SONGWRITING TIPS AND ADVICE ON THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS FOUND IN ALL HIT SONGS

Tag Archives: Pharrell Williams

Blurred Lines

Some 212 leading songwriters, artists and producers have come out in support of Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams in their bid to overturn the verdict in the infamous ‘Blurred Lines’ plagiarism case.

In the original case, the jury found that ‘Blurred Lines’ (written in 2012) had copied Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song ‘Got to Give It Up’. Thicke and Williams were then ordered to pay $5.3 million to the Marvin Gaye Estate.

The diverse group of stars who are backing the appeal by Thicke and Williams includes members of Train, Linkin Park, Earth Wind & Fire, The Black Crowes, Fall Out Boy, Tool and Tears for Fears, as well as Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, John Oates of Hall & Oates, R. Kelly, Hans Zimmer, Jennifer Hudson, Jean Baptiste, Evan Bogart and Brian Burton (Danger Mouse).

They all argue that the ‘Blurred Lines’ copyright ruling has set a dangerous precedent by confusing inspiration with infringement.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the 212 stars’ document submitted to the Court of Appeals in support of Williams, Thicke and rapper T.I (aka Clifford Harris Jr.), states:

“The verdict in this case threatens to punish songwriters for creating new music that is inspired by prior works. All music shares inspiration from prior musical works, especially within a particular musical genre. By eliminating any meaningful standard for drawing the line between permissible inspiration and unlawful copying, the judgment is certain to stifle creativity and impede the creative process. The law should provide clearer rules so that songwriters can know when the line is crossed, or at least where the line is.

“Such a result, if allowed to stand, is very dangerous to the music community, is certain to stifle future creativity, and ultimately does a disservice to past songwriters as well. One can only imagine what our music would have sounded like if David Bowie would have been afraid to draw from Shirley Bassey, or if the Beatles would have been afraid to draw from Chuck Berry, or if Elton John would have been afraid to draw from the Beatles, or if Elvis Presley would have been afraid to draw from his many influences.”

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.
A 5-star rated book at Amazon,
How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

FRONT COVER - JPG - 10-8-16 - FINAL“How [Not] To Write Great Lyrics! – 40 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Lyrics For Your Songs” is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store. It is also available from Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA), HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).

 


Pharrell WilliamsEarlier this year, Grammy Award-winning Pharrell Williams urged songwriters to buck the trend toward sad-sounding songs by writing more tracks designed to make people feel happy.

Pharrell showed the way himself with his chart-topping song ‘Happy’ which was nominated for an Oscar after featuring in the animated comedy movie Despicable Me 2.

Now, leading music streaming service Spotify has unveiled a list of the world’s 10 happiest songs, based on the listening choices made by many of its 40 million active users across 56 countries.

After analyzing thousands of users’ playlists from around the world—and assessing the emotional positivity of each track—Spotify has identified the songs that feature most frequently on feel-good playlists titled ‘Happy’.

‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams takes the crown as the happiest song this summer, followed by ‘Best Day Of My Life’ by American Authors, ‘The Walker’ by Fitz and The Tantrums and Clean Bandit’s ‘Rather Be’. Other top ‘happy hits’ include Calvin Harris’s ‘Summer’ and ‘Pompeii’ by Bastille.

If you’re looking for a successful song structure and benchmark for your own ‘happy’ songs, try dissecting and analyzing the shape and form of each of Spotify’s Top 10 Happiest Songs:

1. Happy – Pharrell Williams
2. Best Day Of My Life – American Authors
3. The Walker – Fitz and The Tantrums
4. Rather Be – Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynn
5. Digital Witness – St. Vincent
6. Safe and Sound – Capital Cities
7. Summer – Calvin Harris
8. Sponge Won’t Soak – Wild Moccasins
9. Come Home – Chappo
10. Pompeii – Bastille

By putting a greater focus on ‘happy’ songs, these songwriters and artists are actually going against the tide of the last five decades.

In 2012, an academic study found that pop music has grown progressively more sad-sounding and emotionally ambiguous since the 1960s. The number of minor chord hits has doubled since 1965, the study found, and fewer hit songs are now being written in major chords.

Music psychologist Professor E Glenn Schellenberg and sociologist Professor Christian von Scheve analyzed the tempo (beats per minute) and mode (major or minor) of more than 1,000 American Top 40 songs that charted between 1965 and 2012. Their study found that in the second half of the 1960s, about 85% of songs that reached the top of the charts were written in a major mode, but by 2012 that figure had fallen to only 43.5%.

