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

I’m Yours – Jason Mraz

Happy songs can be a real challenge to write. It’s so much easier to sound serious, deep, and interesting when you’re writing sad songs! Yup, everyone sounds cooler when they’re singing about a broken heart. So how do you write an upbeat, feel-good song that doesn’t end up sounding shallow and predictable? Let’s take a look at a great one and see if we can find out.


Written & Recorded by Jason Mraz
Writer: Jason Mraz

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

GENRE – Adult Contemporary
Jason Mraz’s No. 1 AC hit, “I’m Yours,” is a great example of an upbeat, happy song that still manages to convey depth in the lyrics and unexpected twists in the melody, keeping listeners involved from beginning to end. Not only was it a radio hit that’s still being played, it’s also been used in six different TV series.

SONG STRUCTURE
The song has an interesting structure:
VERSE / SHORT CHORUS
VERSE / FULL CHORUS
BRIDGE / VERSE / CHORUS

The final chorus is a duet with the background singers singing the chorus melody and Mraz repeating a verse. The chorus always begins with the line “I won’t hesitate no more, no more” and ends with the title in the payoff line, “I’m yours.” The first time we hear the chorus, he sings just the opening line and payoff line, dishing up the key lines from the chorus as a kind of appetizer. Continue reading

Poison and Wine – Civil Wars

Singer-songwriter duo The Civil Wars won the 2012 Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance and another for Best Folk Album. Joy WIlliams and Paul White were working as solo singer-songwriters before teaming up to create a unique blend that lets each of them shine. This is a great example of collaboration! They obviously share a love for folk music and were able to find a way to pool their talents and make a whole that’s different from their work as solo artists.

The emotional, atmospheric quality of the tracks makes them perfect for film and television. And indeed, “Poison & Wine” has been featured Grey’s Anatomy, Vampire Diaries, The Client List, Pretty Little Liars, 90210, and more. So let’s take a look.

Recorded by Civil Wars
Writers: Joy Williams & John Paul White

Lyrics are available on the Internet.
Shortcut numbers refer to my books “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film/TV”). Both are available at Amazon.com.

GENRE/STYLE: Folk/Indie Folk
Just as the 1960’s Folk song genre evolved from and altered the sound of an earlier Folk music tradition, so today’s Indie Folk style has morphed the ’60s sound into something new, more moody, personal, and passionate. This song is a great example of the current Folk style. The Civil Wars’ sound is a mix of ’60s folk a la Ian & Sylvia with a contemporary Indie edge that pushes the emotional aspect.

STRUCTURE
The song has a traditional folk song structure – as simple and straightforward as a genuine folk song from long ago. It consists of a four-line verse with a repeated refrain line at the end – “Oh I don’t love you but I always will”. (See “Hit” Shortcut #23.) To give a refrain line like this plenty of impact, be sure that the line is emotionally compelling and intriguing. This gives the singer something to work with and draws listeners into the heart of the song. Continue reading

These Days – Foo Fighters

I was looking through the songs I’ve analyzed over the last couple years and realized I’d never done a song by Foo Fighters. Their huge presence at the Grammy Awards in 2012 and win for Best Rock Album meant that I am long overdue. I’ve been a fan for a long time so it’s about time!


Recorded by Foo Fighters
Writer: David Grohl

Lyrics are available on the Internet.
Shortcut numbers refer to my books “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film/TV”).

GENRE
The genre is Mainstream Rock. There’s a lot of melody and an intimate, thoughtful approach in the verses but the solid, rockin’ chorus landed this song at the top of the Rock charts.

STRUCTURE
The song structure is:

VERSE / VERSE / PRE-CHORUS / CHORUS
VERSE / PRE-CHORUS / CHORUS
DOUBLE PRE-CHORUS / HALF VERSE / CHORUS

The song opens with a double verse. The verses each consist of two long lyric lines broken up into short phrases. A pre-chorus (“But it’s all right…”) provides some release and begins the build up to the huge vocal leap at the top of the chorus (“Easy for you to say…”).

The overall structure is typical for a hit song up until the bridge. Grohl uses a double pre-chorus as the bridge before going into a final verse and chorus. Notice that he doesn’t return to the pre-chorus again, using just a half verse before roaring into the final chorus of the song. Continue reading

Dynamite – Taio Cruz

“Dynamite” is a Club Dance track that crossed over to the Pop/Dance charts big time! The song has a hot, hot HOT track. The song rides on top of a solid, rock-steady groove adding a vocal melody filled with catchy hooks and a fun lyric.


Recorded by Taio Cruz
Writers: Levin / McKee /Martin /Adetayo / Onile / Gottwald

Lyrics are available on the Internet.
Shortcut numbers refer to my books “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film/TV”). Both are available at Amazon.com.

GENRE
The Club Dance genre features irresistible, infectious grooves that get people out on the dance floor. Vocal melodies have plenty of rhythmic interest, using syncopation and repetition. Lyrics sometimes consist of no more than “let’s dance, get out on the floor “but for a song to crossover to the Pop charts, as this one certainly did, you’ll need to give the lyrics a little more personality and attitude.

In this genre, the lyrics and melody together are referred to as the “top-line.” The top-line is usually written after the instrumental track is roughed out or even completed. A good track producer will make sure that the top-line writer has a clear verse and chorus structure to work with. A few artists who are successful in this genre are Taio Cruz, Lady Gaga, Ellie Goulding, Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, David Guetta, and Calvin Harris. Continue reading