In my humble opinion, no matter what the musical genre, a well-written song should have the following characteristics:
- should be written with intellegence and cleverness, avoiding trite phrases and cliches.
- should try to say something unique about the subject. Drawing from true personal experience helps find the most unique perspective.
- even if written third person, should be written from the vantage point of a participant instead of a spectator to the story. Writing from a personal vantage point makes is much stronger and more real than writing what you think someone else knows or wants to hear.
- should be consistant in its language (if it's earthy, say it with "down-to-earth" language all the way through the song... if poetic, keep that voice going... if easily understandable with clear images, or if more obscure and symbolic as in many great pop songs, be sure it sounds like the same person talking in the whole song.
- needs to say that which will make the listener connect with the singer on an emotional level, even if that level is just a happy or freed feeling.
- should make the listener identify and actually like the singer (duh); the listener frequently will take on the singer's persona while listening.
- should make the listener feel loved. Yes. Loved. ie... what would every woman want her man to say to her (and it could be "I'm sorry, I was wrong"!) What would every man want his woman to say to him? (and yes, it also could be "I'm sorry, I was wrong")
- should bring the listener wisdom, anger at things done wrong, fun, story, drama, and/or empathy with hard places that actually point to solutions (I lost you and I learned how to be a better person, I lost you and learned how to love myself, I lost you and you're gonna miss me, I lost you and I will miss you but I can love again, I lost you but I love you enough to let you go and I'll be fine... etc.)
- should not be "preachy". Instead... just tell the story and let your audience draw conclusions. They don't trust you when you condescend or preach, like you are smarter/better/wiser than them.
- should not lead to hopelessness, unresolved hatred or violence towards others.
- should if at all possible have an unexpected twist or two.
- should have some kind of structured pattern of lines.
I'll give my songwriting suggestions for writing MUSIC on my next post. On my third post, I intend to suggest HOW you learn to do the things I mentioned, books you should study to develop your skills, what you need to know about co-writing, how to prime the pump of your inner muse, etc.
To make my next posts more interesting, I have questions for you:
- what have I've forgotten?
- what more would you like to know?
- what are your favorite songwriting books?
- who are your favorite songwriters?
- what suggestions for successful songwriting do you have to pass along?
Please join the conversation by clicking the "comment" link below this post. Thanks!