The 100 Greatest Song Bridges of the 21st Century: Staff Picks

The bridge holds a special place in the hearts of music fans. It’s not the most immediate part of a song, nor usually the stickiest or most recognizable — in fact, it might be the toughest part for you to remember at karaoke. But very often, it’s the part that ends up being the most revealing, the hardest hitting, the least shakeable. If nothing else, it’s the most singular part of a song, appearing after the second chorus like a late-breaking curveball and usually not returning until you go back and play the song all over again.

But in contemporary pop music, the bridge might be disappearing. Not totally, of course: Pop songs will almost always have opportunity for a late-arriving breakdown section that offers some sort of new element to contrast from the first couple verses and choruses, before hitting you once more with the main hook. “I think it is such a key part of pop song form,” says David Penn, co-founder of Hit Songs Deconstructed, which provides compositional analytics for top 10 Hot 100 hits. “You have to provide that departure, [because] you can do so much with it… it’s such a component to pop songwriting that I don’t see it going anywhere at all.”

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