The Hit Songs Deconstructed Wire

What Made Sugar So Sweet?



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Maroon 5 already had two Top 10 hits from their fifth studio album V, making it seven consecutive Top 10s for Adam Levine and company. And then along came Sugar

Released on January 13th, the song climbed the Billboard Hot 100 all the way up to #2. To date it’s spent more than twenty weeks within the Top 10, following hot on the heels of Maps and Animals. In March, a remix of the song featuring Nicki Minaj was also released. Not bad for a bunch of high school buddies from Brentwood!

Levine and company had “a little help from their friends” in crafting this major hit, a who’s who of hitmakers including Ammo, Dr. Luke, Jacob Kasher, Michael Posner and Cirkut.

So what makes Sugar so sweet? Among the many characteristics is an adherence to the K.I.S.S. principal, the perfect blend of repetition and contrast, capitalization on current trends, and a host of clever elements including under the radar X-rated lyrics, and even a Michael Jackson Beat It influence.

But what REALLY makes Sugar ear candy is its killer chorus. The following are highlights taken from our Sugar Deconstructed Report, which provides comprehensive insight into what made the song a hit.

[Header 1 header=”Payoff Within a Payoff”]

The chorus features a very clever three-part structure. Part 1, which kicks off the section, houses the Maroon 5 specific payoff, “your sugar, yes please, won’t you come and put it down on me…”
Part 3, concludes the section and also features the line, further ingraining it in the listener’s head.

What really puts the section over the top though is the cleverly sandwiched Michael Jackson “Beat It” influenced hook in the Part 2 segment. This provides the listener with a “payoff within a payoff,” which ultimately takes the song’s engagement value and infectious nature to the next level. While it’s not a carbon copy, there are key similarities between the two.

Click here to find out what they were.

[Header 1 header=”MTI Level/Excitement Factor Peak”]

Sugar features three MTI level (momentum, tension, intensity) “waves” throughout the song, each progressing from a lull to an apex. This flow provides the listener with a very dynamic and engaging listening experience. The highest MTI level is reached in each chorus section, which enables the primary payoff to stand out and resonate with the listener on a profound level.

Key: I=intro, A=verse, PC=pre-chorus, B=chorus, C=bridge, O=outro


[Header 1 header=”Stand-Out Vocals”]

Another key characteristic that enables the chorus to stand out and resonate among the other sections in the song is Adam Levine’s falsetto vocal. It provides stringent, infectious contrast against the non-falsetto vocal sections in the song, taking the section’s impact to the next level on a highly engaging note.

Key: A=verse, PC=pre-chorus, B=chorus, C=bridge


[Header 1 header=”Sectional Repetition and Contrast”]

In order to ensure that the chorus gets fully ingrained in the listener’s head, the general nature of the vocal melody, core musical foundation and lyrics remain essentially the same in each chorus section. However, in order to keep things from becoming overly monotonous, each subsequent chorus section features hotter running levels, changed up vocal characteristics, additional vocal flourishes and new instrumentation is added into the mix.

[Header 1 header=”Time Allocation”]

Given the infectious qualities of Sugar’s chorus, it made sense to allocate a substantial portion of the song to it. While this is indicative of most of the Pop songs that land in the Top 10 of the Hot 100, Sugar went above and beyond. The average chorus allocation in Q1 was 44%. Sugar’s chorus constitutes 55% of the song, ensuring there would be no way for the listener to forget the song’s primary sectional hook.

Additionally, the writers took it one step further by making the last chorus a double, keeping the listener hooked for over a full minute before heading into the outro and out. Not a bad way to conclude a song.

With its clever choruses, infectious nature, Dance, Funk, R&B and Retro influences, and ability to capitalize on the trends of the day, Sugar was destined to be a hit.

For a comprehensive review of everything that contributed to the song’s success, be sure to read our Sugar Deconstructed Report.