Determining Exactly Which Word Is Musically Stressed In the First Line of the James Brown Song ‘I Feel Good’

Musician Adam Neely, who previously explained how the human brain processes extreme rhythms, sought to find out exactly which word was stressed in the first line of the iconic James Brown song “I Feel Good”. Neely explained that although stress in regard to language was very valid, it was actually musical stress to which he was referring.

This is not spoken language this is music and when we talk about musical stress things get a lot more complicated and they can conflict with ideas of linguistic stress so when we talk about musical stress, I guess, more technically speaking is metric stress.  What we’re doing is we’re relating a rhythm to its underlying pulse when we do that we alternate strong, weak, strong weak.  ….I think this is an example of where the musical stress and the linguistic stress don’t necessarily line up sometimes

Unfortunately, using this line of thought, the line shows no sign of specific syncopation that can be measured. Although a lack of measurement does not indicate a lack of feelings.

…understanding accents is a fundamental part of musicianship especially if you’re playing melodies. If you’re trying  to phrase a melody just right, it’s important that you understand what notes should be emphasized…I think the best answer here honestly is that all the beats are strong because James Brown has no room for weakness

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.