Gone Gone Gone – Phillip Phillips

For all you Folk/Rock lovers out there, this is certainly your moment. Between Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and half a dozen other artists, Folk/Rock hasn’t been this hot since the 1960s! So dust off your acoustic guitars, your harmony vocals, get a drummer who can play a cool syncopated beat to update your sound and you’re good to go!

“Gone Gone Gone” recorded by Phillip Phillips
Writers: Derek Fuhrmann, Todd Clark, and Gregg Wattenberg

Lyrics are available online.
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”).

Here’s a folksy song that builds into a big Americana anthem. This song climbed up the Hot Adult Contemporary (Hot AC) charts. At Billboard it reached #3 on the Rock charts (which is a very broad chart these days). Figuring out what genre this song is in is a little tough but I’m going to go out on a limb and call it Contemporary Folk/Rock.


The song form is…
BRIDGE / CHORUS (TAG out on the bridge)

The structure of this song is pretty obvious. Why? Because there’s so much contrast between sections – and I’m not just talking about the production! This is a great song to study for contrast.

Both the pre-chorus (“Give me reasons to believe…”) and chorus (“For you, for you…”) feature a big jump up in pitch at the beginning of the section.

But, more importantly, the pre-chorus melody features an ear-catching change in rhythmic feel, giving listeners a clean break between the verse and chorus.  Listen to the song – you can’t miss it! Both the verse and chorus feature a melody with a mix of long and short notes, strong and weak beats. But the pre-chorus is just straight-ahead, even beats. Continue reading

Hands Tied – Toni Braxton

This is a great example of a current Urban AC (Adult Contemporary) song. Toni Braxton needed something to put her back on the charts – something with a current sound after her mega-hits of the 1990s. This song has a melody with loads of rhythmic interest and a fresh approach to the lyric theme. Take a listen and then we’ll discover what made this song so appealing to today’s listeners.

Recorded by Toni Braxton
Writers: Heather Bright, Warren Felder, and Harvey Mason, Jr.

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

Here’s a perfect example of the VERSE / CHORUS / VERSE / CHORUS / BRIDGE / CHORUS hit song structure! The repetitive verse builds rapidly to a HUGE chorus with tons of catchy hooks and a wonderful payoff line at the end that keeps going and going and going… only to fall immediately into the start of the second verse.

Try this trick in a song of your own: extend the last line (the payoff line) with repetition or by stretching out the words until it leads right into the next section.  Continue reading

Why Don’t We Just Dance – Josh Turner

Josh was looking for Country hits for his new album and found this one through a Nashville publisher. I know a lot of songwriters who pitched for this so it’s interesting to hear what the artist finally chose.

Recorded by JOSH TURNER
Writers: Singleton / Beavers / Brown

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

I want to start this song analysis with the underlying rhythmic groove of this song. It’s a shuffle. (Count 1-and-uh, 2-and-uh, 3-and-uh, 4-and-uh.) This is an old-fashioned groove you just don’t hear in today’s hit songs. Mid-tempo shuffles have a laid back, down-and-dirty feel. The lyric says, “Hey, let’s just dance” and, with this beat, you get the idea that the dancing is probably on the sexy side.

Grooves are essentially physical things; they “speak” to the body. Try dancing along with this track and feel how it makes your body move. This is an important aspect of the song that we’re not consciously aware of but makes a big difference in how we experience it. Continue reading