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Under The Hood Of An Exceptional Song, part 2 (lyrics)

The lyrics of ‘Chained To The Rhythm’ celebrate the surface qualities of the song (dance, party, escape) and also critique them. The title itself embodies this duality – ”Chained To The Rhythm’. Good thing? Bad thing? Both? It’s easy to take the song on the surface level. Plenty of the lyrics support it and, on […]

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Don’t Be Afraid To Repeat The Title

Something I encounter quite often… songwriters who are not inclined to repeat, within the Chorus, the Title of the song. Sometimes repeating isn’t appropriate, of course. But I think it’s always worth keeping in mind as an option in a Title-based song. The last thing I want is for the Title (by definition the most […]

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Video blogpost: Why Do I Sometimes Like Songs With Bad Lyrics?

Thank you for reading my weekly blogposts! This is the next in a series of short video posts called ‘Ask Tony’, answering questions sent to me by songwriters. Watch the video below (it’s 2:20 long). If you have any songwriting questions, please email them to me at  asktony@tonyconniff.com. Any suggestions are also welcome. And, at […]

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To Get Past The Cliches, You’ve Got To Explore

Many of us writers get very discouraged when our first version of an idea comes out profoundly cliched, as it often does. It’s easy to feel that this mundane result is an indictment – an indication of a lack of talent, originality, musicality, dexterity, cleverness, soulfulness, and the like. In truth, it’s usually just an […]

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How To Change Your Lyric’s P.O.V. from Verse to Chorus

Generally speaking, to change the point of view in the lyric of a song, it’s a good idea to (1) do it at the start of a new section, and (2) keep the sections’ P.O.V. consistent relative to each other. A great example is ‘Billie Jean’ by Michael Jackson. In the Verse, he sings about […]

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How Contemporary Songs Are Different; Part 2: Melody

I gave a talk at our Songwriting Day event in 2016 about the ways in which contemporary songs differ from songs of previous generations. The evolution of songwriting always fascinates me and, in a series of posts, I’m attempting to elucidate this evolution a little bit. In the first post I looked at some of […]

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NEW Video blogpost: ‘Why Are Songs Different Today?’

Thank you for reading my weekly blogposts! I’m starting something different this week: a series of short video posts called ‘Ask Tony’, answering questions sent to me by songwriters. Watch the first video below (it’s less than 3 minutes long). If you have any songwriting questions, please email them to me at  asktony@tonyconniff.com. Also, any […]

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When To Start Your Song With The Chorus

Most commonly, Verse/Chorus songs start with the Verse and build into the Chorus. This allows the song to begin its story or situation, and to build up drama and excitement, ideally climaxing at the Chorus. Almost all songs involve some kind of story, or a situation that’s summed up in the Chorus, or a question […]

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Jay-Z and Bruce Mythologize Themselves In Their Songs… You Can Try It Too

I recently finished one of the best books on Songwriting I’ve ever read: ‘Decoded’ by Jay-Z. It combines autobiography, thought-provoking observations, and a lot of deep-dive analysis of his own lyrics – which themselves contain a lot of autobiographical and observational elements. The forensics he does on his lyrics are fascinating. On one level he’s […]

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Songwriting Is Looking Inside… And Looking Outside

In terms of writing over a longer period of time, if one just writes autobiographically it’s very hard, almost impossible, to have enough variety to sustain listeners’ interest, not to mention our own. Few of us are able to plumb our own depths exclusively and make that exploration consistently fascinating. It might be even harder […]

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How To Set Up A Song’s Title

Titles are one of the most powerful tools in songwriting. They don’t just help listeners remember the song – though that’s important. When placed and used well, the Title builds a resonance over the course of the song; it gathers force partly through repetition, but also because of what’s placed around it, which can give […]

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Some Ways To Learn From The Songs You Love

Recently I came across a quote from artist/songwriter Aloe Blacc. What he said seemed almost too obvious… then I realized he was talking about things that may seem so obvious – to some – that they don’t get said enough. “Make a list of songs that you think are great, whether it be great for […]

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It’s Usually Good To Know What Your Song’s About

I post songwriting-related quotes on Facebook regularly; not always because I agree with them but because I think they say something worth considering. I recently posted a quote from Taylor Swift, which I put up because I thought she expressed a pretty good songwriting approach: “Think, ‘What would I say to him right now if […]

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Let Us Now Praise Smokey Robinson

Let’s take a moment to praise one of the 20th Century’s great songwriters, universally acknowledged – Smokey Robinson. He’s still very active at the age of 76. Going back to 1957 (almost 60 years!), Smokey was Berry Gordy’s original partner on the creative end at Motown Records (originally call Tamla). Often with his frequent partner, […]

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Songs, Like Art, Can Range from Realism to Abstraction

I don’t know much about art but… wait for it… On the wall at my studio I have, among other things, a print of a painting by Mark Rothko. I like Rothko’s work. The pulsing blocks of color connect with me. But if you asked me what his paintings ‘mean’… I couldn’t tell you. I […]

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Like ‘I Took A Pill In Ibiza’, Your Ballad Might Be A Dance Hit

Most people know Mike Posner’s ‘I Took A Pill In Ibiza’ from the SeeB EDM dance remix, released a year ago, that became a worldwide megahit, rising to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, with over 460,000,000 hits on Youtube. When I first heard this version, I thought it was OK, but that the production […]

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Is ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ the Perfect Song?

I’ve heard people call Somewhere Over The Rainbow “the perfect song”. I don’t even think of that as something to strive for, but I do think the song is about as bulletproof as they come. For what it’s worth, the song is number one on the “Songs of the Century” list compiled by the Recording […]

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The Quickest Way To Bring Fresh Ears To A New Song

Deep into a new song, at some point it becomes hard, almost impossible, to get a clear perspective on what I have. As excited and engaged as I may be, the various alternatives for  Verses, lines, words, melody variations, chord choices, etc. can become a blur. I’ve found that the best way to hear music […]

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Why You Sometimes Like Songs With Bad Lyrics

In a song, everything is sound. So, before we even perceive the content of lyrics – the literal meaning and the emotions attached to that meaning – we get a feeling from the sound of the words. Those words may say something that’s coherent and substantial. But they also may not – and that might […]

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Don’t Give Away Your Chorus Before Its Time

This post is about avoiding something that I think can hurt a song – I watch out for it in my own writing and I notice it in many songs of writers I’ve worked with. To cut to the chase, the ‘antidote’ to this potential damage can perhaps best be summarized this way: Don’t give […]

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