The Emperor's New Clothes
Songs From the West Coast
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Studio Version - Solo Piano
Key: C Structure: A-A-B-A-A-B-A-A-B

Elton's eagerly anticipated new album in 2001 opens with this song that immediately told fans everywhere that Elton and Bernie were back in a big way. The Emperor's New Clothes instantly recalls the classic Elton sound, ala Tumbleweed Connection, with a mature and world-wise lyric. It sets a tone for the whole album. It demonstrates that their songwriting genius is still intact even as they entered a 4th decade of producing music. There quite simply is no other songwriting team that has accomplished this.

Bernie's best lyrics always offer up a vignette of life, a character study set against a backdrop that he paints with words. His imagery is often quite vivid and this song fits perfectly into that mold. He spins a story of two people who live on chance and cheating the system. But these two people know that while they try to look good on the surface, their life is a disguise, a lie that they refuse to admit to. They hold back the tears, as the repo tows away their car, exposing their life for what it really is.

Elton's Playing
Elton's playing is very straight-forward here and might be best identified as a gospel style of accompaniment, a kind of confessional support for Bernie's lyrics. Although Elton's style is not a strictly traditional style of gospel playing, there are several elements that I look at:

  • the prominent use of octaves
  • the use of chromatic walkups such as a C/E leading to an F
  • the use of backcycling in the circle-of-4ths to lead in to a chord, i.e. jumping a 5th and then going down a 4th (see the 2nd bar in the intro).

As always his playing is rich and full, but this is not a pure "only Elton" sounding piece of work. You could easily imagine any number of other top notch pianists playing this song. Though, if you are a careful listener, you will hear a few prototypical Elton riffs along the way.

Here's the intro.

Song Structure
As indicated above, Emperor follows an A-A-B format. In this case, the B section is a bridge rather than a chorus. The title appears at the end of the 2nd verse and at the end of the bridge.