Belinkie, Build Me Up Buttercup
The key change in this song comes right smack at the end. And when I say right smack, I mean right smack. The fade-out begins immediately after the new key is locked in with “I need you,” and the song’s completely done five seconds later. In total, there’s less than four measures of the new key. Check it out yourself in the end credits of There’s Something About Mary. I’ve cued it up to the spot for you:
This feels like a mistake at first. Like, maybe the group wanted there to be one more chorus in the new key, but some record producer decided the track needed to come in under three minutes. But I think something more subtle is at play here.
My friend Jeremy Taylor understands music a lot better than I will probably understand anything, with the exception of Mario Kart. I once asked him why pop songs often ended with a fade-out at the end. After all, the fade-out is something that can’t be recreated in live performance, so it seems like a very strange way to go. And Jeremy theorized that maybe the reason why humans have such an innate love of music is that they allow us to experience the sense of time passing, and know that the rest of the group was experiencing it the same way. The Beat connects us, and we get pleasure from knowing that everyone feels it. We are synchronized.
The appeal of the fade out, in Jeremy’s view, is that it allows our internal metronomes to persist. It creates the illusion that the song continues, thus prolonging the connection we feel to other listeners.
If this is true, then maybe a strong key change right at the end doubles the effect. “Build Me Up Buttercup” gives us the strong sense of being unfinished. The key change has just happened when it starts to fade away, and we aren’t ready for it to end. Combine that with the fade-out, and you see the genius of The Foundations. They’re cutting us loose right at the piece’s climax, knowing that our brains are going to keep the song going with or without them.