How to write a hit song in 2018

Looking for a hit these days? Take a look at this inciteful article from The Walrus.

On mainstream radio, for as long as I’ve been alive, the chorus has reigned supreme. My introduction to Western pop music was via a pocket-sized radio I had in the 1970s and 1980s that churned out three-and-half-minute songs with simple, catchy choruses I could learn in a single play. Later, when I started writing my own music, I adhered to the familiar formula. Choruses are radio-friendly—a sonic marker in an era where some listeners flip “every fifteen seconds,” according to an executive I talked to—so it makes sense that musicians would try to write for that format. If you’re a songwriter, you’ve probably heard the expression “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” (also the name of a 1995 greatest-hits collection by Roxette), and I agree that it’s an effective approach to songwriting.

Take one of the last century’s most instantly recognizable songs, “She Loves You” by the Beatles. It actually starts with its chorus (“She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah”). So do a host of other hits, leading right up to Drake’s Grammy-winning 2015 single “Hotline Bling.” While it’s more common to build to the payoff than to give it away off the top, the door-to-door journey from verse to chorus is pretty short in mainstream music. Scroll through the top-played pop songs on Spotify and you’ll find plenty of examples that mimic the verse/chorus format, and usually, the chorus comes before the one-minute mark. Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” for instance, arguably has three chorus elements: the first comes in at twenty-nine seconds with the line, “Girl, you know I want your love,” the second soon after with “I’m in love with the shape of you,” and the third when he sings, “I’m in love with your body.” Clearly, you can’t have too much of a good thing when it comes to the year’s most popular song.

This is really good. Read the whole thing here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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