Hit Songwriting: “The Other” by Lauv

LauvAlthough I usually feature songs at the top of the mainstream music charts in this section, today I want to look at “The Other” by Lauv, an artist who took a different path to success and whose work and career provide plenty of inspiration for independent artists and songwriters.

Lauv’s self-produced singles “The Other” and “I Like Me Better” have collectively had over 450 million listens on Spotify and launched a sold-out tour. Yet he has never had a Billboard chart hit as an artist. (Although after his solo records went viral, he co-wrote charting songs for Charli XCX and Cheat Codes w/ Demi Lovato.)

Produced by Lauv and co-written with Michael Matosic, “The Other,” debuted on a friend’s music blog (Oblivious Pop) and was picked up by other bloggers, spreading virally through blog aggregator Hype Machine. It just goes to prove that listeners WILL spread the word when they find good music.

“THE OTHER” – LAUV (Pop)

Writers:  Ari Staprans Leff (Lauv), Michael Matosic

TECHNIQUES TO HEAR AND TRY:

  • Flesh out a basic verse-chorus structure.
  • Build your lyric around a peak moment.
  • Keep your listeners involved with images and actions.
  • Create contrast in your melody with octaves and beat emphasis.

Read the lyric here.

Watch on YouTube.

GENRE / STYLE (What is a genre? Watch the genre video.)

“The Other” is in the Pop/Singer-Songwriter genre, but a heavy R&B influence, creates a contemporary, fresh, soul-infused sound that’s very appealing to listeners and works well for Film & TV. Continue reading

Hold Back the River – James Bay

James Bay“Hold Back the River” became a huge international hit soon after its release in late 2014. Universal themes of nostalgia, regret, and lost innocence are conveyed in conversational yet evocative language. The chorus melody is memorable and has a folksy authenticity that adds to the singer’s credibility.

There are many simple songwriting techniques here that you can use in songs of your own: a family of related images, words that have emotional associations, varied phrase lengths in the melody, and an easy trick for catching the listener’s attention with your chorus. Let’s take a look at how these work together to create a hit song.

TECHNIQUES TO HEAR AND TRY:

• Use images to intensify emotion.

• Create contrast between sections with phrase lengths.

• Add an octave to lift the energy.

Read the lyrics here: Hold Back the River – James Bay

Buy it now or listen on your preferred music site (Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, etc.)

Watch on YouTube.

Recorded by James Bay
Writers: James Bay & Iain Archer

GENRE/STYLE  (What is a genre?)
I’m going with Folk/Rock on this one. The lyric palette features images of nature and rural life. The melody is fairly straight ahead, closer to the Indie Folk style of “Gone Gone Gone” by Phillip Phillips than to the quirky, unpredictable melodies of Alt Pop or Alt Rock, where it is sometimes classified. The track relies on acoustic guitar-style melody lines and strumming (although played on electric guitar), there’s not a whiff of synthesizer or electro anywhere around. The drums are live (and great). Folk/Rock has made a very successful comeback after being out of fashion for the last few decades.

SONG STRUCTURE
This structure looks complicated but sounds cohesive and natural when you listen to the track. The verse melody functions as both an instrumental and vocal hook. The bridge reappears at the end of the song as a tag, after which we hear the hook one more time. Every melody is used and reused. There are, in fact, only three different melodies: 1) verse and hook, 2) chorus, and 3) bridge. Continue reading

Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran

Ed SheeranEd Sheeran is definitely paying his respects to Van Morrison here. The vocal style, the blue-eyed soul groove and melody, and the personal, honest lyrics all recall hit singles like Van’s “Into the Mystic.” But there are contemporary elements, too – an emphasis on current melody phrasing patterns and tight lyric focus that appeals to today’s listeners.

This song is a co-write with Amy Wadge, a songwriter Sheeran has worked with before. In fact, he wrote an entire EP of songs with her called Songs I Wrote With Amy.  It’s a great example of a first-rate songwriter who certainly doesn’t need a co-writer. There are many reasons to collaborate: speed, new ideas and techniques, another writer’s perspective, and more.

TECHNIQUES TO HEAR AND TRY:
– Keep your lyric focused on your theme
– Use your melody to make a  basic chord progression

 sound fresh
– Create a simple but effective instrumental arrangement

Read the lyrics here: Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran

Buy it now or listen on your preferred music site (Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, etc.).

Watch on YouTube

Recorded by Ed Sheeran
Writers: Ed Sheeran & Amy Wadge

GENRE/STYLE (What is a genre?)

The song’s blend of Blue-Eyed Soul and contemporary singer-songwriter propelled this song to the top of the Mainstream Top 40 charts in the U.S. and global hit status. It has the kind of positive, love-themed lyric and easy melody that suggests it’s likely to be a standard on Adult Contemporary (AC) radio for years to come. Continue reading