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Songs that get the most attention in practically any genre you can name, as well as in any era you can think of, are love songs. Songs about love still top the charts. It’s not because they’re love songs that they do so well — that’s not my point. It’s just that after tens of thousands of songs about love, we don’t get tired of hearing about it.
We love feeling great about it, sad about it, frustrated, intrigued and downright depressed about it. And because love is a universal experience for all humans, we’ll always have an audience that understands it.
It’s always a winner for a song category because you can always bet successfully that your listeners are going to be of the same mind about love. They like when love goes right, and hurt when love goes wrong.
Audiences love hearing about love when it’s great. And here’s the thing: they like hearing about love going wrong, too, as long as it’s not too drippy and whiny. So as a song topic, the general theme of love is a good one. And assuming I’m writing this blog 100 years from now (I will be, won’t I?), love songs will still top the charts.
But writing love songs presents good songwriters with a challenge: how to write a love song that has a unique approach. Is it possible, you could ask, to write about love in a way that doesn’t sound like it’s all been said before?
The short answer to that question is yes, but the longer answer is a little more complicated. As with everything in musical composition, being unique needs to be balanced carefully with being predictable, in the most positive sense of that word.
Here are some things to keep in mind when writing love songs that will resonate with your audience:
- Keep the story relevant. The story doesn’t need to be complicated to be unique, but needs to make a listener feel, “I’ve been there.”
- Avoid emoting without a story. Don’t start love songs (whether it’s love gone right or love gone wrong), with an emotional response to something that hasn’t been said yet (or isn’t about to be said).
- Keep emotional responses mainly a feature of the chorus, not the verse. Use the verse to set up a circumstance or describe a situation.
- Verse 2 can be more emotional than verse 1. You’ve already outlined important emotional details, so allow more emotion to come forward as the song progresses.
- It’s OK for bridge lyrics to be more emotional than chorus lyrics. This is especially true if the bridge completes the song’s lyrics, and finishes up important story lines (which it usually does).
- Love is a category, not a topic. So dig down into the category by making word lists and find a compelling story. That story needs something unique about it, so that even though it comes across as a love song, it’s got something about it that others won’t have heard anywhere else.
Every era has classic love songs that really connect. It’s always a good idea to listen to your favourites, and, from a songwriter’s perspective, ask: “Why do I care so much about this song, and why do I keep playing it?” To get your creative juices flowing, check out these huge love song hits that still make an impact today. Some are clever, some fluffy, and others somewhere in between:
- Always On My Mind. The word “were” in the lyric is incredibly powerful. Think of how much less enticing the song would have been if he’d written “You are always on my mind…” The word “were” allows the despair to make a powerful impact.
- We Found Love (Rihanna). This song, whether you love it or hate it, makes the point that it takes very little to create a song that presents something enticing. The notion of a “hopeless place” is very enticing to most people, as if it’s a victory for the downtrodden.
- Let Me Love You (Mario). Everyone connects with a pleading guy trying to get the girl.
- Fly Me To The Moon. Recorded hundreds of times by hundreds of performers, this lyric is a perfect demonstration of the beauty and power of imagery and metaphor.
- God Only Knows (The Beach Boys). What can you say about this song? Only androids can listen to it and not be affected.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.
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