This hit song by Matt Nathanson has had over a million and a half downloads at iTunes. Nathanson’s songs are regularly featured in TV shows like One Tree Hill, The Vampire Diaries, and NCIS. He writes songs that come from the heart and connect with listeners by being both totally believable and completely entertaining.
Recorded by Matt Nathanson
Writers: Matt Nathanson, Mark Weinberg
Lyrics are available on the internet.
Shortcut # refers to my book “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting.”
One of the things that attracted me right away to this song is the hip-swaying, easy-going rhythmic groove. There’s a sensual feel to this groove that underscores the intimate physicality of the lyric. If you play guitar, try playing along with this song and learn the strum he’s using. You can hear it clearly at the top of the song. If you play keyboards, look through a library of rhythm loops for one that has a similar feel and try playing the chords along with the loop. This type of groove (based on 16th notes with a laid-back, swinging feel) is very current in both the Pop and Country genres (Shortcut #113). Try writing a song to a groove like this. Once you get comfortable with it, you’ll start to notice how this groove affects the melody you write. More on that in a minute.
The song features a solid Verse / Pre-chorus / Chorus structure with a vocal bridge after the second chorus. The pre-chorus begins with the line “If I could walk on water…” and consists of the same lyric both times it is sung. Nathanson varies the melody on the second line of Verse 2 which adds some energy. Overall, this is a very hypnotic song that uses a lot of repetition. It has an almost trance-like feel.
The opening lines draw us in with very physical, sensual language. We can feel the “rush,” hear the breathing out and breathing in. Nathanson is using all the senses to describe how the singer feels about this person. These are poetic lines; they use phrases that evoke a feeling (“the rush of your skin” “the still of the silence”) rather than making statements like “I think about you all the time.” By making us feel what he feels, we become involved in what’s going on without even realizing it.
The chorus continues to involve the senses creating a unified feel to the whole lyric. The language is filled with physically suggestive words like “loosen,” “lips,” “desire,” “swing,” “hips,” “pull me down,” “drown” that keep the listener focused on the physical relationship between these two people. (Shortcut #58 and #59.)
I also notice that the chorus consists of four lines that are repeated. This is risky; listeners might lose interest. But there are enough intriguing images and action phrases in these four short lines (“pull me down hard,” “drown me in love,” “swing of your hips”)to keep us watching and listening.
The second verse continues with more fresh, evocative language. Then the bridge lyric literally gives the song a peak moment! The intimate, physical quality of the language becomes almost explicit then backs away by adding the word “on” at the end of the fourth line.This is a very sexy song but it never crosses a certain line that the songwriter has set.
Verse: The first three lines of each verse begin on the upbeat (the “and”) after Beat 1. Starting on an upbeat, which is a very weak beat, gives the verse melody a sense of being up in the air, unsettled and slightly off-kilter. Notice that on the fourth line, Nathanson turns things around and emphasizes Beat 1 (“you” and “I”) to create some variety and keep listeners interested (Shortcut #78).
Pre-Chorus: The pre-chorus lines all emphasize Beat 1, even though the first two lines have a couple of syllables that act as a short pick-up (“If I could…”). This is where that wonderful groove interacts with the melody. These pick-up notes are short and fast. (They’re 16th notes, like the underlying groove). These brief pickups begin to build energy leading to the chorus. This is a great trick you can use in your own pre-choruses. Increase the energy of your melody by adding pick-ups or quick phrases as you build anticipation going into your chorus (Shortcut #81).
Chorus: The chorus melody settles into Beat 1 comfortably with just a little anticipation on the fourth and last line (“And drown me in love”). The melody makes use of the 16th-note feel in phrases like “So, come on get…” and “loosen my lips” in which the pace of the notes parallels the groove. It’s catchy and singable with lots of rhythmic bounce.
Notice that the chorus melody has plenty of forward momentum created by eliminating pauses between lines. Every line flows right into the next with barely time for a quick breath. As with many of today’s hits, the end of the chorus flows right into the beginning for the second verse. Again, we’re looking at creating forward momentum in the song, keeping listeners involved and interested.
DO IT NOW!
The chords of this songs are repetitive and easy to play. Try learning to play and sing this song to get a feel for this very appealing groove, then write a song of your own with this feel.
by Robin Frederick
Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Reprints by permission.
This post is based on my books Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting and Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV. In each book you’ll find over one hundred useful, real-world shortcuts that will show you how to craft songs that work for today’s music market, plus dozens of hands-on exercises to get your creative ideas flowing.