5 Steps To Writing The Perfect Pop Song
by Aaron Lawrence (contributor)
I don’t know how to tell you this, so I’m just going to pull off the Band-Aid.
Are you ready?
Here’s the bad news…
There is no formula to write a good song.
In fact, there are no tested or foolproof equations to create a hit, nor is there a lost science that will help in unraveling the mysteries of rhythm, rhyme, and the written word. There, I said it. I’m sorry.
Pack up your pencils, and loose-leaf pads now, because the curtain is dropping on this songwriting party. Okay, okay, BUT wait. There is some good news.
Songwriting Takes Practice.
Just like with learning a sport or playing an instrument – practice makes perfect. If you possess a passion for music, carry the desire to write well, and develop an unquenchable thirst to hone your skill – you have the makings to become the next great songwriter of our generation.
If you’re interested in learning the basics of songwriting, you first have to ask, what is a song?
Is it just making sure you rhyme words like door with floor? Or is there more involved?
Simply put, a song is a poem that’s put to music. Yup, it’s that simple. Poetry and songwriting go hand-in-hand. Whether you’re writing a top 40 electro-pop dance anthem or screaming out a heavy metal ballad – you’re writing poetry. You’re channeling an age-old art form. Your inner Shakespeare moves you; you’re dabbling in the “Poe” of verse – You’re embracing your long-lost Dickenson.
I may not be able to give you a direct formula on how to write a hit song, but I can give you pointers on how to be a stronger songwriter.
Let’s write a song together.
Using a song I’m writing just for this blog entry as an example, I’m going to give you 5 Steps to write a great pop song.
- Always Follow a Theme
Think about all of your favorite tunes. What were they about?
All songs have a theme. These themes convey specific emotions and remain apparent throughout the song. Let’s look at my first draft of “Only In Your Eyes” for an example. My intended plan was to write a song about meeting that “special” someone, but doubting things will be anything more than a one-time romance.
“The air’s getting cold out here.
Why don’t we go someplace warm?
Have a drink and swallow our fears.
Play this game out of this heated storm.
Oh, maybe this could last,
At least only in our minds tonight.
Turn the key to your front door,
And let’s do whatever you’d like.”
Did something in this first draft fail to make sense to you? The words “heated storm” don’t follow the “it’s cold outside” theme. In fact, it confuses the listener. Be careful not to alienate your audience.
- Use simple words
Commercial songs or “pop” songs are meant to be seriously relatable. They’re meant for mass consumption, which means if you’re the type of person who likes to throw in 25-cent words like “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis,” PLEASE DON’T.
Keep Songwriting Simple
Songs – and specifically commercial pop songs – are meant to be simple. Lyrics should contain short sentences while still holding a strong meaning. Let’s look at my second draft of “Only In Your Eyes” for an example of what NOT to do.
“The air is chilling greatly out here.
Why don’t we go someplace heated?
Have a drink and gulp down our fears.
Play this game out of this frozen storm.”
“Oh, maybe this could almost last,
At least only in our concentrations tonight.
Turn the key to your front entrance,
And let’s do whatsoever you’d like.”
Did the above lyrics make sense? To me, this is not a good pop song. First of all, it looks like the writer just threw in a bunch of random words using a cheap thesaurus. It’s certainly not “Poptastic.” It’s wordy and confusing and isn’t for Top-40 consumption. Ultimately, it has the potential to alienate my audience again.
- Beware of Being Wordy
A lot of beginning songwriters suffer from wordiness. It’s to be expected – It’s easy to be wordy, especially when looking for the right words to convey your message. Again, let’s look at what NOT to do.
“The winter air’s getting cold out here.
Why don’t we hold hands and go someplace warm?
Sit and have a drink just to swallow our fears.
Play this dating game out of this ice storm.”
“Oh, maybe this could last,
At least it’s only imaginary – in our minds tonight.
Turn the key to your front door,
And let’s do whatever you’d like.”
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again — keep things simple. Some of the lyrics in this draft of my song are redundant. Also, taking into consideration the beat of the song, this is too wordy. Not only does a wordy song sound awkward, it will end up being hard for you or your singer to sing.
- Follow Your Rhythm
Conventional poetry always follows a rhyming scheme. There are many simple and complex rhyming schemes that all poetry obeys, however, sometimes rules can be broken.
A) The air’s getting cold out here.
B) Why don’t we go someplace warm?
A) Have a drink and swallow our fears.
B) Play this game out of this ice storm.
A) Oh, maybe this could last,
B) At least only in our minds tonight.
C) Turn the key to your front door,
B) And let’s do whatever you might like.
“Last” and “door” may not rhyme, but the lyrics fit. As long as you take into consideration the flow and rhythm of your song, you can take some liberties with the rhyming scheme.
- Develop Your Writing Style
We all have a writing style. Ke$ha, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga have their unique writing styles; their songs are tailored to them.
I have teamed up with singer/songwriters who have a different style than me, and our differences produced some great songs. We’re artists – we’re not meant to be cookie-cutter or placed into boxes, no matter what people think. Staying true to yourself, and your personal style is key. Someone who writes a song for Britney, might not be able to write a song for Adele, and that’s okay. Developing your personality, your style, and your “sound” is the most important thing in this industry.
So, there you have it. I gave you five steps to writing a hit pop song. Just remember, simplicity is the key to success. Don’t get discouraged if your song doesn’t sound the way you want it to. Just keep working to write a top 40 winning song.
Don’t forget to use quality music to compliment your lyrics. If you need a beat to write your next big hit to, check out the super high quality tracks created by the multi-platinum producers at Maxxbeats.com.
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Until next time…Keep Practicing.
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