A Songwriting Analysis There is one thing that is vital to every musician and that is songwriting. Whether they right the songs or not they must have something original to sing and play before they can even try to be a success. Songwriting is a craft that almost anyone who really enjoys music has tried his or her hand at. Songs have the power to inspire, unite, and comfort a person unlike any other form of media. Record companies are always on the lookout for the next number one single and while some songs are completely unique and original most of the biggest singles in the past history have all had things in common that made them so popular. The really good memorable songs of the past have all generally had a least some of the following characteristics.
One of the main ones is that it is immediately remembered or catchy. A hook generally achieves this, which is a memorable portion of the song that is repeated several times throughout the song. Another characteristic is that it quickly appeals to the listener and strikes a chord inside them. Whether it is a dance groove the listener likes or the emotional content of the lyrics they will remember the song if there is one thing that just hit them deep inside.
One final point is that the song has to be really tightly worked. All the lyrics and music should be interwoven together as if they were always together waiting to be listened to. These days some songs are expected to be hits before they are even recorded. This is largely because of the artist that records them. Most of the work by the Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, Britney Spears, and etc. are ready-made hits.
They have achieved enough success that whatever they sings is expected to do really well. It is the artist's and songs that aren't necessarily in the guaranteed success category that you can look at and get a feel for the songwriting techniques used to make them successful. Rolling stone recent did a list of what they thought to be the one hundred greatest pop hits. By taking a few songs from this list it is possible to examine some of these characteristics that make a great song.
One of the most memorable and timeless songs in history would have to be Rolling Stones "Satisfaction." In the Rollin stone article they ranked this song as being the second greatest pop song of all time right under the Beatles "Yesterday." This song is centered on a guitar riff that lead guitarist Keith Richards almost while sleeping. He woke up with the riff in his mind, recorded it on a tape player, and then immediately fell back asleep. This guitar riff is the hook of the song, which had immediate appeal and connection for the listener. The hook and immediate mass appeal were two of the techniques mentioned earlier as a character of a successful song. The song also touched the emotional chord of the listener with intense lyrics that made cultural commentary in the sixties the song was destined to be a hit. It was at number one for four weeks, on the charts for fourteen weeks, and was the song that propelled the Rolling Stones from a decent band into one of the greatest rock bands of all time.
An example of a song that was successful more because of its lyrical content rather than mostly its musical aspect is Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." The song was one of Jackson's first attempts at songwriting from a deep, dark, and emotional place. The song was inspired by the true story of a crazed fan writing him letters claiming that he was the father of her son. The song was mysterious, and Jackson and his family already intrigued listeners so it was an emotional attachment that hooked in the audience. The song was at number one for seven weeks, on the charts for twenty-four weeks, and helped his album "Thriller" be such a phenomenal success. When Nirvana released the single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" it was evident that music was in for a change. Nirvana soon reined the charts ending the careers of dozens of hair bands and even for the most part the "King of Pop" Michael Jackson.
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" had one of the most sure-fire ingredients in it to make it a success. It had the ability to become a teenage anthem. With deep emotional lyrics delivered by Kurt Cobain teens easily found themselves in his lyrics and again were emotionally hooked. Along with memorable lyrics the guitar part is also very simple and catchy. This song brought in the grunge era and over a half decade of teen angst proving the power of songwriting once again. Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" peaked out on the charts at number six and remained on the chart for twenty weeks.
Many critics hail it as the song that changed the face of music today and will remain one of the timeless rock songs. While most hit songs all have parts in common those parts can be expressed in an infinite number of ways. Which is why we have such diversity in music today. Any song ranging from Christina Aguilera's new song to Korn's latest thrash fest has the potential to do well.
The two songs will have characteristics in common though as hard as it may seem. As long as people want to dance, relax, or get lost in the emotional content of a song record companies will continue to look for those time-tested characteristics of being memorable, immediate appeal, and a well-written and together song. Bibliography Baskerville, David Music Business Handbook and Career Guide Seventh Edition. Sherwood Publishing Partners, New York: 2001. Fink, Michael Inside the Music Industry Creativity, Process, and Business. Sim in & Schuster Macmillan, New York: 1989.
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