If I Were a Boy – Beyoncé

BeyonceThis beautiful hit ballad has a compelling title and a simple but very effective melody trick you’ll definitely want to try in a song of your own.

While record labels tend to shy away from ballads when it comes to releasing and marketing the big lead single from an album, in this case the label released “If I Were a Boy” as a co-lead single right along with the smash R&B/Pop Dance track “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).” Both songs climbed to the Top 5 on the Pop charts and have continued to be listener favorites.

So, how does a slow, thoughtful ballad compete with one of those monster uptempo dance tracks? Watch the song video then read on to find out.

Writers: Toby Gad / Britney Carlson (BC Jean)
Recorded by Beyoncé

Shortcut numbers refer to my book “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting.”

GENRE/STYLE What is a genre?
This is a power ballad in the Pop/R&B style. Power ballads generally start out with an intimate, personal sound and build to a big, anthemic ending. The tempo can range from slow to medium but should never feel rushed. The BPM (Beats per Minute) is usually – though not always – 100 or below. Continue reading

Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson

This is just the kind of song that every American Idol finalist and semi-finalist hungers for – and so do record labels and publishers. The melody has a huge range, which works well for singers with big voices, and there’s plenty of passion and excitement in the lyrics. If you’re interested in today’s melodic Pop/Rock genre, this is a song that’s worth studying. It offers a master class in contemporary melody and lyric craft.

Read the lyric here.
The Shortcut numbers refer to specific chapters in my books “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film/TV”).

Recorded by Kelly Clarkson
Writers: Jörgen Elofsson, Ali Tamposi, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin.

GENRE: Pop/Rock and Pop/Dance
This is a great Pop/Rock song that went to #1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary (AC) chart. It also made it into the top ten on the Hot 100, Pop, and Dance Club charts. It has enough pumping beat to work in the Dance Clubs and enough lyric depth and craft to make it stands alone as a Pop/Rock song. It’s a great combination.

At 3:42, the song is on the long side, but once it gets rolling, there’s no stopping it! The basic song structure is:


The verses in this song are short, just four lines. This is a good thing because the chorus (beginning with the line “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”) is quite long. It’s double the length we would expect, repeating the phrase “What doesn’t kill you…” four times in each chorus – that’s fourteen times before the song is over! Continue reading

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! Continue reading