“Just as the lyrics of pop songs have become more self-referential and negative in recent decades, the music has also changed—it sounds sadder and emotionally more ambivalent,” Schellenberg and von Scheve stated in their study. They suggested that emotional ambiguity in a song is a way for some acts to convey their seriousness and complexity.

But Pharrell Williams insists that songwriters and artists should not forget about the happier side of things. He believes there’s a growing need to lift people up emotionally.

“Through the connectivity of the internet,” says Pharrell, “people are becoming so desensitized to all the tragedies and travesties [in the world], that we all need to take audiences to a lighter place.

“There’s something to be said for making music that is jovial,” he says. “Songs for people who need a break. Songs to bring joy.”

You can listen to some of Spotify’s Happiest Songs here …

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and from KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK),  HERE (Australia)  and HERE (Canada).


ED SHEERANBritish singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran is continuing to demonstrate the strong commercial potential of fusing different music genres and cross-pollinating sonic ideas and songwriting styles.

After co-writing his R&B-influenced hit ‘Sing’ with Pharrell Williams, Sheeran is now pushing the boundaries of his original folk rock sound even further by teaming up with American rapper Benjamin Levin (aka Benny Blanco). They have co-written ‘Don’t’, the second single from Sheeran’s new album ‘X’.

‘Don’t’ is also one of three songs from ‘X’ produced by Rick Rubin who has previously worked with artists such as Eminem, Jay-Z and Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

Benjamin Levin’s hits include ‘California Gurls’ by Katy Perry, ‘Payphone’ and ‘Moves Like Jagger’ by Maroon 5, and Ke$ha’s ‘Tik Tok’.

Like Sheeran’s previous collaborator Pharrell Williams, Levin believes in marrying different elements together to create something fresh. “I listen to so many different types of music,” he says. “I don’t want to have any boundaries whatsoever. If someone came to me and was like, ‘I want to make a polka album’, I’m making the best damn polka album ever.”

Levin says much of his sonic inspiration comes from his home city of New York. “I love that this city isn’t pretty all the time – that it’s dirty and loud. Sometimes when you’re in the studio you can actually hear car horns and fire alarms outside—I love that.”

But very different from the ambient sounds found in Sheeran’s new home – a renovated farmhouse in the peaceful, rural landscape of Suffolk, England!

Here’s the Official Audio for ‘Don’t’ …

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble's Nook store, and from KoboBooks.com.How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music), Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and from KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK),  HERE (Australia)  and HERE (Canada).


Macklemore and Ryan LewisWe all have the same 24 hours in a day as songwriters like Taylor Swift, Pharrell Williams and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (pictured), so how come they are able to turn out so many hit songs on a regular basis while other writers can’t?

One reason, it seems, is that some writers may have the talent to write hit songs, but they lack the determination, focus and self-discipline to make it happen.

John Legend, for example, believes success as a songwriter is as much about working hard as it is talent. “There’s this mistaken belief that everything is about talent,” he told Q magazine, “but talent has to be cultivated and developed. If it’s not nurtured, pushed and challenged it’s not going to happen.”

Diane Warren, one of the most successful female songwriters of all time, says she spent 20 years writing six days a week, 10-12 hours a day, before she felt she could finally take the occasional weekend off!

Experienced songwriters know how important it is to challenge yourself to write something every day—even when you don’t feel like it—otherwise potential hit songs will never get written.

Establishing a consistent writing habit—making it part of your daily routine—will boost your creativity and productivity, and lead to better songs.

As Burt Bacharach once remarked: “Music breeds its own inspiration. You can only do it by doing it. You may not feel like it, but you push yourself.”

Nick Cave agrees: “I go into my office every day and work—whether I feel like it or not is irrelevant.”

PJ Harvey takes a similar view: “If you want to be good at anything, you have to work hard at it. It doesn’t just fall from the sky. I work every day at trying to improve my writing, and I really enjoy it.”

Of course, no two creative people are the same in the way they find their inspiration. That’s why it is so important to identify the most creative time of day for you. Some people like to write something as soon as they wake up in the morning, when their mind is fresh and full of ideas. Some work better late at night.

The fascinating infographic below—created by Info We Trustshows the daily routines of some of history’s most creative individuals—including composers, painters, writers, scientists and philosophers. It is based on Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals, in which he investigated the rigid daily rituals that legendary creative figures practised in order to carve out enough time, every day, to work their craft.

