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Pop Culture

Comedy rock band use 38 songs to prove how 'every pop song' uses the same four chords

The Beatles, U2 and Maroon 5 are all guilty of the same crime.

Axis of Awesome on stage

Australian comedy group Axis Of Awesome

Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran was found not liable on April 4 in a lawsuit where he was accused of stealing elements of the Marvin Gaye classic "Let's Get It On" for his 2014 hit, “Thinking Out Loud."

The case called attention to the fact that there are motifs and musical structures common in pop music that no one owns, and all are free to use. When it comes to chord progressions, the 12-bar blues and basic I, IV, V, I progressions you hear in country and folk have been used and reused since people first picked up the guitar.

In the wrong hands, the progressions can result in music that is boring and formulaic, but in the right hands, they can be a springboard for fresh ideas.


In 2009 Australian comedy group Axis Of Awesome did a funny sketch showing how one four-chord progression, famous for being the basis of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” has been used countless times by musicians to great effect.

They played a medley of 38 major hits using the same progression to prove their point. For musicians, it’s known as the I–V–vi–IV progression, and when played in the key of C it would be C, G, Am, F.

Warning: Video contains strong language.

Here’s a list of all of the songs in the medley.

Journey - “Don't Stop Believing”

James Blunt - “You're Beautiful”

Alphaville - “Forever Young”

Jason Mraz - “I'm Yours”

Mika - “Happy Ending”

Alex Lloyd - “Amazing”

The Calling - “Wherever You Will Go”

Elton John - “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”

Maroon 5 - “She Will Be Loved”

The Last Goodnight - “Pictures Of You”

U2 - “With Or Without You”

Crowded House - “Fall At Your Feet”

Kasey Chambers - “Not Pretty Enough”

The Beatles - “Let It Be”

Red Hot Chili Peppers - “Under the Bridge”

Daryl Braithwaite - “The Horses”

Bob Marley - “No Woman No Cry”

Marcy Playground - “Sex and Candy”

Men at Work - “Land Down Under”

Banjo Patterson - “Waltzing Matilda”

A-ha - “Take On Me”

Green Day - “When I Come Around”

Eagle Eye Cherry - “Save Tonight”

Toto - “Africa”

Beyonce - “If I Were A Boy”

The Offspring - “Self Esteem”

The Offspring - “You're Gonna Go Far Kid”

Pink - “You and Your Hand”

Lady Gaga - “Poker Face”

Aqua - “Barbie Girl”

The Fray - “You Found Me”

30h!3 - “Don't Trust Me”

MGMT - “Kids”

Tim Minchin - “Canvas Bags”

Natalie Imbruglia - “Torn”

Five For Fighting - “Superman”

Axis Of Awesome - “Birdplane”

Missy Higgins - “Scar”


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