All Of Me – John Legend

This beautiful love song with its simple piano production was embraced by listeners around the globe. The song went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the U.S. and was the second-best selling song of 2014. The YouTube video has had over one billion views. That’s billion with a “b.” Proof that, even in this era of giant Dance/Pop extravaganzas, a simple song with an honest, emotionally moving lyric can hold its own.

Because the production is so bare bones, the song itself has to sustain the listener’s interest. That’s a challenge for any song, but especially a ballad. There are a number of simple but very effective lyric and melody techniques at work here, ones that you can adapt for use in your own songs.

TECHNIQUES TO HEAR AND TRY:

• Sustain melodic interest in a ballad.

• Give a personal lyric universal appeal.

Read the lyrics here: All Of Me – John Legend

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Recorded by John Legend
Writers: John Legend and Toby Gad

Genre/Style

“All of Me” is a power ballad in the Pop genre. It’s also classified as Adult Contemporary, which is a radio format. As its name implies, the Adult Contemporary format features songs that appeal to a broad adult age range, from 25 to 55. Surprisingly, though, this melodic ballad with minimal production also topped the Pop and R&B charts.

There’s a mix of influences here and it’s a little hard to tell who is influencing whom. Certainly this song reminds me of Adele’s huge hit “Someone Like You” but that song may have been influenced by John Legend’s own Neo-Soul hit of a decade ago: “Ordinary People.” And, let’s face it, everyone here is paying their respects to Lionel Richie.

Song Structure

This song has the same structure as most of today’s biggest Pop and Rock hits, yet it doesn’t really sound like one of those hits.
The structure is:

VERSE / PRE-CHORUS / CHORUS
VERSE / PRE-CHORUS / CHORUS
BRIDGE / CHORUS

VERSES: Verse 1 starts the song off with the line “What would I do without your smart mouth?” It’s a great opening line, immediately drawing the listener into the song with an intriguing question and a glimpse into a complex and very realistic relationship.

Verse 2 begins with “How many times do I have to tell you, even when you’re crying you’re beautiful, too.” Another unusual statement that makes us curious to hear more. Continue reading

Tattoos On This Town – Jason Aldean

“Tattoos On This Town” recorded by Jason Aldean
Songwriters: Michael Dulaney, Wendell Mobley, Neil Thrasher

First of all, let’s take a look at this amazing song title – “Tattoos on This Town.” It’s a tremendous example of a short phrase that can support and inspire an entire song. It’s unique and fresh, and immediately made me wonder what the song would be about. Before even hearing the song, listeners are bound to ask: “What does this phrase mean?”

When you have an intriguing title like this, you’ve got to answer the questions it brings up and do it in a way that’s creative, yet clear and understandable. That’s just what these writers did: A tattoo is a permanent mark on the skin. The first line of the chorus is “It sure left its mark on us…” Got it! The town left its mark on the singer. The title is tied right into the lyric. But the writers went further: the images in the lyric show us the marks the singer and his friends left on the town. The whole song is framed by the title and satisfying the questions it brings up for listeners. (For more on answering the questions the title asks, read Shortcut #44.)


You can find the lyrics to this song online.
Shortcut # refer to my book “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting.”

GENRE
The genre is Contemporary Country. It’s a style that blends the melodic Rock sound of the 1970s with today’s songwriting techniques – vivid lyrics and melodies with a lot of forward momentum. We’ll take a look at both of these in a minute. Continue reading

Fallin’ For You – Colbie Caillat

There are so many influences from Fleetwood Mac’s golden hits of the mid-1970s that it’s impossible to listen to this song without being reminded of those timeless, unforgettable hits. It’s a perfect example of how to take a style that had enormous appeal in an earlier decade and give it a fresh twist that makes it seem new again.


“Fallin’ For You” recorded by Colbie Caillat
Writers: Colbie Caillat & Richard Nowels

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

STRUCTURE
The song structure is the current hit song go-to form…
VERSE / PRE-CHORUS / CHORUS
VERSE / PRE-CHORUS / CHORUS
BRIDGE / CHORUS

The pre-chorus begins with “I am trying not to tell you…” The chorus begins on the line “I’ve been spending all my time…” The bridge melody uses plenty of contrast, making it easy to spot. It consists of just two lines, beginning with “Ooh, I just can’t take it…”

Listen to the song and notice where the sections begin and end. Pay special attention to the way each section is “announced” by the melody. It helps keep the song organized and lets listeners know where they are in the song.

MELODY
In a Colbie Caillat song, the melodies are always catchy, memorable, and contemporary. Studying her melodies is a great way to get a feel for the current Pop/Singer-Songwriter genre.

This melody uses a simple technique that is characteristic of many songs in this style. There’s a lot of repetition in this melody. 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.


Recorded by MIRANDA LAMBERT
Writers: Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin

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

THEME
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