A “D” section, which is the Hit Songs Deconstructed acronym for departure section, is the classification of a song section that provides a pronounced vocal, instrumental, lyrical and/or energy level departure compared to the rest of the song and generally appears around two-thirds to three-quarters of the way in. The most common types of “D” sections found in today’s hits are a bridge, which is by far most popular, a one-off vocal or instrumental break, or a diversified pre-existing section (i.e., verse, pre-chorus, etc.) compared to how they previously appeared in the song.
In lieu of the much more common bridge, Olivia Rodrigo’s “bad idea right?” goes against the grain with its highly atypical, high-energy instrumental break “D” section (the song is the only Hot 100 Top 10 hit to feature one in the first three quarters of 2023). While the guitar solo focus provides engaging variation compared to the other song sections, familiar material is included as well to heighten familiarity and memorability.
“D” Section Lead Up
Following the intro, “bad idea right?” traverses through two similar verse – pre-chorus – pre-chorus – chorus progressions (note that the song atypically contains two diverse back-to-back pre-choruses), followed by a brief four-bar turnaround. Consisting of bursts of drums, guitar and chorus vocal intensity broken up by partial breakdowns of highly effected guitar acrobatics and a low-level bass hook, the turnaround’s jarring quality effectively sets the stage for the instrumental break “D” section that follows. Occurring at 70% of the way into the song, this is right where one would expect to find it.
Stanza 1 “D” Section (Bars 1-8)
The first 8-bar segment of the 16-bar instrumental beak “D” section provides a notable departure in the scope of the song with its wild, highly effected guitar solo, which is more in line with late 1970s/early 1980s Devo and 1990s Nirvana than any of today’s mainstream hits. As a result, it accentuates the song’s overt alt/indie/new wave rock vibe and bolsters its ability to stand out in today’s mainstream music scene.
Supporting the solo is the high energy accompaniment from the chorus, which is now focused in a mid-frequency range as opposed to its notably brighter qualities as featured in the chorus. This was an important decision to allow the guitar solo to further pierce through the mix and connect on a more profound level.
Included in the accompaniment is the familiar guitar hook pattern that has been in effect across the entire song save for pre-choruses 1 and 3. In addition to heightening familiarity and getting further ingrained in the listener’s head, the quality of the hook pattern, which is highly reminiscent of Steve Miller’s 1969 hit, “Space Cowboy,” along with the accompaniment’s 1990s alt/rock qualities, cleverly fosters familiarity with older audiences as well, resulting in broadened reach and connectability (i.e., something that would appeal to the song’s young target demographic as well as their parents [1980s/1990s] and their parent’s parents as well [1960s/1970s]).
Note that while the guitar solo focus would have worked fine as the sole centerpiece of the first segment, Rodrigo and her co-writer and producer Dan Nigro saw a prime opportunity to further reinforce the catchy chorus vocals as well, but in a new context to avoid redundancy. Strategically appearing in bars 4 and 8, which are the stanza’s midway and ending points, the two most notable lines of the chorus, “the biggest lie I ever said” and especially, “I just tripped and fell into his bed,” are featured. Note that their similar placement in bars 4 and 8 of the chorus creates structural familiarity with the instrumental break, while their positioning leaves ample time for the guitar solo to shine.
Stanza 2 “D” Section (Bars 9-16)
With the high energy accompaniment providing cross-stanza continuity, stanza 2 changes up the lead guitar to heighten interest while still maintaining the vibe. Consisting of a 2x repetition of a three-segment pattern that rises in pitch with each subsequent iteration, it provides a focused build in intensity that perfectly complements the clever reprise of the similarly structured pre-chorus lines 1 and 2 vocals. Note that the vocal is more distant in the mix compared to its pre-chorus appearance, which is warranted so that it doesn’t compete with the guitar and allows the continuation of the notable chorus vocals to take center stage.
In the last two beats of the section, all the accompaniment elements are pulled save for some remaining guitar feedback. This provides another jarring moment that enables the song-defining standout statement, “I just tripped and fell into his bed,” to further standout and connect while transitioning into the outro that follows.
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