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I Will Always Love You

Jul 22, 2019 | 0 comments

Jul 22, 2019 | Essays | 0 comments

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I Will Always Love You


This song has traversed many generations, and still, when it plays, it triggers an emotional journey with each line carry a specific trigger to the audience’s emotional expression (Levy 2). According to Brown, the song was written and recorded in 1973 and was initially released in 1974 by well-renowned award-winning country singer Dolly Parton (3). The song is an emotional piece written as a farewell to her longtime partner who turned out to be her mentor for over seven years. Burkhart, Charles, and William expressed this as a combination of honest lyrics, credible instrumentals, and the unfamiliar strategy of evoking catharsis in her audience through speaking instead of singing while at the same time reminding the audience to cherish the loved ones in their lives (20).

The song was viral to the extent that it topped Billboard hot country song charts twice, in different years, that is 1974 and 1982 when it was used in the movie The Best Little Whore House in Texas as the main soundtrack (Turcotte & Harkins 1). As per Turcotte and Harkins, the success of this track officially made Dolly Parton with one song, the first achiever, and singer in position one in a chart twice (2).

Roberts explains that Whitney Houston’s cover version was recorded in 1992 and was the main track movie in the movie the bodyguard which was released the same year (2). Levy illustrates that Whitney’s cover version was number one in the entire 14 weeks in the popular chart, namely Billboard hot 100 which made it amongst the bestselling single of the ages (3). Thereafter, Brown states that the song became the second single ever to reach the top 3 when it was reentered into the billboard 100 in 2012 following Whitney Houston’s death (3).

According to Bent, the original version by Dolly Parton genres was country music, which is characterized by straightforward chord progression a resonating bridge or chorus, and an unforgettable story(3). White elaborated that it originated from the southern United States in the year 1920s (45). White further explains that the genre is associated with individuals who live in rural areas of southern America who are exposed to economic and social challenges or even spiritual motivated individuals (51).

According to Stein, the story narrated in the country music can prove to be personally inspiring, emotionally moving and one could easily associate with it because many people can relate to it (35). Turcotte and Harkins firmly stated that country music is a cocktail of folk music and blues which mostly consists of dance tunes and ballads with a generally simple form, harmonies, and lyrics that have got a folk touch (4). They further explained that it is mostly accompanied by instruments such as electric, banjos and acoustic guitars, steel guitars as well as harmonicas (Turcotte & Harkins 4). Dunsby, Jonathan, and Arnold explained that the genre gained popularity in the year 1940 (55).

According to Brown Whitney’s cover version was categorized into multiple genre pops, soul, and RnB. But the real genre is an RnB/Soul type of track (2). Mathes enthusiastically expresses that this genre was initiated around the 1960s and 70s from a mixture of rhythm and blues and an older American genre blues and gospel (65). Mathes further explains that the minority Americans used the genre, mostly black Americans to express and show cultural concerns; they also used the genre as a means to communicate and showcase their beliefs (68). According to Aitken, this period was during the civil war period whereby their rights and voices were shunned by the majority (48). It is during this period that the black Americans worked in vaudeville, this played a significant role as it provided an environment where different cultures interacted through performance (Aitken 49). Mathes illustrates that performers from every ethnic background and social class were accepted here and this made vaudeville to be so popular that it paved the way for the general acceptance of new – African American genres like jazz, rhythm, and blues, and soul music (72).

The lyrics are the same for both the original and the cover (Levy 3). According to Levy, the intended audience is also the same as both songs’ lyrics are about a lost connection love or a final goodbye (3). Brown further explains that Houston’s version is about a lost love that she will never recover from (4). It’s a farewell bid for an obsessed type of relationship. Brown expresses that each line in Houston’s version largely expresses the loss and the fact that she will never move on (4). Dolly Parton, on the other hand, shows acceptance in her sendoff. She acknowledges the end of a relationship, cherish the time they spend together and wish the person was leaving the best.

As per Roberts where Houston version, is gospel-infused and dramatic, Dolly Parton’s original version was plaintive and tear-stained (3). According to Turcotte and Harkins Andante tempo is found in Parton’s version which is always easy as well as slow, gradually as approaching the middle condescending to moderato, lastly as approaching the end its neither too fast nor too slow (4). Moreover, Whitney’s version has is range from adagio up to andante, the proceeds to moderato, gradually but slowly enabling a lead to a stronger as well as faster tempo when coming to an end, thus eventually ending with Adagio (Robert 5).

According to Brown, the instruments are vivid and clear to the ear, all added to the significant vocals in the original Dolly Parton’s version, these instruments include the bass, guitar, piano as well as the harmonica. On the other hand, in the newer version, which is the cover by Whitney Houston’s, the instruments elevated in the song include the violin, drums, keyboards, saxophone, drums, as well as the acoustic guitar (6).

