To understand what makes great lyrics, well, great, we can break down an existing song and extract some insights from there.
Here is a song called Midnight FM by synthwave-pop duo PRIZM. This song features callouts to lyrics from other famous synthwave/dreamwave songs by artists like FM-84 and The Midnight, mashed up with brand new verses. Combined with the melancholy backing track and slick production quality, this song creates an atmosphere of nostalgia from the opening notes.
1. Figure out your core idea
Before you start writing your song, it's worth brainstorming what you want the song to be about in the first place. There are no rules at this stage; the idea is to loosen up and go broad so that you can eventually zero in on your core themes. Here are some useful questions to ask yourself while you're plotting out ideas:
- How do you want your listeners to feel?
- What imagery could you explore?
- What are some existing songs which speak to your theme?
- Is the song directed at a particular audience?
For this part of the creative process, pen and paper is totally fine (you might want to invest in an ideas journal so you can note down your thoughts anytime), however, you could also use digital tools like Miro or Apple's Notes app.
2. Avoid clichés
Clichés by definition are overused phrases; in practice, they're forgettable at best and stale at worst. It's best to avoid them if you want your song to feel more vibrant, alive and authentic.
Overused phrases (like ones involving 'heart' and 'apart' in a couplet, or 'together' and 'forever') are easily spotted, but boring analogies and similes are also in this category. If you've been paying attention to lyrics, you've probably already come across examples of lyrics which just don't seem to work, or aren't saying anything that connects emotionally. Let's take a look at the lyrics of Midnight FM:
"Chased down by a car without a hand at the wheel
Crash into my heart and I got nothing to feel"
The phrase, 'hand at the wheel' may be a common one, but the songwriters have linked it with the phrase 'crash into my heart' to create an interesting twist. I think they've avoided a cliché in this couplet. What do you think?
3. Don't worry about rhyming - at least, not at first
New songwriters might box themselves into lacklustre lyrics because they are committed to a particular rhyme, and don't see any other way to express their meaning. Another approach, one which keeps your song development loose, is to forget about rhymes at first and just focus on writing compelling lines. Once you've worked the lyrics to the point where you are happy with the imagery, you can then play with rhyme to see what works. Also, it helps to keep in mind that you don't necessarily even have to rhyme in a song. Rhyming an add a lot of emphasis, but there's no rule saying that every single or second line has to rhyme. Singer-songwriters like Bjork often eschew rhyming entirely, so there's no reason you have to be wedded to a particular rhyming scheme. It's about whatever works for your song.
4. Use metaphors. Show, don't tell!
Let's take review another verse from Midnight FM.
I used to be the one
I used to be your place to land
Under the shadows
And into the palm of my hand
This verse talks about a growing distance between a romantic couple, but this is described in metaphor rather than anything literal. This helps to better connect the listener to the mood of the song, and, in relation to tip #3, also helps the song get away from overused expressions.
5. Analyse lyrics from your favourite songs
Ultimately, the lyrics you want to write are somewhere inside your head. The best way to get them out so you can commit them to a Splash Pro song is to take a moment to analyse existing songs you like so you can learn more about what makes them work. Spotify now has a lyric viewing or karaoke feature which allows you to see lyrics, and that is of course in addition to all the existing websites out there which show song lyrics.
Keep in mind, also, that Splash Pro has a lyrics generation feature, which you can use as a springboard for your own verses. Here's a screenshot of this nifty feature in action below:
Keep writing, and don't forget to tag @splashmusicco on our socials so we can see the awesome things you create!