Expectant: Stone Temple Pilots, “Sour Girl” (2000)

“Sour Girl”

I wonder why “Sour Girl” feels like that—so hoveringly melancholy, regretful yet releaseful. I know exactly where I am in “Sour Girl,” but it’s a place of uncertainty.

Maybe it’s like this. When you enter a new environment expectantly—like on your first day at a new school, or in a big office building for a new job, or setting out on the highway to California—your emotional aura (you always carry an emotional aura, right?) has a noticeably different volume and shape than you’re used to. Your balance is a little off. You’re feeling your situation very sensitively and yet without full contact.

It can be like this coming into an exciting new relationship that you don’t know how you’ll handle. Or ending a relationship.

A chord progression in “Sour Girl” gives me this feeling.

She was a happy girl the day that she left me

The shift from a major to minor in the first two chords is sure to produce some melancholy, but additionally the bass line does something funny with our balance: it starts not on D but on F-sharp, D’s major third, pointing up that the D is D major, and then moves up to D to seal the deal only to have the minor version of D emerge in the D minor seventh. And then every other cycle there are B-flat notes mixed in with that Dm7 that turn it into a spacy-sounding B-flat major seventh or ninth and give a palimpsest glimpse of a distinct frame of reference in B-flat, two steps lower than D. Is that a sad truth behind the scenes? Or an entering possibility of a fresh start? It remains to be seen. I keep leaning toward that chord to hear where life might be going.


About Steve Smith

Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies and Director of Film Studies at Millsaps College
This entry was posted in Chord Arguments, Rock Aesthetics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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