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‘Mama’s Broken Heart’ (II)

‘Mama’s Broken Heart’ (II)

Part 2 of the post Song Science: ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’ (I)
Written by Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally and Kacey Musgraves

 

Rhyme Scheme & Lyrics

 

Rhyme scheme in the song is a relatively simple quatrain (A/B/A/B, C/D/C/D, etc.) for the verses and “heroic couplets” for the Chorus and Bridge.

SONG STATS

Genre:  Country

Recorded:  2011

Released: 2013

Time: 2:57

BPM: 112

Key:  E minor

Structure:  V / V / CH / V / V / CH / BRD / CH

I know, you’re saying, hey – but there are four lines in the chorus and they don’t rhyme with each other so how can they be couplets? (OK – so maybe you were saying something else)

But if you were, I’d argue the songwriters used internal rhymes to create couplets within each of the lines.

Completed Worksheet:
“Mama’s Broken Heart”

This rhyme pattern within the Chorus and Bridge also serve to pick up the pace of the lines themselves, creating shortened, rhymed phrases that allow the ear to move quickly in almost a skipping rhythm through those portions of the song.

Pretty cool trick!

And what great words to be at the end of lines! You know you’re working through every possible lyric option when you have rhyme pairs like: scissors/liver, baptists/it, dramatic/matches, flames/blame, reputation/generation.

I mean . . . scissors and liver!  Who sits down and tries to rhyme those two words, never mind writing two lines with them that make sense!

Notice how the rhyme for dramatic/matches is actually the first half of the words rhyming rather than end-rhyme. This is a great way to add imagery to your lyric if you can’t find just the right lines with perfect-rhyme end-rhymes.

The lyric is exceptionally written.

 

Mama’s Broken Heart Video:

 

 

The point-of-view is dead on as first person. We know the speaker doesn’t want to maintain the decorum and false picture of “I’m OK” that permeated her mother’s upbringing, and is rebelling against what she was told growing up: act like a lady.

This sense of being from a different generation is emphasized in Verse 3 with the phrase “. . . from a softer generation,” but the simile used cements the image of the mother’s time solidly in the mid-to-late 60’s – the speaker’s mother’s generation. A generation very concerned with perceptions.

Similes are hard to do well. They often come off as comic, or worse, just unbelievable, with the opposite being the whole point of using them, i.e., moving the listener into a larger sense of the moment using figurative imagery that recalls their own memories, perceptions, sights and sounds.

. . . like a Kennedy when Camelot went down in flames” to describe what being “less dramatic” looks and feels like is exceptional songwriting and poetic device.

This is one of the best examples of simile done you will hear. Simple, yet complex, and not the generic “everybody needs to be able to relate” lyric you hear in a lot of songs today. It evokes a time and place within history most either know or read about.

And, there was room in the Bridge for some word play “dot your eyes,” which makes sense in the scene and is a nice pun.

The melody begins very even, with the second verse of each section having a rise in the vocals in the 3rd line, separating the 2nd and 4th verses from their paired verse in the section. Why paired?

Each of the verses ends with a line that repeats the first word used in the last line of the paired verse, connecting verses 1 & 2 with last lines starting with the word “Don’t,” and verses 3 & 4 being connected in their respective last lines by the word “When.” Very clever way of tying the verses together without relying on end-rhyme, and exceptional attention to detail.

You can hear the mother’s voice in the Bridge (in the speaker’s head?) without saying “and my mother used to say.” Delivery of the even-toned, flat melody is key here. With a single chord used throughout, the singer has to deliver the even, but spiteful lyric, in a way that moves the song forward while sounding ominous – like a memory being played back and relived and being mocked just a bit.

This song is song craft in every sense of the word.

Performance matters though – and Miranda Lambert’s delivery of the scene makes it all come together. It almost makes you wonder if she’s actually lived through the conversation!

 

“Mama’s Broken Heart” Lyrics

VERSE
I cut my bangs with some rusty kitchen scissors.
I screamed his name ‘til the neighbors called the cops.
I numbed the pain at the expense of my liver.
Don’t know what I did next, all I know I couldn’t stop.

VERSE
Word got around to the barflies and the baptists.
My mama’s phone started ringin’ off the hook.
I can hear her sayin’ she ain’t gonna have it.
Don’t matter how you feel, it only matters how you look.

CHORUS
Go and fix your make up. Girl, it’s just a break up,
Run and hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady.
‘Cause I raised you better, gotta’ – keep it together.
Even when you fall apart, but this ain’t my mama’s broken heart.

VERSE
Wish I could be just a little less dramatic,
Like a Kennedy when Camelot went down in flames.
Leave it to me to be holdin’ the matches,
When the fire trucks show up and there’s nobody else to blame.

VERSE
Can’t get revenge and keep a spotless reputation.
Sometimes revenge is a choice you gotta make.
My mama came from a softer generation,
Where you get a grip and bite your lip just to save a little face.

CHORUS
Go and fix your make up. Girl, it’s just a break up,
Run and hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady.
‘Cause I raised you better, gotta’ – keep it together.
Even when you fall apart, but this ain’t my mama’s broken heart.

BRIDGE
Powder your nose, paint your toes,line your lips and keep ’em closed.
Cross your legs, dot your eyes,and never let ’em see you cry.

CHORUS
Go and fix your make up. Girl, it’s just a break up,
Run and hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady.
‘Cause I raised you better, gotta’ – keep it together.
Even when you fall apart, but this ain’t my mama’s broken heart.

 

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