“Dynamite” is a Club Dance track that crossed over to the Pop/Dance charts big time! The song has a hot, hot HOT track. The song rides on top of a solid, rock-steady groove adding a vocal melody filled with catchy hooks and a fun lyric.
Recorded by Taio Cruz
Writers: Levin / McKee /Martin /Adetayo / Onile / Gottwald
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.
The Club Dance genre features irresistible, infectious grooves that get people out on the dance floor. Vocal melodies have plenty of rhythmic interest, using syncopation and repetition. Lyrics sometimes consist of no more than “let’s dance, get out on the floor “but for a song to crossover to the Pop charts, as this one certainly did, you’ll need to give the lyrics a little more personality and attitude.
In this genre, the lyrics and melody together are referred to as the “top-line.” The top-line is usually written after the instrumental track is roughed out or even completed. A good track producer will make sure that the top-line writer has a clear verse and chorus structure to work with. A few artists who are successful in this genre are Taio Cruz, Lady Gaga, Ellie Goulding, Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, David Guetta, and Calvin Harris.
The structure is:
CHORUS / VERSE / PRE-CHORUS / CHORUS
VERSE / PRE-CHORUS / CHORUS
BRIDGE / CHORUS
The song opens with the chorus: “I throw my hands up in the air…” You don’t hear that very often in other mainstream genres but in Dance styles it’s fairly common. Here you don’t need a verse to set up the singer’s situation. In a song like this one, we’re at the club and that’s all you need to know! 🙂
The verses (“I came to dance, dance, dance…”) start on a low note and circle around it for three lines. There’s a simple, rising two-line pre-chorus (“‘Cause it goes on and on and on…”). The melody hits the highest note at the top of the chorus (“I throw my hands up in the air…”), followed by the catchiest lines of the song (“Sayin’ Ayo. Gotta let go.) Everybody remembers the “ayo” line! I’d call that the hook, for sure, even though it’s not the actual title of the song.
The chorus develops further after the first four lines, which is a little bit of a surprise. Maybe a short, four-line chorus didn’t offer enough energy and release for the dance crowd, so they kept it going. Notice that this song, like many dance hits, lists several people (six) as co-writers. In this case, the list includes Dr. Luke, one of the hottest producers working today. He would never let this song settle into a second verse without making the chorus work HARD!
The chorus ends with the title, before swooping down an octave to start the second verse immediately. No four-bar instrumental break here! Try this in one of your own songs to see if it works: Go straight from the chorus into the second verse without stopping.
This song has a vocal bridge (“I’m gonna take it all…”) that sits right in the mid-range notes and sets itself apart from the chorus with a smoother, more sustained melody and a very different set of chords.The majority of today’s mainstream hit songs have vocal bridges. The listener wants the singer to remain front and center! If you’ve got a killer guitar player, save the big instrumental breaks for the album version of your song. Release a radio edit as your single.
Melodies for this genre require a solid hook in the chorus. It’s gotta be something catchy and instantly memorable. In this song, Cruz sings a line that almost sounds like a nursery rhyme, it’s so easy and predictable (“Sayin’ Ayo. Gotta let go.”) The verses have plenty of rhythmic interest, so the chorus can afford to do something obvious like this. You might want to try a rhythm twist in or near the hook—add a pause where we don’t expect it or drop it on an unusual beat, maybe even an upbeat—to keep listeners involved. But keeping it simple and catchy comes first. (For more on hook melodies, read “Hit” Shortcut #83.)
Lyrics in the this genre tend to feature “get out on the dance floor” imagery (for obvious reasons), party themes, or “girl, you’re lookin’ good” lines. It’s tough to write this type of lyric and sound original. In “Dynamite,” the writers got around this by using fresh rhymes and repeating words we don’t expect (“brands, brands, brands”). Lady Gaga rewrote the book on Dance lyrics by using unique images (“Poker Face”) and featuring stories that have some social significance (“Born This Way” and “Just Dance’) rather than the typical dance floor stuff. Consider taking a look at her songs for ideas on how to approach lyrics in this style.
PITCHING DANCE SONGS
If you’re going to pitch a song in this genre, it needs to be something the producer and artist can’t write themselves or haven’t thought of. Aim for an upbeat feel with a fresh approach to your theme and a powerful, catchy melody/lyric hook. If you’re an artist in this genre, look for a way to establish a unique identity with your lyrics and voice. (See Shortcuts #49, #53, and #54 in “Film/TV.”) Vocals can be auto-tuned but the tuning needs to be handled as part of the music/rhythm of the song itself, not just pitch correction. (“Dynamite” provides some excellent examples.)
The film and TV market needs dance tracks for club scenes and party scenes! A strong hook with a party or good time twist can be very useful in this market. LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” has already been used several times. And the Black Eyed Peas ‘I Gotta Feelin'” is the party song that keeps on giving! (For more on film and TV uses of this type of song, see the interview with Crucial Music founder Tanvi Patel in “Film/TV.” It’s Shortcut #109.)
The top-line writer (lyric and melody) usually splits the writer royalties with the music producer since both production and top-line are essential to the song. In other words, in this genre, the melody and lyrics alone do not constitute a complete song. The track writer/producer is at least an equal partner. Collaborations are very common in this genre. You’ll frequently see five or six co-writers on these songs. If you’re thinking about getting into the Pop/Dance field, look around for a track producer who understands the value of melody and lyrics, especially the importance of a great hook! Or… try the trick in the Do It Now section below.
DO IT NOW!
You don’t have to wait around for a collaborator before you can have a good time writing in the Dance genre! Check out this truly deep web site and create your own danceable, beat-driven track. Then record your vocal on top: buttonbeats.com. Click on “Instructions” in the navigation bar to learn how to capture your recording as an mp3.
If you have a music software app on your computer, chances are you have a library that includes loops of all kinds. After studying a few Dance hits, try creating a loop-based track, then work up a top-line.
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.