How does your daily writing routine compare with the creative masters below?

CREATIVE ROUTINES - INFOGRAPHIC

 Click the infographic for larger image

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, and Barnes & Noble's Nook store How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK),  HERE (Australia)  and HERE (Canada).


Taylor SwiftWith Taylor Swift’s fifth studio album expected to be released in October 2014, the seven-time Grammy winner has been dropping hints that her follow-up to multi-platinum Red will be very different from anything she has ever done before.

It is likely to push the boundaries of her sound by featuring greater cross-pollination between different music genres.

“It’s already evolved into a new sound, and that’s all I wanted,” the 24-year-old recently told Billboard magazine. “There’s a fusing of genres that makes me happy and excited.”

In an interview with the Associated Press (AP), she also stressed how important it is for songwriters not to simply put out a retread of songs they’ve already done: “The goal is to continue to change, and never change in the same way twice,” she said. On her new album, this involved writing in ways that she had never attempted before and using a sonic backdrop that she had not previously explored.

She said: “I love [collaborating with] people who have endless strange and exciting ideas about where music can go—people like Max Martin and Johan Shellback who are likely to ask ‘What if we made it weirder? What if we took it darker?’.”

ED SHEERANMeanwhile, Taylor Swift’s good friend Ed Sheeran has also been exploring entirely new realms of sound for his next album, titled x, which will be released on June 23. “I’ve been writing very specific songs to different genres,” he explained.

Never a songwriter to stand still, Sheeran has recorded x at various locations around the world—adding new flavours to his music with the aid of producers such as Rick Rubin (Eminem, Jay-Z, Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Pharrell Williams (Daft Punk, Robin Thicke, N.E.R.D), Benny Blanco (Rhianna, Wiz Khalifa), and Jeff Bhasker (Alicia Keys, Jay-Z), as well as his key collaborators Johnny McDaid of Snow Patrol and Jake Gosling (who produced Sheeran’s first album +).

The first single from Sheeran’s new album is ‘Sing’. It was produced by Pharrell Williams—another singer/songwriter/producer who believes in marrying different elements together to create something fresh. “That is where I find the magic,” said Pharrell, “in trying to just blend different worlds together and mix it up.”

Commenting on his work with Pharrell Williams, Sheeran told Music Week magazine: “Pharrell took me way outside of my comfort zone, which was very, very helpful. He forced me to try new things.”

Here’s the Official Video for ‘Sing’ (featuring Ed the Puppet) …

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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, and Barnes & Noble's Nook storeHow [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK),  HERE (Australia)  and HERE (Canada).


RITA ORA, 'I Will Never Let You Down’Last February, Grammy Award-winning Pharrell Williams urged songwriters to buck the trend toward sad-sounding songs by writing more tracks designed to make people feel happy.

“I believe there’s a need to lift people up emotionally,” Pharrell said. “There’s something to be said for making music that is jovial. Songs for people who need a break. Songs to bring joy.”

Now, British singer-songwriter Rita Ora is following Pharrell’s lead by releasing a new single, ‘I Will Never Let You Down’, which has been described as “the ultimate feel good love song”.

Written and produced by Calvin Harris, the single will be released on 11 May 2014.

“I love the fact this is such an uplifting love song,” says Rita. “I’m in a very good place and I really wanted people to see how I felt and how I want other people to feel when they listen to it … happy!”

‘I Will Never Let You Down’ is the first single from Rita’s forthcoming second album. Her platinum debut album, Ora, debuted at number one in the UK in 2012 and spawned the Number One singles: ‘R.I.P.’ and ‘How We Do (Party)’.

And here’s Rita lifting our spirits with the video for ‘I Will Never Let You Down’ …


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“HOW [NOT] TO WRITE A HIT SONG! - 101 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT SONGWRITING SUCCESS” is available from Amazon as a paperback and also as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple's iTunes Store, and Barnes & Noble's Nook storeHow [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA)HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).


Many new songwriters often make the mistake of simply trying to mimic songs that have already enjoyed chart success, instead of trying to add distinctive elements of their own to create something fresh.

Pharrell Williams firmly believes in the importance of not just imitating what’s already happening: “I feel like when you copy, you blend in, and when you blend in, you get lost,” he recently told Collider.com.

