For many songs in the pop genres, creating the title is a bit of a no-brainer. You simply take the bit of lyric that comes along with the chorus hook or refrain, the bit that repeats probably more than any other bits, and there’s your title:
- “Happy” (Pharrell Williams)
- “Just Give Me a Reason” (Pink, Jeff Bhasker, Nate Ruess)
- “What’s Love Got to Do With It” (Terry Britten, Graham Lyle)
- “Un-break My Heart” (Diane Warren)
- “That’s What I Like” (Bruno Mars et al)
That’s not the only way to create song titles, though, and so it’s worth taking the time to consider other ways of doing it. You might think that the actual title doesn’t hold a lot of importance when it comes to the success of a song. Surely whatever is happening in the song is more important.
Of course, there’s truth to that. But a well-written song title that goes beyond what the chorus hook offers can stimulate the imagination of the listener, and make them just a bit more curious.
First, song titles, no matter how we come up with them, should exhibit the following:
- Create a strong image in the mind of the person who sees it or hears it. Ex: “Blood On the Rooftops” – Steve Hackett, Phil Collins
- Make the listener curious. (“Radioactive”)
- Offer lots of possibilities for storylines. (“Paparazzi”)
A song title often plays a vital role in the actual writing of the song. It’s a great way to get the process started:
- Create a list of song titles. Don’t worry if you don’t know what you’d do with these titles. you’re just looking for words and word combinations that offer a lot of ideas for the creation of the lyric.
- Choose one title that most stimulates your imagination.
- Create word lists that provide the vocabulary for your song. You might consider creating two lists, one list that offers bits of possible stories, narratives and descriptions, and a second list comprised mainly of emotional reactions. These two lists will provide the main parts of your verse and optional bridge (list 1) and your chorus (list 2).
If your temptation is to always choose the chorus hook as your song title, consider an alternative idea: look for a line or a word in your lyric, one in which perhaps;
- the story takes an interesting turn;
- the line or word evokes a strong image;
- the line or word sets your song quite apart from other songs in the same genre; (“Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” – Crash Test Dummies)
When all is said and done, the best song titles are going to be easy to remember, make sense to an audience once they recall the song, and stimulate our imagination. If titles have always been an unimportant part of your songwriting process, it might be time to give them a bit more thought.
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