What do the greatest songs of all time have in common? Songs that we would probably all agree on as being the greatest whether “religious” or “secular”? If you look back through the biggest hits of the last thirty years or so, for instance, which songs would stand out and why?
Songs like Give Thanks (Smith), 10,000 Reasons (Myrin, Redman), and This Is Amazing Grace (Riddle, Farro, Wickham) on the Christian worship side, for starters. Or pop anthems you may or may not love, but which have impacted the world nonetheless, like Michael Jackson’s Beat It, Time after Time first recorded by Cindy Lauper and now an iconic song from the 1980’s, or Ice Ice Baby (Vanilla Ice), and R.E.M.’s Losing My Religion that have somehow outlasted the 1990’s and keep showing up in movies and on playlists the world over?
And what about songs from the 2000’s like Beyonce’s notable Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) and *NSYNC’s ubiquitous Bye Bye Bye, not to mention all the great country artists and songs that have impacted us for decades from artists like Garth Brooks, Tricia Yearwood, Carrie Underwood and so many more?
Obviously, this list is scant, arguable, and skewed by my perspective on things. But the real question is the one I led with: What do all of these “hit”songs have in common regardless of genre, style, and the artist who first recorded them?
It’s simple. They all started with a great idea.Great songs always start with great ideas. #songrevolutionpodcast Click To Tweet
I work with a lot of aspiring songwriters. These writers are usually very talented people. They’re above the norm, for sure, and each of them are pushing to breakthrough the glass ceiling they feel to go from average to amazing with their songs. Many of them understand form and structure. They have a decent grasp on what makes a good melody and how the basics of modern songwriting work.
But what is most often missing is the idea, that way-above-average thought that captures the imagination in a new way like no other song has done before, or at least in a fresh sensibility. Achy Breaky Heart (Billy Ray Cyrus) did that, sort of, in its day. It was a one-hit-wonder for Billy Ray, but it was just fun and funny enough that it captured its spot and won him a lot of attention. The novelty of describing a breaking heart with that hook was the genius of it.Find a great idea and fashion a great hook around it. #songrevolutionpodcast Click To Tweet
That brings me to the second thing that has to happen after the way-above-average idea comes to you in a conversation or from reading or watching a movie or from a nap. That killer idea has to be honed into a killer hook, if it didn’t come pre-packaged in your inspirational moment around it.