How to get an audience thinking what and how you want them to think.
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As a song moves from one section to another (e.g., from verse to chorus, chorus to bridge, etc.), several things change with respect to the way you write the lyrics. You’ll want to make note of two things in particular:
- The kinds of things you write about will vary depending on where in the song you are;
- The kinds of words you use will depend on whether they’re verse, chorus or bridge words.
It’s almost always the case that verse lyrics are the toughest to write, and the reason for that pertains to those two points just listed. A verse lyric is going to develop the storyline, the circumstance and/or the general theme of your story. That’s got to be done in a way that stimulates the imagination. So the difficulty with writing a good verse lyric is that you’ve got to give the listener creatively-constructed images that spark the imagination while telling a story. That’s point number 1. The kinds of things you’ll write about in a verse need to be unveiling an interesting story with a captivating topic or theme.
Contrast that with the kinds of things you’ll write about in a chorus. The chorus is not where you’ll usually amplify a story line. In fact, it’s where you’ll usually describe an emotional response to the story. If you think of the verse as pulling your listener into your narrative using images and descriptions, the chorus is where you emote alongside the listener.
The second point listed above naturally flows from point number 1. The chorus will use different kind of words, the kind that are meant to elicit a passionate kind of response from the listener. By using effective imagery in the verse, your chorus uses exclamations (“Ooh”, “yeah”, “Oh”, etc.), and words that refer directly to emotions (“I love you…”, “I’d do anything…”, “I can’t live without you…”, etc.).
A textbook demonstration of this comes from Lennon & McCartney’s “She Loves You“, where the verse tells the story (“You think you’ve lost your love/ Well, I saw her yesterday/ It’s you she’s thinking of…”), while the chorus gets you to emote along with the singer (“She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah…”).
A more recent example from Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” shows how the verse can still describe emotions while pulling the listener along through the story.
Easy come, easy go That's just how you live, oh Take, take, take it all But you never give Should've known you was trouble...
I'd catch a grenade for you (yeah, yeah, yeah) Throw my hand on a blade for you (yeah, yeah, yeah) I'd jump in front of a train for you (yeah, yeah, yeah)
One of the most important aspects of what you see in good lyrics is the common, everyday nature of the words used. Even lyricists known for the excellent lyrics understand that if you want to make a connection to the audience, you need to use the kinds of words you’d hear spoken in the local Walmart. If you’re trying to find a way to fit “acrimonious” into your lyric, you’re dangerously close to losing your audience.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.
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