“If someone asks me what inspires me, I always say ‘That which is missing’ because I don’t want to copy everything that’s already happening,” he said. “When I make music, I try to make something you’ve never heard before.”

For new writers, though, it is equally important to make sure that your songs are not TOO different—otherwise you could end up writing in a form that many listeners just can’t understand. You have to strike a balance.

This is because there are specific conventions that are consistently found in the chord progressions, melodies, lyrics, rhymes and construction of all hit songs. Over the past 50 years in particular, listeners have subconsciously come to expect to hear these elements in all new songs.

To be sure of finding receptive ears in the music industry (and amongst record buyers), your songs therefore need to sound familiar—but not similar.

Previously unheard songs have to be easy enough on the listener’s ear to be commercial and marketable (which, at the end of the day, is all that record companies and music publishers are interested in). But instead of simply copying stuff that is happening, focus on taking what is already out there to a new level—whilst being careful not to make too big a leap that could leave a huge gap between you and your audience.

When someone once asked the legendary trumpet player Clark Terry what steps he felt newcomers should take to achieve success, he famously replied: “Imitate, assimilate, and innovate”.

In other words, listen to what’s being played on the radio and on streaming services, analyze the latest trends, absorb the key elements of current hit songs and emulate them—but carve your own niche by innovating and adding something new of your own.

As Pharrell Williams says: “Try to find that which is missing”…

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How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).


“Through the connectivity of the internet, people are becoming so desensitized to all the tragedies and travesties [in the world], that we need to take audiences to a lighter place,” Grammy Award-winning Pharrell Williams told Collider.com in a recent interview.

“There’s a need to lift people up emotionally,” said Williams whose chart-topping song ‘Happy’ is featured in the animated comedy movie Despicable Me 2 and has been nominated for an Oscar. Williams will perform the song at this year’s 86th Academy Awards on Sunday 2 March 2014.

Williams added: “There’s something to be said for making music that is jovial. Songs for people who need a break. Songs to bring joy.”

By advocating a greater focus on ‘happy’ songs, Pharrell Williams is actually going against the tide of the last five decades.

In 2012, an academic study revealed that pop music has grown progressively more sad-sounding and emotionally ambiguous since the 1960s. The number of minor chord hits has doubled since 1965, the study found, and fewer hit songs are now being written in major chords.

Music psychologist Professor E Glenn Schellenberg and sociologist Professor Christian von Scheve analysed the tempo (beats per minute) and mode (major or minor) of more than 1,000 American Top 40 songs that charted between 1965 and 2012. Their study found that in the second half of the 1960s, about 85% of songs that reached the top of the charts were written in a major mode, but by the second half of the 2000s that figure had fallen to only 43.5%.

“Just as the lyrics of pop songs have become more self-referential and negative in recent decades, the music has also changed—it sounds sadder and emotionally more ambivalent,” Schellenberg and von Scheve stated in their study.

The researchers noted that unambiguously happy songs like ABBA’s ‘Waterloo’ sound “naive and slightly juvenile” to today’s ears. And whilst more recent songs in a similar style, such as Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’, can still enjoy huge commercial success, they’re usually seen as a guilty pleasure and savaged by critics.

Schellenberg and von Scheve suggested that emotional ambiguity in a song is a way for some acts to convey their seriousness and complexity.

But Pharrell Williams insists that songwriters and artists should not forget about the happier side of things. He recently told Stereogum.com: “This particular generation doesn’t think within the same boundaries as people did back in, say, the Nineties. They completely recognize their freedom to make any kind of music they want …

“I try to tap into that because I want to make people happy.”

And look, here’s Pharrell Williams trying to cheer us all up…

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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.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).


U2 have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for ‘Ordinary Love’ from the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. This follows the band’s recent victory in the Golden Globe awards with the same song.

U2’s ‘Ordinary Love’ will be up against ‘Alone But Not Alone’ from the film of the same name (written by Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel), ‘Happy’ from Despicable Me 2 (Pharrell Williams), ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen (Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez), and ‘The Moon Song’ from Her (Karen O and Spike Jonze).

After receiving the Golden Globe award, U2’s Bono said: “This really is personal, very very personal. This man [Nelson Mandela] turned our life upside down, right side up. A man who refused to hate but he thought love would do a better job. We wrote a love song because it’s kind of what’s extraordinary about the film. It’s a dysfunctional love story.”

The Oscars will be presented on March 2.

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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.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA),  HERE (UK), HERE (Australia) and HERE (Canada).