The best lyrics are the ones that create an emotional response in the listener. That means that the words you choose, and the way you put those words together, becomes extremely important.
Songwriters are very familiar with the chorus hook, but there are other kinds to experiment with, and you will want to discover the power of layering various kinds of hooks in the same song. “Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base“ shows you how it’s done.
Songwriters are very familiar with the concept of the lame lyric. A lyric that’s lame means specifically that the word choices, and the way they’re assembled, sound unnatural and/or forced.
Sometimes you can tell that a lyric sounds lame, but identifying the problem might be difficult. If you’ve written a lyric that sounds weak, check out the following list of problems and solutions. It may help you get your lyric back on track.
- The lyric doesn’t sound conversational. A good lyric should sound as if it’s been extracted from a conversation, where the word choices and combinations sound casual. Sometimes the fix is achieved by removing unnecessary words, and sometimes it’s good to write several versions of the same line, picking the one that sounds most natural.
- The lyric sounds unfocused. Occasionally a lyric sounds lame because it’s not easy to tell what’s even being sung about. The fix can come from writing a short story before writing the lyric. This allows you to get a better flow and focus in the writing of your words.
- Word choices sound dated. This is a tricky one, because you’ll obviously be choosing words, one would think, that are in common usage for the time it’s written. The danger more comes from exclamations and fad-ish call–outs that quickly sound tired or dated (“groovy”, for example). It’s usually possible to make a good guess at the phrases that will soon sound aged, and simply avoid them.
- Too many clichés. It’s impossible to avoid them entirely, but the problem occurs when they become a regular feature of the lyric. Sometimes an occasional cliché will express exactly what you want to say, but overuse of idiomatic expressions will sound lazy to an audience, and definitely goes a long way to making a lyric sound corny.
- The song’s topic seems uninteresting or forced. Writing about how no one will dance with you at the party can sound lame, even cringy, if that’s all you’re really saying. Your audience deserves better thoughts and insight from you. Go deeper!
So many problems with a song’s lyric can be addressed by starting your songwriting process with the writing a short story. That 1- or 2-page story will give your eventual lyric some focus, a list of vocabulary, and a sense of flow that’s crucial for any good lyric.
“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook bundle comes with a free copy of “Use Your Words! Developing a Lyrics-First Songwriting Process,” along with a Study Guide. Learn how to make the writing of a good lyric the starting point for your own songwriting method.