Often seen as an afterthought to the melody, the use of harmony can actually be the most compelling part to a piece of music. While melody has always been a constant and dependable part of music, harmony has taken more twists and turns throughout history. Harmony has grown and adapted more than any other element of music, and can truly be the gateway into the mind of the musician. It grew in complexity for centuries, up until the last 100 years or so when harmony has either been completely ignored or made extremely simple. In any case, harmony is a measurable element in music, and one that I will take into great consideration.
Notice that I am rating the music based on harmonic creativity, not harmonic complexity. A piece of music may have a rudimentary three chord progression, but if it is used in a way that enhances the musical experience, or is paired with a unique and riveting harmonic rhythm, it will receive a high rating. For example, Hide And Seek by Imogen Heap uses the same four chords (I, V, vi, IV) in a row for the entire song. However, the chords constantly change how they are voiced, and also change where they stop at the end of phrases to vary the cadences. These are very creative ways to use the harmony. On the other side of the argument, although I am a big fan of The Ramones, their use of the same three or four chords over and over again do not yield much creativity and therefore leave the listener without any harmonic pleasure (they certainly make up for it in the other three categories). A piece could also be harmonically complex without much creativity. Songs like Chop Suey by System of A Down use very complex chords in relation to functional harmony, even masking the true key they are in by use of many borrowed chords. What this harmony lacks, though, is a sense of progression and togetherness. It is a sequence of non-related chords thrown together, and while that may serve a melodic or timbre purpose, it is not harmonically creative.
Since my reviews will span across many different time periods, what was harmonically creative for one song may not be for another. Depending on genre and era, certain aspects of harmony may be more creative than others. I will rate the harmonic creativity of the music based on the overall technicalities available to the musician. This means that I will not downgrade a pop song simply on the basis that it does not include a German +6. I am also not going to rate a Beethoven piano sonata any higher just because it includes +6 chords. These are simply the harmonic languages of the time. In order for music to be considered great, it must use the harmonic language of its time in a creative way that enhances the character of the piece. This category will also be scored out of 50 points.