Almost Lover – A Fine Frenzy

This song by A Fine Frenzy is a big favorite among fans of the youthful, star-crossed romantic singer-songwriter style. It’s a perfectly cut gem of a song with a personal, yet accessible lyric and a melody that gets stuck in your head.  It’s worth studying to learn how to write very personal lyrics that connect with listeners and create melodies that keep a slow-moving ballad compelling.

Moody, introspective songs like this one work well for film & TV. Songs by A Fine Frenzy have been featured in CSI:NY, Parenthood, House, The Vampire Diaries, Army Wives, and many, many more.

Here’s the official video on YouTube.

Recorded by A Fine Frenzy
Writer: Alison Sudol aka A Fine Frenzy
Read the lyric here.
The Shortcut numbers refer to specific chapters in my books Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting (“Hit”) and Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV (“Film/TV”).

GENRE/STYLELearn more about Genres.
This solo Singer-songwriter style has become so widespread, it’s often thought of as a genre of its own. This intimate song style features the vocalist front and center with fairly minimal backup instrumentation. The lyrics are personally revealing and emotional. Listeners feel that the singer is speaking honestly about his or her life experiences. Continue reading

All My Days – Alexi Murdoch

Alexi+MurdochHere’s a successful singer-songwriter song with simple production and an honest, moving lyric. Alexi Murdoch has sold over 50,000 CDs through CD Baby making him one of their biggest sellers of all time. He self-releases his music and has turned down several offers from major labels. Most of his sales came as a result of the film & TV uses of his songs.

You’ve probably heard his song “All My Days” without realizing it. It’s featured in a commercial for Sprint and has also been used in several TV series, including CSI, Scrubs, and The OC.


Recorded by ALEXI MURDOCH
Writer: Alexi Murdoch

Lyrics are available online.
Shortcut # refers to my book “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV.”

GENRE
The genre is Indie Singer-Songwriter, a style the film and TV market absolutely loves!

 There are many similarities to English folk revival and folk/rock artists such as Nick Drake, Sandy Denny, and John Martyn. The simplicity of the recording and intimate vocal style both owe much to the work of Nick Drake, an artist Murdoch has cited as an influence. Drake is another artist whose work was introduced to a broad audience through TV commercials and films.

SONG STRUCTURE
The structure is: VERSE / VERSE / VERSE / VERSE / TAG out.

This is a traditional folk song structure. The song doesn’t have a fully-developed chorus. Instead, it relies on a memorable, repeated refrain line – “All of my days” – after the first and third lines of each verse to provide the hook. Continue reading

King of Anything – Sara Bareilles

This song had a long run on the Adult Contemporary (AC) music charts. It has also been used in two popular TV series. Its fresh, insightful lyric paints a picture of a situation many listeners can identify with and the quirky melody is catchy and distinctive.

“King of Anything” recorded by Sara Bareilles
Writer: Sara Bareilles
Lyrics are available online here. Shortcut numbers refer to my books Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting (“Hit”) and Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV (“Film/TV”).

STRUCTURE
The song structure is:
VERSE / PRECHORUS / CHORUS
VERSE / CHORUS
BRIDGE / CHORUS

This song is a variation on a very popular hit song structure. Verse 1 is followed by a pre-chorus (“I hate to break it to you…”) then a chorus (“Who cares if you disagree…”). However, the song doesn’t have pre-chorus at the end of the second verse. Instead, the second verse goes directly to Chorus 2. This is followed by a bridge, then back for a couple repeats of the chorus to end the song. Possibly the second pre-chorus was cut in order to get to the second chorus sooner. The verses are quite long and the change in pace under the pre-chorus does seem to slow the forward momentum of the song.

MELODY
There are a lot of different tricks used in this melody to create an upbeat, catchy, fresh sound. The big attention-getter here is the unexpected jump up in the melody on the first word of the chorus (“Who…”). It’s used once more in the chorus – a good idea since listeners want to hear it again! Try a jump like this in one of your own melodies. It’s a great way to catch the listener’s ear! Continue reading

I’m Yours – Jason Mraz

Happy songs can be a real challenge to write. It’s so much easier to sound serious, deep, and interesting when you’re writing sad songs! Yup, everyone sounds cooler when they’re singing about a broken heart. So how do you write an upbeat, feel-good song that doesn’t end up sounding shallow and predictable? Let’s take a look at a great one and see if we can find out.


Written & Recorded by Jason Mraz
Writer: Jason Mraz

Lyrics are available on the internet.
Shortcut numbers refer to my book “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting.”

GENRE – Adult Contemporary
Jason Mraz’s No. 1 AC hit, “I’m Yours,” is a great example of an upbeat, happy song that still manages to convey depth in the lyrics and unexpected twists in the melody, keeping listeners involved from beginning to end. Not only was it a radio hit that’s still being played, it’s also been used in six different TV series.

SONG STRUCTURE
The song has an interesting structure:
VERSE / SHORT CHORUS
VERSE / FULL CHORUS
BRIDGE / VERSE / CHORUS

The final chorus is a duet with the background singers singing the chorus melody and Mraz repeating a verse. The chorus always begins with the line “I won’t hesitate no more, no more” and ends with the title in the payoff line, “I’m yours.” The first time we hear the chorus, he sings just the opening line and payoff line, dishing up the key lines from the chorus as a kind of appetizer. Continue reading

Poison and Wine – Civil Wars

Singer-songwriter duo The Civil Wars won the 2012 Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance and another for Best Folk Album. Joy WIlliams and Paul White were working as solo singer-songwriters before teaming up to create a unique blend that lets each of them shine. This is a great example of collaboration! They obviously share a love for folk music and were able to find a way to pool their talents and make a whole that’s different from their work as solo artists.

The emotional, atmospheric quality of the tracks makes them perfect for film and television. And indeed, “Poison & Wine” has been featured Grey’s Anatomy, Vampire Diaries, The Client List, Pretty Little Liars, 90210, and more. So let’s take a look.

Recorded by Civil Wars
Writers: Joy Williams & John Paul White

Lyrics are available on the Internet.
Shortcut numbers refer to my books “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film/TV”). Both are available at Amazon.com.

GENRE/STYLE: Folk/Indie Folk
Just as the 1960’s Folk song genre evolved from and altered the sound of an earlier Folk music tradition, so today’s Indie Folk style has morphed the ’60s sound into something new, more moody, personal, and passionate. This song is a great example of the current Folk style. The Civil Wars’ sound is a mix of ’60s folk a la Ian & Sylvia with a contemporary Indie edge that pushes the emotional aspect.

STRUCTURE
The song has a traditional folk song structure – as simple and straightforward as a genuine folk song from long ago. It consists of a four-line verse with a repeated refrain line at the end – “Oh I don’t love you but I always will”. (See “Hit” Shortcut #23.) To give a refrain line like this plenty of impact, be sure that the line is emotionally compelling and intriguing. This gives the singer something to work with and draws listeners into the heart of the song. Continue reading