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

Smile – Uncle Kracker

I really love the feel, the energy, and the emotion of this song. I guess a lot of other people do, too, because it’s a platinum-selling single that’s been at the top of both the Top 40 charts and the Country charts. It’s also a master class in how to express an abstract emotion in a concrete way that makes listeners, well… smile!


“Smile” recorded by Uncle Kracker
Writers: Jeremy Bose, Blair Daly, J Harding, Matthew Shafer

Lyrics are available on the Internet.
Shortcut # refers to my book “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting.”

GENRE
This song was a bit of a sleeper when it was first released in 2009  as an Adult Contemporary single, but came back with a roar in 2010 when it went to the top of the Country charts. It crossed over from Country and went back up the AC charts and this time it made it into the top ten!  Just goes to show: You can’t keep a good song down!

STRUCTURE
Here’s yet another excellent example of the VERSE / CHORUS / VERSE / CHORUS / BRIDGE / CHORUS hit song structure – the basic, contemporary structure that drives so many of today’s hit singles. This song has a catchy, emotionally uplifting chorus, a peak moment in the bridge, and verses that lay out the situation.

Don’t shy away from this common structure in songs of your own because you’re worried that you’ll end up sounding like everyone else. There are a million ways to make it your own. In this song, Verse 2 is shorter than Verse 1, cutting out the repeated melody at the beginning of the verse. The second chorus leads right into a fun, Beatles-style bridge with no pauses at all. Continue reading

The House That Built Me – Miranda Lambert

There are many reasons why this is an unlikely hit song and yet it found it’s way to the top spot on the Country charts and it’s rapidly becoming a standard. The song itself sounds more like an album cut than a hit; while the chorus has a beautiful payoff line at the end, it lacks the huge hooks and big emotional release that usually drives a song to #1. So let’s see what it has that makes people want to hear it.


Recorded by MIRANDA LAMBERT
Writers: Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin

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

THEME
This song explores an emotion we’ve all felt: a yearning to go back to the place where we grew up, to reconnect with the sense of security or simpler times we once knew, especially when our lives are troubled. There’s tremendous appeal in this theme and it’s handled well here. We’re right there with the singer as she knocks on the door, talks to the people who live in the house, and describes the things that happened there as she grew up, all the while hinting at the troubles that have driven her back home to try to heal. Continue reading

Why Don’t We Just Dance – Josh Turner

Josh was looking for Country hits for his new album and found this one through a Nashville publisher. I know a lot of songwriters who pitched for this so it’s interesting to hear what the artist finally chose.


Recorded by JOSH TURNER
Writers: Singleton / Beavers / Brown

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

RHYTHMIC FEEL
I want to start this song analysis with the underlying rhythmic groove of this song. It’s a shuffle. (Count 1-and-uh, 2-and-uh, 3-and-uh, 4-and-uh.) This is an old-fashioned groove you just don’t hear in today’s hit songs. Mid-tempo shuffles have a laid back, down-and-dirty feel. The lyric says, “Hey, let’s just dance” and, with this beat, you get the idea that the dancing is probably on the sexy side.

Grooves are essentially physical things; they “speak” to the body. Try dancing along with this track and feel how it makes your body move. This is an important aspect of the song that we’re not consciously aware of but makes a big difference in how we experience it. Continue reading