Stumbled across a good post by Frasier Smith about what makes a song hit-ready. I think this is the songwriting equivalent of “get rich quick” schemes to the average Joe, or of “Good to Great”-style books for business. And yes, I’ve thought a lot about the topic myself.
Smith talks about various elements in hit songs that make their lyrics and melodies memorable, universal, and instantly appealing. Certainly those are elements worth striving for, if pop hits are your goal — and they are ours.
But one of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is the importance of writing for me. I’ve always done this, to a degree, but at times I’ve strayed a bit into unfamiliar territory in the hopes of writing something that more people would connect with. Imagine me writing, for example, a song with NASCAR allusions. I’ve tried it. It sucked. I won’t do it again (I promise).
And I just don’t believe it’s necessary to deal with the unfamiliar. Some of my favorite hits are the ones that seem broadly appealing and universal, but which have lyrics that appear specific about the writer’s own life. I’ll cite “She’s My Kind of Rain” as an example, even though its merits are often contested in songwriting circles. I’d cite other examples but I’m about to board a plane. Let me just assert that they are plentiful.
Moreover, I’m finding that the more I strive to write about the most universal topics in the most universal way, the less motivated I am to write them. Maybe that’s a “duh” kind of realization, but it hadn’t sunken in yet after all these years of writing. I think I’ve got it now.
So for me, the question of what to write about is “whatever I’m thinking about.” And then I guess I’d hope that I’ll sometimes stumble across universal themes. That makes it pretty simple, huh?