You Belong With Me – Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift says she got the inspiration for this song when she overheard a male friend arguing with his girlfriend over the phone. You’ll see how this idea even ended up in the video. 🙂 Just goes to show that songwriting themes are all around you. Keep your ears open!

I promise you’ll learn new songwriting techniques from this huge Country/Pop hit that you’ll be putting to use in your own songs for months and years to come. The lyric details and melodic twists are exciting, fun, and an essential part of today’s hit songs in all genres.

Recorded by Taylor Swift
Writers: Liz Rose & Taylor Swift
Lyrics are available online.
The “Shortcut” numbers refer to specific chapters in my book Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting.

GENRE (What is a genre?)
This song is a perfect example of the Pop/Country Crossover style that works for both  Country and AC (Adult Contemporary) radio. It reached the #1 spot on both music charts. Why? Well, it has a  melody that features the fun twists you would currently hear in a chart-topping Pop song by an artist like Kelly Clarkson and all the lyric detail you would hear in a Country hit. Read the Melody and Lyric sections below to find out how to use these tools in songs of your own. 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.”

The song structure is the one that’s used in so many of today’s hit singles:<


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.”

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!

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.

Writers: Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin

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

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