Play It Again – Luke Bryan

There are always a whole lotta party-all-night, feel-good songs on the Country music charts, especially in the summer. It’s a theme with tons of appeal for Country listeners.

The songwriting on all these hits is solid, of course, but, after a while you might start to notice a certain same-ness to the lyrics. They all seem to have pickup trucks, beer, and girls in shorts. So, wouldn’t it be cool if you could  write a hit song with this commercially appealing theme and set yourself a little apart from the crowd? Let’s take a look at a  Country hit that does exactly that.

“Play It Again,” the summer 2014 hit song recorded by Luke Bryan, has the required tailgate and girl in shorts but the song brings this girl to life in a way that’s vivid and believable. You get a real sense of both the singer’s character and the girl’s. The song plays out like a series of scenes, fun to watch and easy to get caught up in.

Take a listen to the song on YouTube. I chose a video with lyrics rather than images so you can run your own mental movie while you listen. Notice how the song paints pictures for you.

Artist: Luke Bryan
Writers: Dallas Davidson & Ashley Gorley
The Shortcut numbers below refer to specific chapters in my books “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film/TV”).

GENRE/STYLE

The genre is Contemporary Country. (What is a genre?)

SONG STRUCTURE
The song structure is…
VERSE / PRE-CHORUS / CHORUS
VERSE / PRE-CHORUS / CHORUS
BRIDGE / CHORUS Continue reading

I Drive Your Truck – Lee Brice

A good story has long been one of the hallmarks of a great Country song and today’s Country hits are stuffed full of vivid characters and details. But sometimes, in all the clever word-smithing, we  forget that every great story has emotion at its heart. The best songs are driven by the singer’s feelings.

Here’s a Country hit that packs a huge emotional punch, Lee Brice’s “I Drive Your Truck.”  Listen to the song, then read about it and learn how it draws listeners in and keeps them involved. You’ll also find out how you can use some of those same songwriting techniques in songs of your own.


Recorded by Lee Brice
Writers: Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, and Jimmy Yeary

You can read the lyric here.
The Shortcut numbers below refer to specific chapters in my books “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film/TV”).

GENRE/STYLE: Contemporary Country.  Both lyric and melody have a current style that’s very Country-radio-friendly.

SONG STRUCTURE: 
The song structure is…

VERSE / PRE-CHORUS /  CHORUS
VERSE / PRE-CHORUS / CHORUS
BRIDGE / CHORUS

The chorus begins with the title line: “I drive your truck…” creating a powerful emotional release and memorable hook. Continue reading

You Belong With Me – Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift says she got the inspiration for this song when she overheard a male friend arguing with his girlfriend over the phone. You’ll see how this idea even ended up in the video. 🙂 Just goes to show that songwriting themes are all around you. Keep your ears open!

I promise you’ll learn new songwriting techniques from this huge Country/Pop hit that you’ll be putting to use in your own songs for months and years to come. The lyric details and melodic twists are exciting, fun, and an essential part of today’s hit songs in all genres.


Recorded by Taylor Swift
Writers: Liz Rose & Taylor Swift
Lyrics are available online.
The “Shortcut” numbers refer to specific chapters in my book Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting.

GENRE (What is a genre?)
This song is a perfect example of the Pop/Country Crossover style that works for both  Country and AC (Adult Contemporary) radio. It reached the #1 spot on both music charts. Why? Well, it has a  melody that features the fun twists you would currently hear in a chart-topping Pop song by an artist like Kelly Clarkson and all the lyric detail you would hear in a Country hit. Read the Melody and Lyric sections below to find out how to use these tools in songs of your own. Continue reading

Tattoos On This Town – Jason Aldean

“Tattoos On This Town” recorded by Jason Aldean
Songwriters: Michael Dulaney, Wendell Mobley, Neil Thrasher

First of all, let’s take a look at this amazing song title – “Tattoos on This Town.” It’s a tremendous example of a short phrase that can support and inspire an entire song. It’s unique and fresh, and immediately made me wonder what the song would be about. Before even hearing the song, listeners are bound to ask: “What does this phrase mean?”

When you have an intriguing title like this, you’ve got to answer the questions it brings up and do it in a way that’s creative, yet clear and understandable. That’s just what these writers did: A tattoo is a permanent mark on the skin. The first line of the chorus is “It sure left its mark on us…” Got it! The town left its mark on the singer. The title is tied right into the lyric. But the writers went further: the images in the lyric show us the marks the singer and his friends left on the town. The whole song is framed by the title and satisfying the questions it brings up for listeners. (For more on answering the questions the title asks, read Shortcut #44.)


You can find the lyrics to this song online.
Shortcut # refer to my book “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting.”

GENRE
The genre is Contemporary Country. It’s a style that blends the melodic Rock sound of the 1970s with today’s songwriting techniques – vivid lyrics and melodies with a lot of forward momentum. We’ll take a look at both of these in a minute. Continue reading

Here – Rascal Flatts

There are so many great things going on in this Country hit that it’s well worth spending some time looking into what makes it tick. The melody is tight, well-structured, and unforgettable. Lyrics are focused like a laser on the emotion at the heart of the song.


“Here” recorded by Rascal Flatts
Writers: Steve Robson & Jeffrey Steele

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

SONG STRUCTURE
The song structure is the one that’s used in so many of today’s hit singles:<

VERSE / PRE-CHORUS / CHORUS
VERSE / PRE-CHORUS / CHORUS
BRIDGE / FINAL CHORUS

The chorus begins with the line “And I wouldn’t change a thing…” and ends with an emotional payoff in the final phrase “here, right here.” Notice how this phrase is set up with a short pause that gives it more weight and draws attention to it (Shortcut #96).

The pre-choruses both begin with the phrase, “I know now…” The bridge flows right out of the second chorus so it’s a little harder to spot. It actually starts with the last word of the chorus (and the title of the song): “here… in a love I never thought I’d get to.” The word “here” does double duty as the end of the chorus and beginning of the bridge, a great way to keep the song flowing forward and pull the listener right into the bridge. Try this idea in one of your own songs as a transition between sections. Continue reading