How Modal Interchange and Deceptive Cadence Keep Up the Momentum in Elton John’s ‘Bennie and the Jets’

The wonderfully fast-talking, speed-doodling music theorist 12Tone takes on his mother’s favorite song, the very challenging “Bennie and the Jets” by Elton John, which is about seeing a live band. Throughout the song, John employs such musical techniques as modal interchange (borrowing notes from other keys), deceptive cadence (an irregular resolution from major to minor) and plagal cadence (the IV of the scale resolving to I) to create that iconic forward moving momentum of the song.

It’s a kind of surreal song trying to capture the experience of seeing a fictional band perform live within the confines of a studio recording by a different very real band but for such a strange idea. I think it’s a really cool really fun piece of music anyway.