One Song, Three Lyrics: How to Get Your Words to Work For You

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.

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Singer - LyricsA week or so ago I wrote an article about the word “progression,” and how it’s really got to apply to every aspect of your writing. Progression is what makes a song feel like it’s pulling the listener along, making the listener want to keep listening. That applies to your song’s lyrics as well. There are three kinds of lyrics within songs, and you’ve got to get the order right.

The three types of lyrics you’ll usually write within a song are:

  1. Verse lyrics;
  2. Chorus lyrics;
  3. Bridge (or other miscellaneous “3rd” section).

Verse lyrics will set up a story and/or describe a situation. It is the song’s narrative, a recounting of events.

Chorus lyrics are different. They express emotions, give answers, and explain why things are the way they are. In short, they take the situations from the verse and put an emotional face on them.

Bridge lyrics fragment and blend both approaches. A typical bridge lyric will describe a situation, then immediately offer an emotional response as a way of heightening song energy.

This sort of lyrical approach should be your approach whether you write pop, jazz, folk, metal, or pretty much any other style.

Here’s some of the verse lyric of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me”. As with any good verse, it describes situations and sets up a recounting of events:

You’re on the phone with your girlfriend, She’s upset
She’s going off about something that you said
She doesn’t get your humour like I do

I’m in the room, its a typical Tuesday night
I’m listening to the kind of music she doesnt like
And she’ll never know your story like I do…

The chorus lyric then does what it needs to do: offering an outpouring of passion, putting an emotional face on the lyric of the verse:

If you could see that I’m the one who understands you
Been here all along so why can’t you see?
You belong with me
You belong with me..

The bridge then alternates quickly between scenarios and emotional responses:

Oh I remember you driving to my house in the middle of the night
I’m the one who makes you laugh when you know you’re about to cry

It’s a simple formula, and the benefit of this kind of lyrical construction is that the listener has a need to hear the emotional response once a situation is described. By structuring your lyrics this way, you’ve got a built-in device for pulling the listener along, and even making them want to come back to the song over and over again.

And one final, important point: Every word of the lyric of “You Belong With Me” is a basic, everyday word. It’s not brilliant poetry – it’s a basic lyric that uses common words that everyone would use, and that simplicity hooks the listener.
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