For any songwriter, uniqueness is a crucial pursuit. Why would you want to write something that sounds like some other song out there, no matter how good it is?
In every song you write, you need to hope that there’s something unique about it so that your fans can tell that it’s you they’re listening to, not some other singer-songwriter out there.
Hooks are vital to the integrity of most pop songs. But what are the most important characteristics of the best song hooks? “Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” shows you how to make them work in your own songs.
Most of the time uniqueness happens easily in performance. But let’s move even further back, before the song gets performed. You want some uniqueness at the actual writing stage as well. And ideally, you’d like to choose a topic for your song that’s not been done to death.
But unique song topics are hard to find, because practically everything that’s interesting enough to write about has been written about before.
So what do you do? The first thing is to stop worrying about being unique with your song’s topic, and start focusing on ways you can be unique with your take on a song’s topic.
That touch of uniqueness doesn’t need to be much. Your song’s topic might be how much you love someone, which covers more than half the songs ever written. But all it needs is a bit of your own angle on the topic:
- “Nikita” (Elton John-Bernie Taupin). Common topic: Man loves someone he can’t have. Elton’s take: the other person is a communist East German border guard.
- “Uprising” (Matt Bellamy of ‘Muse’). Common topic: Freedom of the people is vital. Bellamy’s take: an ode to the protesters at the 2008 G20 summit.
- “Solsbury Hill” (Peter Gabriel). Common topic: Need to move my life in a new direction. Gabriel’s take: a poetic metaphor of an eagle coming to ‘take the singer home’
You get the idea: if you write a love song where the most poignant message is simply that you love someone, but you haven’t given any other kind of image to plant in the listeners’ musical brains, you’ve really not done anything to distinguish your song from hundreds or thousands of others out there.
So coming up with a unique song topic may not give you what you’re really looking for, because if a topic itself is too unique, it may not make the emotional connection to your listeners you’re looking for.
It’s far better to choose a more commonplace topic and then spend more time thinking of your own unique take on that topic.