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Finding A Lyric’s ‘Angle’ Makes It Much Easier To Write

A very common situation: I’ve got a Title and at least a substantial part of the rest of the Chorus lyric (if there is any – sometimes the Title’s all the Chorus lyric you need). I’ve also got the music mostly worked out – melody, chords, etc.

But I still need lyrics for several Verses. Maybe I have part of a Verse, or a bunch of lines that might work.

But what I don’t have is what I call an ‘angle’: meaning, how is the Verse lyric going to rub up against the Chorus, which contains the main idea? What’s my approach?

Sometimes this comes to me right away, or quickly, as part of the beginning idea of the song, the original inspiration. But other times…

Are the Verses going to contradict the Chorus, so I can go into the Chorus singing ‘BUT…’? Will they be a ‘list’? Or both of the previous (which often works)?  Or will they not contradict the Chorus idea, but rather support it, agree with it?

Will it be a story song, with sections of the narrative broken into separate Verses, like chapters in a book? Or will it simply be about a situation that the Chorus summarizes? Will the Verses have one point of view, or several? Will they be a funny, clever, or ironic take on the Title? Or will they be more abstract, like a Bowie ‘cutup’ song?

These are just a bare handful of the possible choices or combinations one might consider. But for me, finding the angle is key. Until I do, I’m usually just writing generalities and platitudes, repeating my knee-jerk, overly familiar (to me, at least) lines and themes that get me in the general area of the song’s Chorus without creating anything really interesting.

But… when I’ve found my angle, I can get down to cases. I can stop being general and be specific – which in most lyrics is indispensable.

Once I’ve got a handle on the approach I want to take I can usually fill in the blanks eventually. But if I don’t have an angle, I must continue to wander – what else can I do? – until I find one.

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