Classic – MKTO

mkto“Retro-Blend” is definitely the phrase du jour. Today’s Pop charts are sounding more and more like the music charts of long ago, from the Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks” to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” to Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.”

Retro-influenced songs like these evoke the best of yesterday blended with today’s melody, lyric, and production techniques.

Two of the latest hits to pay their respects to the oldies are Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and MKTO’s “Classic.” If you can remember dancing to Marvin Gaye and the Jackson 5, then you’ve got a big head start on this style. But the commercial magic is in the blend of old and new. Today’s listeners want it ALL. So let’s a take a look at a Pop hit that delivers the best of yesterday and today. It’s “CLASSIC”!

Recorded by MKTO
Writers: Evan Bogart, Andrew Goldstein, Emanuel Kiriakou, Lindy Robbins

Read the lyrics here.

The Shortcut numbers below refer to chapters in my books “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film/TV”).

GENRE
The genre is retro-blend Pop. This track is obviously paying its respects to the Jackson 5’s  “I Want You Back.” The tempo is very close and the feel of the groove is similar. There are little sections of the melody that suggest the Jackson 5 original and touches in the arrangement, especially the rhythm electric guitar.

This is a perfect example of a song you’ll find a little further down on the Pop charts. That’s why it’s important not to stop with the top five or ten songs. Keep digging for those gems – the ones that make you say “I wish I’d written that!” These are the songs you want to learn from.

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

The pre-chorus starts with the line “I want to thrill you like Michael.” The section builds anticipation and energy going into the chorus which is just what a pre-chorus should do. Continue reading

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

Let Her Go – Passenger

Until recently you would only have heard a thoughtful, acoustic-based folk song like this on college radio stations or eclectic NPR shows. Certainly not among Billboard’s Top 10 Pop hits. But there it is, right there with Katy Perry, One Direction, and Pitbull. Wha? If you haven’t heard this song on the radio then you’ve probably heard it on a national TV commercial or featured in series like “Elementary” or “The Vampire Diaries.”

Take a look at the official video on YouTube and then let’s dive deeper into this song to see what makes it work so well and how you can use some of these techniques in your own songs.

Official video on YouTube.

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: Folk / Singer-Songwriter  (What is a genre?)
The lyric, melody, and structure of this song are all reminiscent of the folk genre, with a nod to both authentic English ballads and the folk songs of the 1960s. If you still love to sing “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” then this song is for you! There’s even a subtle group sing-along on the chorus, almost as if everyone is gathered round the ol’ campfire.

But even though the retro underpinnings are clearly there, the melody has interesting twists that give it a modern edge. If you’ve got a few old fashioned folk songs tucked away (and I know some of you do) consider giving them a facelift with these tricks. Continue reading