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Where To Place Your Title

If you’re writing a Title-based song – where the Title is the most important lyric in it and it’s the phrase or word you most want listeners to remember – then it’s critical to put the Title in a memorable place in your melody.

This can be at the high point of the Chorus melody as in, for example, ‘I Will Always Love You’ or ‘Jolene’  (to pick two of Dolly Parton’s), Michael Jackson’s ‘Rock With You’  (Rod Temperton) or Justin Timberlake’s ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling!’ (written with Max Martin and Shellback).

It’s impossible to think of these songs without thinking of the Title. In popular songs, putting the Title at the melody’s peak is the most common, tried and true approach. And it’s not incompatible with most of  the other techniques mentioned here.

Another way is to put the Title at the end of the Chorus. It may not be the highest point; the melody may be winding down, but if it’s a strong phrase, melodically and lyrically, that somehow summarizes what we’ve been hearing, it’ll stick with us – as in Katy Perry’s ‘Chained To The Rhythm’, Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring Of Fire’ (written by June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore), or Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’.

Another approach is to put the Title at the beginning of the Chorus. You can set it up with the lead-in line from the end of the Verse or the Pre-Chorus (if there is one). This also has the advantage of being the first thing in the Chorus you hear – it grabs your attention. Examples include MJ’s ‘Billie Jean’ and Bonnie Raitt’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ by Reid/Shamblin (in which, because the Chorus is so long, the Title is also repeated at the end).

Another way to make the Title hard to forget, especially in songs without a Chorus, is to begin every Verse with it. Paul McCartney did this in ‘Hey Jude’; John Lennon did it in ‘Imagine’.

I’ll leave you with one ‘Don’t’, from my family background in newspapers: Don’t Bury The Lead. Meaning, don’t bury the most important thing in your song (the Title, in a Title-based song) somewhere in the weeds of your middle lines. This is usually a waste.

And one ‘Do’: If it makes sense, Do Repeat The Title. Think about the songs above. You hear those Titles more than once or twice! (Except for ‘Stairway To Heaven’, which is pretty much an exception to everything…)

But mainly, consider carefully where you’re putting your Title. It matters.

Let me know your thoughts, additions, disagreements in the Comments section below:

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