There is consistency in both the rhythm at the starting of the melody and this seems to change at the beginning of the first chorus it seems that the rhythm increases its pace along with their distinctive sound in their voice (Walker 53). The cover version was arranged by Houston in a way that it takes 4 minutes; this means Houston enlarged the original version to the extent that it doubled the time that the original took. The extra time of the cover was used to emphasize the hidden emotions in every vocal sang (Brown 6). White shows that she carries the audience along with her from the exposition, through the background history up to the optimum point of the climax with no resolution, furthermore since she expresses that she will always have her love for him no matter the weightiness of her heartbreak (45). In contrary to the version by Parton which tends to comprise a balanced firm tone that may lead her listeners to a profound understanding of her reception towards the end of a connection (Burmeister, Joachim & Benito 49). Lastly, her final refrain is brought almost to a whisper filled with resolved heartbreak.

As clearly defined by Burkhart, Joachim, and Benito hyperbole and repetition are the major elements used in both the original and the cover (52). Both artists are seen to use Hyperbole to emphasize the theme in the line “I will always love you” and the climax is located on the last lyrics in both the version of the song “and I will always love you”, this is where the all emotions explode, it is the point of greater tension, a tension that turns goodbye into a cause (Bent 66).

According to Mathes Whitney’s tone is nostalgic, poignant, and passionate but also catapults by sad lonely emotion (56). Dolly Parton’s tone, on the other hand, shows honest, affectionate, and detaching yet very thankful (Mathes 57).

Levy expresses that from the beginning to the end the tone is set by instruments in the background, these instruments complement the lyrics as they start simply (6). Terry squire observed that the song opens with the plaintive wall of a harmonica; we hear that and know the rest of the song is going to be some ballad (Levy 4). Then the harmonica stops and a guitar is the single instrument playing while the artist softly begins singing the first verse (Levy 5).

Bent states that the singing gets louder as the music volume during the chorus (10). Furthermore, Levy expresses the importance of what she is saying is emphasized with more instruments and harmonica that is added back in (9). Nevertheless, Levy illustrates that the technique of starting the music in the song softly, reaching a crescendo in the middle, and then dropping off softly again is similar to riding a roller coaster ride of love (10).

Roberts expresses that as the audience we want the middle part and exhilaration of love to last as long as possible (12). And if or when it starts to end, hopefully, we were happy for that joyful ride while we were on it (Robert 12). The sweet agony of loving and losing is exemplified here as the music has now been used to bring our feelings to the surface (Robert 12).

All in all a great song that has been traversed over many years and through significant generations still holds a substantial measure of emotions through its audience. Songs remain to be both sophisticated and analytic combinations of emotional triggering lyrics, credible instrumentals as well as an evoking strategic catharsis of artists’ audience. Thus, continuing to be historical markings within human history, growth, and development.

Works Cited

Aitken, Hugh. The Piece As a Whole: Studies in Holistic Musical Analysis. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997. Internet resource.

Analysis of a Cover Song- “I Will Always Love You”. (n.d.).

Bent, I. (2004). Music analysis in the nineteenth century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brown, H. (2012, February 16). Whitney Houston and Dolly Parton: Why ‘I Will Always Love You’ is Whitney’s ultimate song. Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/rockandpopfeatures/9086771/Whitney-Houston-and-Dolly-Parton-why-I-Will-Always-Love-You-is-Whitneys-ultimate-song.html

Burkhart, Charles, and William N. Rothstein. Anthology for Musical Analysis. , 2012. Musical score.

Burmeister, Joachim, and Benito V. Rivera. Musical Poetics. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993. Print.

Dunsby, Jonathan, and Arnold Whittall. Music Analysis: In Theory and.Practice. London: Faber, 1988. Print.

Levy, J. (2012, February 15). Why ‘I Will Always Love You’ Is Whitney Houston’s Ultimate Song (Analysis). Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/earshot/whitney-houston-death-i-will-always-love-you-291466

Mathes, James. The Analysis of Musical Form. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. Print.

Music for the Soul: The Best of R&B/Soul Music. (n.d.). Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2011/11/26/1040126/-

Roberts, R. (2012, February 13). Whitney Houston appreciation: Her tone in ‘I Will Always Love You’ was pure and game-changing. Retrieved April 04, 2018, from http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/13/entertainment/la-et-grammy-whitney-houston-appreciation-20120213

Stein, Deborah. Engaging Music: Essays in Music Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

Turcotte, B., & Harkins, J. (2018, February 28). What Characteristics Define Country Music? Retrieved April 04, 2018, from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-characteristics-define-country-music.htm

Walker, Alan. A Study in Musical Analysis. New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1963. Print.

White, John D. Comprehensive Musical Analysis. Landham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2003. Print.

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