A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article called “Writing Good Songs – The Predictability Factor,” and in that essay I mentioned that there needs to be an ideal balance between elements that are predictable and elements that are innovative. “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” is almost all predictable, but still works brilliantly.
Part of the predictability factor of this song comes from the formal design. There are no surprises here: it’s a typical verse-chorus-bridge design:
The real charm of this song is its lyric, and that is also quite predictable: The father is worried that his little girl cries as a baby, and hangs off of his leg when being taken to school. He’s being assured that “it won’t be like this for long.” But soon, he’ll discover that this little girl is going to grow up, and he’s going to miss all of those little times when he was able to comfort his daughter. And perhaps in comforting his daughter, he was really comforting himself.
So what’s innovative about this song?
Nothing much. The design is one that’s used often; the lyric is unique, but not innovative. The chord progressions are predictable: mostly strong changes.
But it’s a brilliant reminder that when you’ve got a strong element (lyric/story), you can ride that lyric like it’s a wave. Give the listeners exactly what they’re expecting. The listener, in a song like this, doesn’t want to be taken on an innovative journey. They want to be taken on an emotional journey. They can tell where those lyrics are headed, and it’s exactly where they want to go.
So don’t assume that every song you write has to be innovative in every way. If you’ve got a strong element in your song, as the lyric is in this song, let it do its work, and don’t clutter it up with other things that just confuse or distract the listener. Let your next song be innovative if you need it to be. In short, decide what your song’s attractive feature is, and let it do its work.