Pop music listening activity: “Dibs” by Kelsea Ballerini


The number one song on the Billboard Country Radio play chart for the second cosecutive week is “Dibs” by Kelsea Ballerini. It’s a pretty straightforward song with the lyrics so go ahead and listen to it with your students. Here’s my breakdown:

Form Letter Time Description
Intro 0:00 – 0:09

– Instrumental intro featuring acoustic guitar,
banjo, and light bass and percussion.

Verse A 0:09 – 0:32 “I know everybody wants you, that ain’t no
– Acoustic vibe continues with sparse
accompaniment. Banjo reenters halfway
Chorus B 0:32 – 0:54 “If you got a kiss on your lips that you’re…”
– Accompaniment becomes more lush and
prominent as vocals get fuller.
– Male vocal harmony part joins female lead
and a group “eh” punctuates pauses.

Transition C 0:54 – 1:05 “I’m callin’ dibs, on your lips…”
– New speech-like vocals come in over same
sparse accompaniment from verse.
Verse A 1:05 – 1:26

“Make everybody Jealous…”
– Same music as before but banjo is through
the entire section.
– Adds male harmony to vocal melody.

Chorus  B 1:26 – 1:48 Same as before.
Break D 1:48 – 1:59 Upbeat, restrained electric guitar solo over
chorus accompaniment.
Chorus B 1:59 – 2:21 Same vocal melody as before.
– Accompaniment begins sparse similar to
earlier sections.
– Second half returns to normal.
Transition C 2:21 – 2:31 Same as before
Transition C’ 2:31 – 2:43 Same lyrics as before, presented in a higher
vocal register.
– Accompaniment mirrors the chorus, not
previous transition sections.
Coda 2:43 – 3:03 Extension of the transition with similar lyrics.
– Accompaniment style from chorus continues.

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.


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Pop music listening activity: “Dibs” by Kelsea Ballerini

How to use movie songs in your classroom

One of the best ways to meet students on their level is to talk about music they know. It removes entire steps; getting students used to the music they are hearing, explaining context, and more. Movie songs are especially poignant and can be a great lesson or unit for your classroom.

An easy way to begin integrating vernacular music is to introduce movie music or songs from movies. It prepares students for listening to music they are unfamiliar with by focusing on a movie song – be it in the movie or simply from the soundtrack. This list from Billboard​ can be a starting point for a movie music unit. If you’re looking to transition from classical music, you can parallel it to opera and oratorio or more contemporary operetta or musicals. How do these movie songs help tell the story or set the mood like those older types of songs?

If you would rather do just a single assignment on movie music, have students pick a song from the list and discuss how it fits the movie’s theme. Connect it to music of their choice (and the new core arts standards) by having each student pick a song from one of their favorite movies and do the same assignment.

You’ll see the students get more excited about your class while focusing on the music and the meaning of it in context. You’re building lifelong music appreciation.

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How to use movie songs in your classroom