What Are Songwriters’ Favorite Topics To Write About?
Like storytelling, songwriting is an art and requires an imaginative mind. Good songwriters aim to convey messages in a musical way that will interest their audiences. However, for that to happen, the topic of a song has to resonate with people, often provoking their thoughts and/or affecting their emotions. There are a wide variety of topics that can do this; some genres are even determined by songs with certain themes.
Across all genres, there are certain song topics that are more popular than others to the point where, if you listened to music for an entire day, these topics would be sure to jump out at you way more often than the others. In fact, research findings by a North Carolina State University team found that there were 12 main themes constituting most of the top Billboard hits between January 1960 and December 2009.
Based on the findings, which were published in the Journal of Advertising Research, the most favorite themes included loss, desire, aspiration, breakups, pain, inspiration, nostalgia, rebellion, feeling jaded, desperation, escapism, and confusion. While some themes were more popular in some eras, there is clear evidence that most song topics revolve around these themes. They include:
Regardless of the genre, most songwriters will write about love at one point or another, if not all the time. Love, being an emotion that every human is aware of and wants to experience, is something that everyone can identify with. Additionally, because it is such a complex topic, many, if not all the themes that were uncovered in the NC State University study, can be conveyed in love songs, including desire, pain, loss, breaking up and nostalgia. Popular love songs include many classics sung by artistes such as Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Michael Bolton.
Having a Good Time
Whether it is partying until the wee hours of the morning or hanging out at the beach with half-naked girls, many songwriters like to create songs that are about having fun and being carefree. These songs are normally geared toward the younger crowd, who aspire to active, fun lifestyles and are, therefore, more likely to listen to music depicting such. Songs based on this topic may also have the effect of helping people look past the daily stresses of life and just enjoying the lighter moments. One recent example of this is Major Lazer’s “Lean On”, featuring MØ.
There is always something happening that makes it onto the news and/or affects people. Many songwriters choose to write about topical events that might be on the minds of the general populace, either choosing to be critical or giving their own solutions. Politics, religion and sexuality are popular topics that often come up for mention. Reggae and rap are two genres that lean heavily on current events, with artistes such as Bob Marley and Nas being known for their songs based on world happenings.
Although sex can be confused with love and sometimes the two are combined, sex in itself is a popular topic that many songwriters explore. Whether it is about sexual prowess, casual sex or even promiscuity, sex is an experience that people in general look forward to and, when it is the subject of a song, may even be inspiration. Many R&B and Hip Hop songwriters use sex in their topics, with artists such as Nicki Minaj and R. Kelly being among performers who have recorded songs about sex.
There are many other topics that songwriters can write about, ranging from nature to even sports. However, good songwriters know that it is not just about being able to choose topics but also being able to get a response from the listening public using thought-provoking lyrics and intelligent word play.
Mylène Besançon is the CMO of SongCat, a top-rated online recording studio. SongCat produces professional-quality songs for writers and musicians at various stages of their career. For more information, and to hear what clients are saying about SongCat’s services, you can visit http://songcat.biz.