Friday, June 12, 2009

Verse, bridge, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, chorus, chorus, chorus, chorus....

This isn't one of those grumpy-old-blog complaints about how much better things used to be. This is a plea for our sanity, sent out to basically every recording artist writing music today:


Yes, we here at WB Music Labs have studied the issue for a long time, mostly while listening to cookie-cutter FM stations (and satellite radio too; it's far from an improvement over FM) while doing other work, and we've arrived at a conclusion: nearly every band out right now has taken to writing one or two verses, a bridge, and a chorus, and then mindlessly copy/pasting the pieces over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

Exhibit A: Shinedown's "Second Chance," with two extremely thin verses, two bridge repetitions, and three pastes of the chorus, including two back to back.

Exhibit B: Metric's "Help I'm Alive," which doesn't appear to have any verses but an array of three different choruses used interchangeably, randomly — and, of course, repetitiously.

Exhibit C: Chris Cornell's "Part Of Me," with three verses and 24 repetitions of a single-line chorus. And Cornell — former Soundgarden frontman, Audioslave vocalist, and masterful re-interpreter of Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean" — really ought to know better.

We know that for many listeners, lyrics are just sounds and vocal tracks are only another instrument in the mix. Some people's brains work like that, and that's fine (although a little sad). But the other half of us actually hear the words, and lyrics like the ones here are the equivalent of Chinese water torture, a steady tapping of the forehead until we become quietly, and then desperately, insane.

It doesn't help that both FM and satellite radio prefer to play their computer-generated playlists in the same order every day, with "heavy rotation" songs (think Green Day's "Know Your Enemy," which we are already sick of only two weeks after its release) playing at least once each hour. But if we boycott radio and just stick with our iPods, we'll miss hearing new music that the iPods need on them. On the other hand, by the time we hear the new music, we'll have heard it so often, and its lyrics will be so brain-numbingly simple and formulaic, that it won't matter.

It's an ugly situation. Songwriters, we're begging you: Write songs. Get off the computer, leave those Copy and Paste commands alone, and think about what else you could put there, what other words might enhance the message. Otherwise, you'll just give millions of people headaches that are beating like a hammer, beating like a hammer, beating like a hammer, beating like a hammer.


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