Pop music listening activity: “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake


One of the highest-rising songs on the Billboard charts this week is “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” from Justin Timberlake, courtesy of the Trolls soundtrack. The lyrics are really generic and you can analyze this song with any grade level, so let’s start.

Form Letter Time Description
Intro 0:00 – 0:07

Piano chord progression plays over rapid, steady hi-hat cymbal

Verse A 0:07 – 0:24 “I got this feelin’…”
Lyrics start and accompaniment continues adding a snap/clap
Pre-Chorus 1 B 0:24 – 0:43 “I got that sunshine in my pocket…” on a new melody
Accompaniment continues adding more drums and a really prominent bass line
Pre-Chorus 2 C 0:43 – 0:59 “And under the lights…” on a higher-pitch melody
Most of the percussion fades out, leaving the snaps
Most of the accompaniment stops but the bass is on a new melody with ambient swirl/whisper building up to…
Chorus D 0:59 – 1:24

“Nothing I can see but you…” on a new melody
Bass melody featured prominently again, drums are all back
Halfway through we add a falsetto “Can’t stop the feeling”

Verse  A 1:24 – 1:42 “Oh, something magical…”
Melody is the same as before but drums are stronger
Pre-Chorus 1 B 1:42 – 1:58 Same as before.
Pre-Chorus 2 C 1:58 – 2:16 Same as before.
Chorus D 2:16 – 2:50 Same as before but two additional “can’t stop the feeling” falsetto parts extend the section by a few seconds.
Bridge E 2:50 – 3:09 Bass solo with minimal percussion, funky guitar, and vocal embellishments
Chorus   D 3:09 – 3:26 Same as before but the falsetto part is present throughout the section now.
Coda   F 3:26 – 3:43 “Got this feelin’ in my body…”
New vocal melody over the accompaniment from the chorus with falsetto part
Coda   F 3:43 – 3:54 New coda lyrics continue but everything else drops out

There are multiple ways I have students analyze a song like this. If this is their first time listening critically like this, put a blank spreadsheet on the SMART board of white board for them, replaying the sections several times to let them hear what you are pulling apart. Then go back and listen to the whole thing to show them the overall form. Have them fill it in as you go or just watch and participate. This takes me 45 minutes or so.

Once students get the hang of it, let them pick their own song to analyze. It’s how they build skills for their own compositions and analysis, by listening to what others have done.

As this particular lesson came at the end of our study of American Popular Music, I had the students take 10 minutes and write a persuasive paragraph attempting to place this song in one of the genres we discussed this year. While most applied it to Disco and 80s pop, a few wrote about Funk. As long as they make a good case, I give them full credit no matter what they write. (I agree with the Disco answer the most.)


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Pop music listening activity: “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake

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