Do you ever feel that your songs aren’t making an emotional connection to your listeners? Making audiences feel something when they hear your music is a crucial part of success.
With every song that you write, most of the following four statements need to be true:
- You’ve written about personal experiences.
- You’ve written about people, places and events that are within most listeners’ world of experiences.
- You’ve set up emotion-evoking circumstances in the verse, and summed up your emotional response in the chorus.
- You’ve used a conversational tone in your lyrics.
When you look through your lyrics, you should see the words “I”, “my”, “your”, “we”, and other words that pertain to a personal experience. No two songs are the same, but it is safe to say that songs that really make a connection are the ones in which you are a central figure.
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You can’t demand that your listeners feel emotions. Having your listeners feel something is most easily achieved by placing yourself in the story and telling them what’s happening to you. By doing that, your audiences imagine themselves in the same situation, and — if it all works — they feel the emotions appropriate to the circumstance.
It can amaze you how simple a song topic can be. In Adele’s current hit, “Hello”, she’d like to reconnect with an old flame. Justin Bieber is describing how he’s made a lot of mistakes and would like to say he’s sorry.
Drake is singing about how he’s feeling left out of someone’s life who isn’t calling him anymore. And Selena Gomez is singing about how she feels lied to and hurt.
We can argue if those are examples of good songs or not. In my opinion, good songs need to do something a bit more clever than simply say “I feel hurt” for me to be interested for very long.
But the truth is that the overall topic of the world’s best songs doesn’t venture much beyond “I feel hurt”, or “I’m sorry”, or “I want to reconnect with you.” It’s what they do beyond the simplicity of that topic that makes them great. They play with words, use powerful imagery, affect us with great chord choices, and give us many layers of compositional elements to sift through.
Hopefully, as you write your songs, you’re looking for ways to be insightful and clever. You want your audience to feel that they’ve experienced something special when they hear your music.
But remember, no matter how witty or brilliant your songs are, they need to be personal, often with you as a central figure. You need to set up circumstances that create emotions, and you need to do all of that using simple, conversational words.
That’s what makes the connection between your music and your audience. That’s what makes them feel something, and it’s what keeps bringing them back to your songs.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 10-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics.
I agree, Gary. Personal experience can be pivotal in the success of a song. However, I feel that despite the best techniques, what lifts a song beyond the mundane is a great story. Lennon & McCartney’s “No Reply” comes to mind. Feeling hurt and loss of connection are indeed the nub of it, but it’s the story of how the singer finds out he’s no longer the one and his prediction of regret for the perfidious lover that engrosses the listener. All of this is of course supported by masterful compositional technique. 🙂
Thanks, Wayne. A great reminder that underneath it all, there needs to be something compelling to pull the listeners in.