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.

It’s a great idea to write your songs to a groove. Try playing a rhythmic feel on guitar or playing a rhythm loop while you write your song to keep the physical feel with you.

This is a very interesting structure and you wouldn’t hear it in a hit song in any genre but Country. There’s clearly a pattern but the sections are functioning a little differently than normal.

The song opens with two verses, each one ending with the title line. That sets this song up to be a Verse / Verse / Bridge / Verse song. At the end of the second verse, though, the melody goes straight into a little four-line section that ends with the title line again. It feels like a tag that extends the second verse rather than a separate bridge section.

This is followed by another verse with the tag, then an instrumental section and finally the last half of a verse. I don’t know what to call this structure but it’s clear where the sections begin and end and there’s enough repetition and variation to keep listeners anchored in the song. That’s what structure is all about. It’s not a rule, it’s a tool!

The lyric supports the sweet and sexy shuffle feel. It’s never overt but paints a picture of two people enjoying each other and a little private time. Notice how the lyric paints a picture of where these people are: There’s a TV, a couch, a small living room. You get the idea that they may not have much money but they’ve got a lot of love for each other (Shortcut #57).

The rhymes are so relaxed they’re almost non-existent in some places (off/on, much/couch); in other places the rhymes bounce just enough to add a touch of fun (“two left feet ‘n’ / our two hearts beatin'”). This song has a very believable, conversational tone, letting the rhymes happen naturally (Shortcut #64).

The melody has a good mix of line lengths. The first two lines are long phrases (“Baby, why don’t we just…” and “315 channels…”), followed by a series of short phrases that run together (“Well, it might be me…” through “…gone crazy.”) This pattern is one that listeners love to hear and it defines the verses clearly (Shortcut #78).

Here’s where this song takes an interesting turn. With the old-fashioned shuffle feel in the track and a basic bluesy chord progression, the songwriters needed to do something to give the song a modern twist.

Notice how the the lyric features some word emphasis that occurs in odd places. Words that would not usually be emphasized get a little extra bump depending on where they fall in the melody. In the second line of the song, for example, the phrase “315 channels” is delivered in a way that doesn’t sound the same as it would when spoken. This little phrase grabs attention then quickly settles back into a more natural speaking style for the rest of the line. Something similar happens on the word “crazy” – the second syllable receives much more emphasis than it normally would.

These little shifts in emphasis give what would otherwise be a familiar sounding, traditional shuffle blues enough of a twist to draw today’s listeners in and keep them interested.

If you want to try something like this, start playing around with your lyric lines, fitting them to your melody in different ways. Add a word or drop one out; this will shift the rest of the words and change where they fall in the melody. See what happens when you sing it. Keep what you like and throw out what you don’t. You don’t want to overdo it in the Country genre, though. A little of this goes a long way.

Play the groove of this song on guitar or piano (or find a karaoke version to sing along with) Write an original lyric to the melody and mess around with the way the lyric fits into the melody by adding or dropping a word, extending a line, and varying the phrase lengths. This is a great exercise for loosening up and breaking out of old patterns and habits.

by Robin Frederick