The Pop Song. A-A-B-A. A.K.A. Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Verse-Chorus (or something terribly similar). Even this snobby Progressive Rock fan has a soft spot for a well-written pop song. However, when it comes right down to it, songs that fit this pop song formula are often predictable, boring, and can have a dime-a-dozen feeling to them. So, what makes a Pop song really… Pop? (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! OH MY GOSH I AM SO FUNNY! HOW IS THIS BLOG NOT INSANELY POPULAR?!?!?!?!?!?!) Well, I believe a great Pop song has to possess three essential elements.
1. Melody. A good pop song has to have the melody element. The melody is the catchy-factor. I say this rather matter-of-factly, but good melodies are hard to come by. Even the legendary Beethoven crossed out, crumpled up, and threw away countless melodies because he felt they weren’t good enough. It takes a truly special person to be able to write great melodies.
2. A harmonically interesting bridge. By all means, write a three or four chord verse with the same chords in a different order for the chorus. It has been done successfully and it will continue to be done successfully. However, the bridge is where the harmony needs to have some changes. It doesn’t need to be long and it doesn’t need to be drastic, but there has no be some harmonic interest in the middle of the song to re-engage the listener for the home stretch.
3. Relatively Interesting Instrumentation. I use the term “relatively” very loosely. Many pop songs have many different successful instrumentations from electronic-based to full orchestra. Pretty much, the song just needs to avoid guy-with-acoustic-guitar syndrome or that-one-annoying-guy-from-choir-who-knows-three-Coldplay-songs-on-the-piano disease. It is a pop song. The music doesn’t have to knock my socks off, but it can’t just be piano chords for four minutes or incessant acoustic guitar strumming.
Enough talk! Let’s listen to the masters! Here are five song-writers (in alphabetical order, of course) who write phenomenal pop songs!
1. Sara Bareilles
One day, I was in the kitchen making dinner, and I heard a marvelously catchy song coming from the living room.
I cried out in despair, “From whence cometh this lovely sound?!?!?!”
My wife answered, “Sara Bareilles…” Then, she told me I was a freak. (She isn’t wrong)
Seriously, Sara B writes great music that is wildly catchy. Her entire album Kaleidoscope Heart is fantastic. Here is another one of hers!
Alright, and one more! Geez, pull my leg!
2. Rob Cantor
To those of you who are my friends, you know I have been obsessing over Rob Cantor and Tally Hall for the past two months. The guy can flat out write a song. At the risk of committing heresy I would go as far as to say he is a modern day Paul McCartney. Aside from heresy, another possible problem with that statement is that Paul is still alive and making music. Anyways… Here are a couple of his songs!
“All I Need is You”
3. Paul McCartney
Speaking of Paul McCartney. The astonishing thing about Paul is that he has continued to make great music for the entirety of his 40+ year career. Here is a song from the Beatles days, one from his early solo days, and a couple from his most recent album. One thing that makes the Beatles/McCartney so fantastic is variation on the pop song form. I will include the varied form with each song.
“Martha My Dear” (Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus-Verse)
“Here Today” (Verse-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Verse)
“I Can Bet” (Verse-Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus)
“Looking at Her” (Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus)
4. K.T. Tunstall
If you are still reading, good for you! Hopefully you have had time to at least hear a few songs! Maybe a couple you didn’t know! Especially from that Rob Cantor guy! He is great, right?!?! Anyways, onto K.T. Tunstall! If I am being completely honest, the only album I know of hers is Eye to the Telescope, BUT it is one of my favorite albums! There is not a single bad song on it! Here are two that I bet you have heard before. I challenge you to listen to “Suddenly I See” with a new light. I know we have been hearing it in every commercial in America for the past three years, but I regard it as one of the best pop songs of the 21st Century!
“Other Side of the World”
“Suddenly I See”
5. Josh Wilson
Here is a fellow you may not have heard of! I would love to fully endorse him as a fantastic songwriter and musician, but unfortunately his new album was the absolute definition of cookie-cutter. But I can fully endorse all of his music prior to his most recent record! The dude pretty much rules. Wildly catchy stuff with some really harmonically cool bridges. Almost all of his music fits the pop song format, so it was tricky to narrow it down to three, but here they are!
“Three Minute Song”
“Always Only You”
“How to Fall”
There you go! Probably more pop songs than you would ever have time to listen to in the average time you spend on one blog post! Hopefully you enjoyed the music you heard and maybe found something new! Have an excellent (period of time before I write my next blog post) and enjoy music!