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”).

The song structure is:

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.

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!

The melody phrases begin on different beats throughout the entire song giving it an unpredictable feel and a very conversational flow. This is the melody of speech… exaggerated! Learn more about using the melody of speech in your song.

There’s also a variety of line lengths in the verses – long phrases mixed with short ones – and plenty of contrast between choppy and smooth lines, especially when the melody moves into the pre-chorus and into the bridge.

If you’re interested in giving your melodies a contemporary twist, learn to play and/or sing this song. It will help you embed many of the melody writing techniques used by today’s most successful singer-songwriters! Find out more in Shortcuts 76, 89, 90, and 93 of Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting.

“King of Anything” is a title that has plenty of appeal. The complete title/hook line – “Who died and made you king of anything” – has attitude and energy while sounding natural and conversational. It’s just the kind of thing you’d say to someone who always seems to know what’s best for you! And that’s exactly the context in which it’s used in this song.

The situation and the singer’s personality come through in a lyric that’s part sarcasm, part humor, part anger. She does something we’ve all wanted to do at some point and it adds a lot of appeal to the song. One of the great advantages of being a songwriter is we always get the last word – at least in our songs.

The lyric is well crafted, with lots of energetic language. It’s filled with both everyday expressions as well as wonderful phrase twists like “ride off into your delusional sunset.” It mixes poetic phrases and imagery with direct statements, maintaining interest while ensuring that listeners always know what’s happening (“Hit” Shortcut 60).

FILM & TV NOTE: In this song, the chorus lyric can stand alone as a complete emotional statement. That’s a technique that works well in the film and TV market where the chorus is often featured at the end of a scene. The verse lyric may be buried under dialogue but if the chorus stands alone, that’s all the audience will need in order to feel the emotional message (“Film/TV” Shortcut 46 and 56).

This is another one of those songs with a simple, repetitive chord progression that works because the melody relates to the chords in unusual and surprising ways. Try learning this song, then use a simple, generic chord progression – like C | G | Am | F – to write a syncopated melody and lyric that addresses “you.” Tell “you” what’s on your mind and have some fun with the language!

by Robin Frederick