Study Guide

I Will Survive Technique

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  • Music

    "The record had everything a great disco record is supposed to have," wrote Peter Shapiro of "I Will Survive," and he was right. (Source)

    The song certainly has all the musical elements of disco. Although no simple formula can narrow down what makes a disco song, the four-on-the-floor beat, the syncopated bass line, the orchestral backing (including a string section), the jazz and soul influences, the centrality of a diva's strong, and the lively voice make it a perfect blend of disco's defining elements. Taken all together, the song also achieves the "wall of sound" effect associated with many disco songs.

    In a less technical sense, "I Will Survive" also captures the feel of disco. The song is relentlessly upbeat and joyously escapist, and hearing it is an experience that doesn't provide much of a break in the action. It's not hard to imagine dancing out your woes to this song over and over again without getting sick of it. Mostly because many of us have danced out our woes to this song over and over again—or is that just us?

    The song certainly isn't for everyone, sure, but something about it makes us want to put on roller skates and sparkly green bellbottoms and wave our hair around like a girl in an iPod ad. 

    Disco saves!

  • Calling Card

    Gloria Gaynor has been called the Queen of Disco, and if hit songs a queen make, then queen she is, declareth Shmoop.

    Disco has had a broad influence on pop music, but it has not yielded an abundance of big stars. There's Donna Summer, the Bee Gees, the Village People, Gloria Gaynor, and…that’s about it, actually. 

    So, it is probably also fair to argue that Gaynor has been called the Queen of Disco mainly because, with the release of "I Will Survive," she had the biggest hit of any disco tune ever. Though the singer has consistently released albums over the years, little that she's done since "I Will Survive" can be considered original; great singer she is, but musical miracle she is not.

    That doesn't mean it's not a great song. We're just saying "queen" might be a bold title for a woman whose career wasn't necessarily the most revolutionary moment in disco history. "I Will Survive" broke into the mainstream, and with it, so did all of disco. 

    That magic moment is Gloria Gaynor's calling card—and as far as we can tell, it always will be.

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