I am a song geek. I love songs, I love discovering them, singing them, tearing them apart and devouring the subtext and meaning. I get all goofy when I talk about songs I love. My hands flail and my voice reaches a speed and pitch that can best be described as Minnie Mouse on helium.
What excites me about a song? Some of it is certainly chemistry, that beyond explanation something that reaches out and pulls me in, that little voice that tells me “this is your song”. But the other part of the equation is logical. If I were to dismantle and analyse all the songs I adore I would find elements they all have in common.
Good Bones - Michele Brourman talks a lot about Seduction by Production, which is a song that so captures your attention with its instrumentation and enthusiasm that it takes a listen or two to figure out there’s really no there there. A great song will stand on its own without the embelishments. It holds up whether it’s sung accapella or with a full orchestra. An ornate frame won’t make a mediocre painting better it merely distracts you for a while.
Heart - It’s not enough to make me think if it doesn’t also make me feel.
Balance - I’m looking for the perfect marriage of lyric and melody.
Transporting - I want a song to be transporting. I want to be taken to a place outside myself, somewhere that gives me a new perspective and elevates me. If I can see the world from a different vantage point that’s when I know I’m on to something.
Illuminating - It is a gift to unearth a tune that shows me something new about myself.
Transforming - A song can open a window of understanding into something that is entirely outside my experience. A song that can change your view of the world (or any tiny corner of it) is a song that has power.
Tells a great story (arc) - Some songs tell linear stories, some don’t. It doesn’t matter how the story is told only that there is one, that you come to the end of it in a different place from where you started. It has to be a great ride.
Attention to craft - I have seen Miss Carol Hall take a singer to task over a tiny lyric mistake like changing an and, an or, or a but. Not because she was being difficult but because every word matters. She labors over finding just the right words to express her point. This is craft and must be respected.
Makes me want to sing - I have experienced no greater joy in life than wrapping my vocal cords, brain and heart around a wonderful song. There ain’t nothing like it in the world!
Whew! Trying to distill all this into a few bullet points was a challenge. If I let myself I could keep going on this for days, but I would love to know what you think. What makes you fall in love with a song?