This is my nephew when he was about 3 years olds, who appears to be really enjoying the song that he's listening to. Now will this song be forgotten until he hears it the next time or will it creep up in his mind and play over and over again after the headphones are removed?
In my 1 year experience in writing, recording and performing, I have learned so much about myself as a musician and as a person. What I am continuously learning and will always be chasing after is knowing how to cater to my listeners. How to practice empathy and ask, what do they want to hear? What will capture their attention? How do I write my next melody line that will leave them wanting more? How do I get my songs stuck in their heads?
There are songs that instills such great catharsis that we are literally addicted to them. There are those songs that we just can't stand yet can't get out of our heads. Regardless if you love or hate the song the common denominator is that emotions are involved - music then becomes more about the instrumentation. Music triggers so many different parts of our brains that triggers meaningful moments and memories and powerful emotions associated with these moments. When a section of a song runs continuously in your mind even after it is no longer being played, you are experiencing "The Earworm Effect" or involuntary musical imagery (INMI).
According to a CNN study, Lady Gaga dominates the "earworm" UK charts. Songs like "Poker Face", "Bad Romance" and "Alejandro" are not per say my favourite songs but have they been running through my mind over and over again. Another one that definitely stuck with me for months (I kid you not!) was Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out of My Head" - no pun intended!
As a songwriter, I aim to write good songs that people can identify with in life. I aim to write songs that hold meaning and come from deep emotions. But I also think that every songwriter aim to write songs that gets stuck in their listeners' heads - that way by default it creates curiosity and people wants to know more about the musician and in turn want to listen to more music by that artist!
By all means I am no expert on telling you which components are absolutely needed to create the "earworm" hit. But what I can infer through my current experiences through collaborating with local producers writing my Connections EP, my new LP album coming out late spring/early summer, conversations with fellow musicians, and my years of love for music, what I believe could be some of the common basis that make some songs more catchier than others.
1) Not too complex, yet not too simple. We want listeners to be able to "recall" your song so following a common structure such as the ABABCB (A=Verse B=Chorus C=Bridge) allows listeners to remember more easily. I am horrible at this - I love to drag sections out, add extra sections and take different paths that even leads my producers astray and lost.
2) The Catch. The structure has to be simple to enable for easy recollection BUT our attention span only has a certain length of time before we start to lose interest. Therefore songwriters and producers have to find something what I like to call "the catch" which are parts of a song that is different (can be a change in key, tempo, rhythm, production level) and catches the listeners' ears off guard but still retains the simple structure.
3) Simple, Melodic, Rhythmic Lines. Simple chord progressions plays a huge role in creating addictive songs. Similarly, a strong melodic line is what we tend to, as listeners retain. This catchy melody is usually more upbeat in tempo and follows a natural rise and fall rhythmic pattern.
4) Simple Lyrics. This is my nemesis. For such a quiet and non-opinionated individual, I write extremely elaborate and difficult lyrics and try to squeeze them all within the confines of a 3-4 minute song. This is a very common feedback from my friends and producers and something I am having the most difficult time adapting to. I apparently have a lot to say which means I have a lot of material to create new songs but tend to want to pack it all up in one song.
The most catchy songs uses smaller amounts of words or words that are easy to remember, or phrases that are repeated. As a storyteller, I am learning to reserve more complicated words to verses but to keep my chorus/hook simplier so that my listeners can either hum the memorable melody line or sing the "catch phrase" of the song. For example, our very own Drake's latest "God's Plan" got me singing, "Yeah they wishin' and wishin' and wishin' and wishin' ". It's a HIT!
I believe I may be improving because my single S.O.S (SOcial Support) that I released earlier this year apparently was an "earworm"! YASSS!! If you haven't already, check out my song and remember 100% of the proceeds generated through SOS will be donated to the Canadian Mental Health Association!
The take home message I get from this is: Understand how to wisely work the simplicity of the known into the unexpected so that the listeners will be drawn to the comfort of familiarity but also the excitement of the unknown to come.
What are some of your "earworms" that's got you singing on replay? Leave your comments below!