The Only Exception by American pop punk band Paramore was first released on the bands third studio album "Brand New Eyes" in 2009 and later became their most successful single. The track is in the key of B mixolydian and has bpm of 138 in 6/8 time. The structure of the song is as follows: intro, verse one, chorus, break, verse two, chorus, solo, bridge, chorus, outro.
The intro of this song introduces the main chords - B major, F# minor and E major7- played on both acoustic and electric guitar. The electric guitar strums the chords a single time in a higher register only on beat 1, while the acoustic guitar strums continuously. The acoustic guitar is bright sounding and is clearly played with a plectrum. The electric guitar is also quite bright and has a delay and reverb effects applied to it as well as being panned to the left.
After the 8 bar intro, Williams' vocals enter, singing in a relaxed, airy, almost country music-like manner. There is a short reverb on her voice, and as per Paramore's style the overall timbre of her voice and the microphone used feature prominent high-mid and high frequencies helping her vocals cut through the mix. The instrumentation remains the same, however the electric guitar does not play for the first 4 bars of verse 1. instead, a very faint almost wind-sounding instrument can be heard, although this is most likely a synthesiser with reverb applied. The electric guitar delay also becomes more apparent. This verse consists of 16 bars.
The 8 bar chorus makes itself known with the addition of a string-like synthesiser section sustaining the chords. All the previous elements introduced are also present in the chorus except the electric guitar is now playing the root notes of the chords in quarter notes. The reverb on Williams' vocals is now longer as she sings the hook of the song.
A short, 2 bar break section separates the chorus from the next verse. The wind-like synthesiser can be heard again and the bass guitar is introduced with a anacrusis into the second verse.
The bass now plays the root note of the chord throughout verse two with short arpeggios in between. A piano and tambourine and bells are also introduced in this section. In the final six bars of the verse, building to the next chorus, a vocal harmony can be heard and Williams' vocals are double tracked for the last line as the drummer creates excitement with a cymbal roll.
The second chorus is sonically bigger than the first, now featuring drums along with many of the aforementioned elements. Williams' vocals are now also harmonising and layered over one another. The drums (specifically the snare and toms) are loud and spacious. The chorus unexpectedly finishes on a C# minor, leading into the solo/bridge section.
Solo is played by an electric guitar over another distorted electric guitar and the acoustic guitar playing the new chord progression; B major, F# major, C# minor. All the elements such as the drums, bass, synthesisers ect are present as they form the most dramatic part of the song.
Williams' vocal increase in intensity as she sings the bridge while the electric guitar continues to play quarter notes. Her vocals are once again double tracked.
The bridge is followed by another chorus featuring just the vocals and acoustic guitar. This acts a resting moment before a booming kick drum and toms can be heard building to the final chorus where all the instruments can be heard.
All the instruments play in the first 4 bars of the outro consisting of chords A major, E major and B major. Then in the final 4 bars of the song only the vocals and electric and acoustic guitars can be heard as the song utilises a ritardando to finish.