we hear on the synth is a melody made up of two voices moving in the same rhythm – pairs of notes moving together in harmony. And not that you need the point underlined, but that’s LIKE A RELATIONSHIP.
Zara Larsson comes in with her lyrics over the top of the simple synth melody, singing:
‘I’ve been hearing symphonies / Before all I heard was silence’.
Which is, of course, followed by a beautiful moment of silence, because Clean Bandit are not here to mess around.
The next element that comes in are the lush orchestral strings which Clean Bandit have made such a trademark of theirs. And in a nice touch the lyric that follows the introduction of the strings is ‘Life was stringing me along’.
From here the melody grows and expands, we hear a synth beat added to the mix before the cello comes in (played by Grace Chatto of Clean Bandit) to build up to the first climax of the song: ‘I just wanna be part of your symphony’.
And the word ‘symphony’ hits the highest note we’ve heard so far in the song (taking your heart with it as it soars). There’s now a piano in the mix along with a soaring cello line following Zara Larsson’s vocals.
And then, just like that it all disappears and there’s just the vocal line left to plead ‘will you hold me tight and not let go’. It's a truly beautiful moment (listen at 1.45)
It’s only at this point – almost two minutes into the song that we get a drum beat. This is a best-selling pop track and it makes us wait two minutes for the beat. It's bold and it completely works.
It’s all a metaphor
The band has said “Symphony’s kind of a metaphor for your world – I want to be involved in everything you do, to be in your life basically.”
But that metaphor isn’t just found in the lyrics – it’s in the opening melody that's doubled, it’s there as the music builds and Clean Bandit creates the musical version of being in love for the first time. And it’s there in the music video, as the conductor uses his musical life to find a way through his grief.
It’s even filmed in a classical concert hall
In this backstage interview, Clean Bandit said: “We were looking for a venue to encapsulate the idea of being at your peak as a conductor, the pinnacle of your career as an orchestra or a musical group and for us the Royal Festival Hall is exactly that and it’s such a beautiful hall.”
Clean Bandit’s first single was called ‘Mozart’s House’ and they’re well known for including tributes to classical music in their songs. So it perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise that as well as being a great pop love song, ‘Symphony’ is also a beautiful love song to the power of music.
We see a conductor preparing his scores, practising in front of a mirror and preparing to go on stage.
Finally, it’s revealed that he’s the conductor of the orchestra on stage in the music video. They’re playing for a sold-out audience, but when he turns around, the only person in the audience is the partner he's lost.
It’s pretty devastating and packs enough emotion and drama into a five-minute video to power a Verdi opera.