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.

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”).

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.

The song structure is:


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.

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