When your mother is a famous poet in your home country of New Zealand, it’s not surprising that 17-year-old Lorde (real name Ella Yelich-O’Connor) started out writing stories at a very early age. And she firmly believes it’s her background in writing short fiction that has made her the successful singer-songwriter that she is today.
“I’ve never written poetry, but I’ve written short fiction for a long time, and that’s the thing that I read pretty much exclusively,” Grammy award winner Lorde recently explained to Vogue magazine.
“Short fiction appeals to me because of the necessity of conciseness—having to make something big and get it into a small space,” she said. “That’s what writing songs is about, but times 20. I like people who can build something great and huge with a very limited amount of time or space. It’s difficult to do.”
As Neil Diamond once observed: “Songs are life in 80 words or less.”
Lorde—whose debut album Pure Heroine gained her four Grammy nominations—started writing her own songs as a 13-year-old when she was first signed to Universal Music. She realized at an early age that there are things you can do in a song that you can’t do in a short story.
“With songs, you listen to the lyrics and you know that not all the words and not all the details and not all the exposition have been included—you kind of expect to take leaps of faith, ” she told Rookie magazine. “One sentence can illustrate an entire experience or concept in a song, which I think is really cool.
“Whereas three or four years ago I would write a passage and then I would kind of have to fight to wrench it into the form of a song. Now when I have an idea [for a short story] and I write it,” she said, “it comes out naturally in the form of a song.”
In most hit songs, each verse tends to move the song’s storyline forward like a new chapter in a book, introducing fresh information and images that captivate the listener. The lyrics in each verse should be mostly descriptive (describing people, places and events).
The chorus, meanwhile, is meant to really drive home the whole point of the song—for example, by frequently repeating the title line like a catchphrase. The chorus lyrics should be mainly emotional (delivering a strong emotional reaction to what has just been described in the verse).
As Sting once remarked: “You’ve got to tell the story in two verses, a chorus and a coda and that takes some skill.”
Lorde’s chart-topping debut single ‘Royals’ won her two Grammy Awards for ‘Song of the Year’ and ‘Best Pop Solo Performance’:
# # # #
“How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a paperback, or as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.