I’m not a photographer (not a good one, anyway), but I’d rather see photos with people in them than without, no matter how exciting the landmark is that I’m shooting. The simple reason is that we make connections to people more so than to inanimate objects.
That’s where photography and songwriting intersect; both use people as a key ingredient to enjoyment. In good photography, we feel the emotions of the people in the picture, so we ask the subjects to do something simple: we ask them to smile. We hope that the people looking at the photo will, if not smile back, at least feel happy.
And in songwriting, we write about things that we think will generate an emotional connection with the listener. So we write about love, about parties, about friendship and so on. We might write about sad things as well, like the death of a loved one, let’s say, but it’s the same thing: we’re writing about an experience that we all face at one point or another, and we’re hoping for an emotional connection.
Once in a while, however, you want a photo without people, and software exists that can remove people from shots of famous landmarks. Here’s one of the Taj Mahal where the people have been removed by software:
I get a funny feeling when I see that photo, or any other famous landmark where all the people have been removed. There’s something sterile about it, something lonely. For me, part of what makes a shot of a famous landmark meaningful is seeing all the people.
I think about that whenever I think about our jobs as songwriters. It doesn’t matter how clever your lyrics are, how amazing your melody is, how unique your chords are, how flashy the instrumental tracks are — if they aren’t making a connection to people, there’s something sterile about them.
Clever lyrics, amazing melodies, great chords and excellent instrumental tracks are very important. But they’re only important if they support the notion of making a connection to the audience.
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