Wednesday, 1 June 2016

How to write the perfect pop song

Whilst writing our latest Urban Fox album, 'The Private World', I got to thinking...

You're probably thinking, by the title of this blog post, that I know how to write the perfect pop song. Well, if I could, I'd have had a string of hit singles and a couple of platinum selling albums. No, I can't write the perfect pop song, much as I have tried over the years. I think, even though it's quite a basic premise, songs are quite easy to write, pop songs are very easy to write but one that captures an audience is something that, as far as I can see, happens by accident.  I say this because there are plenty of perfect pop songs out there but not many of them have been written by the same person.

What usually happens is, a band or singer-songwriter writes and records lots of songs and one or two sell lots of copies whilst the rest of them are largely ignored by the mass public, becoming popular only with fans of that act.  There are songs which top the charts which are falsely deemed commercial. Justin Bieber recently had around four or five songs in the top ten at the same time. This was enthused about by various radio stations and TV music channel presenters who don't know any better.  This 'record' means nothing of course because the great bands of the past such as Queen or U2 aren't arrogant enough to release five songs at the same time to achieve such a 'feat'.  Their songs were organic, reaching whatever position in the chart they did, the quality of which deemed by how long the song stayed in the chart.  A good song will hang around and eventually seep into the public consciousness, a five-single salvo by a boy with very little talent will be forgotten about very quickly.

So, back to the 'perfect pop song'.  Music is everything you like and everything I like, so there can't be an answer to this question - can there?  Well, I used to be obsessed with 7" singles.  A single, in my opinion, is different to a song.  A song can be a single but a single doesn't have to be a song. It can be a song but I think a single is a lot different to a song in the classical sense.  A commercial single has to find that blurry part of the musical taste Venn diagram. That middle ground that appeals to the innate music fan in all of us.  For some it's something dancy and for others it's a powerful ballad.  In most cases, it's something catchy with a hook and enough to make you want to go back and have another listen - or indeed, go to Woolworths and purchase the 7" for 49p, take it back to your bedroom and listen to it over and over and over.

A song on the other hand can be anything.  Anything with a tune and lyrics or without a tune or lyrics.  I've found that those singles I bought, expecting that artist to continue in the same vein of quirky upbeat hooky music, were either accidents or written deliberately to sell enough to allow the artist to go all self indulgent and write an entire album by themselves, about themselves and for themselves. All trancy with spacey expanses of weird blank soundscapes with various existential lyrics about their pain and not a lot to identify with.  There are of course those bands whose singles are not commercial and they're revered as geniuses because their album took years to write and record and has so many levels you couldn't possibly 'get it' in one listen.  To me, Pink Floyd are the exact opposite of what I want out of an album.  I'm a pop single man through and through.  I want to be captured from the off, I want to be dragged in by the energy or the atmosphere, entertained for three minutes and then left wanting to take the 'needle' back to the start and have another go.  That for me is the first step to a perfect pop song.  How better to demonstrate my point than by nominating ten songs which fall into that category for me - each fits all of the criteria to be described as, in my opinion, perfect pop songs.  I must make clear that these are by no means my favourite songs of all time, they're merely songs I like a lot which tick all my boxes when I'm buying a single.  These, to me, were perfect singles...

1. I don't care - Shakespears Sister (#7 in 1992)

2. The fear - Lily Allen (#1 for four weeks in 2009)

3. Release me - Agnes (#3 in 2009)

4. If I could change your mind - Haim (#27 in 2014)

5. Higher love - Stevie Winwood (#13 in 1986)

6. Black coffee - All Saints (#1 in 2000)

7. The show must go on - Queen (#16 in 1991)

8. Groove is in the heart - Deee-lite (#2 in 1990)

9. Criticize - Alexander O'Neal (#4 in 1987)

10. Prayer for the dying - Seal (#14 in 1994)

So there you have it.  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below and if you get a chance, check out some of our own songs, which are far from perfect, on Spotify, I-Tunes and various other places - details of how are here : 

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