Dan Hartman, song arrangement, songwriter, songwriting

I Can Dream About You – Most Well-Proportioned Song?

(note that this video is very confusing, Dan Hartman who wrote this song is the blond guy at the bar, not the one on the TV)

When I was a kid, I used to read the French edition of the Guiness Book Of Records. In it Arnold Schwarzenegger was listed as “Most well proportioned Man”, which always puzzled me. Who the hell got to vote on that? Did they just looked at him or actually measured him and crunched equations? Apparently, it was just that he was universally popular among fans and other bodybuilders.

Based on that logic, one of the most admired pop song of all time was Dan Hartman’s 1985 hit “I Can Dream About You”. This is the song I use as comparison to figure out if my own songs are up to scratch. It’s a catchy, fairly neutral pop song with R&B vocals, rock guitars on top of a dynamic “keyboard + bass line” foundation. Harman specialized in this type of soulful tunes. He also penned, produced and sang back vocals on James Brown’s comeback hit “Living In America”.

Unique Intro
The bassline in the intro establishes the song’s signature riff. This ensures that the song can be recognized with the first 8 seconds. An intro like this is like an establishing shot at the beginning of a movie: it establishes the mood of the whole piece.

Quick Chorus Resolution
Notice how after the intro, the verse is really short to allow to go directly to the chorus. Going quickly to the most exciting part of the song keep things interesting.

Call+Response
The verse, chorus and bridge all have a call+response structure. During the verse, he even use a different singing style between dueling lines.

Mixed Bridge
Then he does something very peculiar during the bridge: he reintroduces individual verses and chorus lines. Maybe it’s a common technique, but I can’t think of another song that did this. What is more common is to create a bridge that repeats the verse or chorus melody with an instrumental solo. Very inventive.

Tasty One-Man Production
The most amazing fact about the production of this song is that Hartmann played everything. It’s still hard for me to believe that someone can play all these parts so tastefully. Even the guitar solo is very restrained and measured (quite rare at the time). He also avoided the dreaded mid-80’s sax solo, and for that he should have been decorated.

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