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 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
- 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.
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.