Creating a powerful rock anthem is not so much about you or me – it’s about WE.
We usually rate the quality of the music we hear by the quality of the lyrics. In songwriting, the imagery that comes from well-crafted lyrics is everything. The more a song lyric speaks to us, the more it makes us say, “Yes, that’s exactly how I feel”, or “Yes, I remember feeling that way before.”
Good lyrics have a way of pulling us into a song, creating images in our mind that go beyond the simple definitions of the words we’re hearing. Tell someone how you feel, and you can make an important point. Sing to someone about how you feel, and you’ve got the ability to grab their heart.
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When you sing a love song, you’re singing about you. And the hope is that in doing so, the listener hears the words as their own.
There’s a different kind of power that comes from singing about “us”. The power of “we” in a song is that listeners suddenly feel like part of an identifiable crowd, a crowd that has a message that needs to be heard:
- “We don’t need no education…”
- “We will rock you…”
- “All we are saying is give peace a chance…”
- “We’re not gonna take it…”
The power of ‘we’ in music is that the individual listener doesn’t feel that they’ve been sidelined or isolated. They feel empowered. By writing about ‘we’ in your songs, you’re essentially creating an anthem. One of the most important aspects of anthem writing is the creation of a message that, while applicable to a specific group of people, has a universal message with broad popular appeal.
If you want to create a song with great ‘we’ power, here are some important tips and suggestions:
- Create a lyric that focuses on ethics, morals, or even just general jubilation. Anthem-like lyrics can also speak to religious, political or social issues.
- Think about tempo choice and how it relates to your song’s topic. Songs that speak to social justice, ethics or morals tend to use slower tempos (70 – 100 bpm), while songs of the jubilation or political-statement sort tend to be faster, 120 – 136 bpm. (Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World“, for example)
- You often find that anthem-style music in slower tempos use a larger chord-set.
- If you’re trying to create a strong message where the lyric is trying to sting a bit, repeated-note melodies really get the job done. “Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World”, again, is a good example.
- For anthems that have a power-ballad style, a pre-chorus is a nice addition, since pre-chorus melodies generally work upward, generating energy.
For a song to really hit home as an important anthem, ‘we’ becomes an important word. Even if it’s not implicitly stated, the lyric usually needs to make the listener feel that they are standing together with others, singing the song together.
The power of ‘we’ results in an audience wanting to sing the song together, and that’s the crucial element of an anthem.
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