How to write a timeless, classic song

I was listening to the radio this morning, and the song that just so happened to be on got me to thinking. What makes a timeless classic? It certainly was not this track, I can tell you that. There were just a few things that were wrong with it.

Like the mentioning of “Kanye” and “Coldplay”. Notice how Coldplay would never mention another band in their music. Nor would Nirvanna. Or the Foo Fighters. Or Queen. The minute another band/artist is mentioned in a song, it seems to lose all credibility. I end up sitting there and thinking “That’s nice, but what do you know if you have to talk about other people’s songs rather than write your own masterpiece?”

For interests sake, here are some pop artists from the last few years and their “power” singles. Interesting to see how many people were on the writing team for these songs.

Nicki Minaj “Starships” took a 5 people writing team.

Justin Bieber “Baby” took 5 people to make sure “baby” was said enough times in three minutes.

Katy Perry “California Gurls” took 6 people to get the spelling of “girls” wrong.

Flo Rida “Whistle” took 6 people to write these hard lyrics.

Beyonce “Who Run the World (Girls)” was written by 5 men, and Beyonce.

Kanye West “Power” took 10 people to write.

Freddie Mercury wrote “Bohemian Rhapsody” alone, with NO help from the other band members. Elvis Frikken Presley… cos he definitely didn’t need a hand doing what he did. It’s just one of those places where too many cooks spoil the broth, and if a team of people work on something as personal as a song, how much of the artist’s soul can they really bare?

Being able to classify it into a genre is a big thing. I should not have to listen to a song and think, “Hip hop, no RnB, oo Country…… make up your mind!!” Also, another way to ensure that your song will never be a classic is to use lyrics, riffs, beats, ect. from other epic songs. You know who you are. If I turn on the radio and think I’ll be hearing “Video Killed the Radio Star” or “Under Pressure”, I want to hear those songs. I don’t care if you are Jay-Z and you feel it’s okay to use a few Nirvana lyrics here and there “cos they were already cool, so maybe this will add to this song”. Actually, I’m rather upset with Jay-Z for this, cos he’s a master in his own right already.

Classic songs are not love songs, or anthems, or ballads. There is no way to classify them. They can be any type of song. What matters is how many people can connect to the song. This is why the single author is so important. The single author can tap into emotions that can be shared with other people, only if they are given the time, space and thought process to be able to do this.

Clear, specific riffs sell a song and get let it creep into your heart. Think “Smoke on the Water”, “Whiskey In a Jar”, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”…. the list continues and speaks for itself.

Lyrics people can relate to. Finished and kla. Nothing else needs to be said here. If you sing about the human condition, emotions, feelings and circumstances, you have it sold. For this reason alone, 30 Seconds to Mars may be seen as classic one day. But the minute you start talking about your swagger, how you waste money (while large populations on this planet are starving), you lose your human element, no one relates to you, you build a god-complex, and in most cases, you seem to get shot. Unless you’re Eminem. But once again, his best songs convey something about the human condition.

Just something to think about.



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