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#1125728 - 03/23/17 12:42 PM Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme??  
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 138
Donna Dutchess Offline
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Donna Dutchess  Offline
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Does EVERY song have to be about love??? What happened to uniqueness?? I know I"m a child of the '60's but I remember songs like "Eleanor Rigby", "All the Lonely People", "Horse with no name": they weren't about love. They were unique and they are now classics. I just finished a new song "I've Got A New Song" and was told by a publisher that if it wasn't about love, NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR IT!! What are your thoughts? Check out my song and tell me your thoughts.


#1125733 - 03/23/17 02:26 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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Like always, you can write whatever you want. But you have to determine what your use for a song is. If you are interested in commercial applications, love, the loss of love, the desire for love, etc is just about the most desired thing in songs. Pretty simple reason, because that is what everybody wants. They see everything bad in the world every day in their lives, on television, movies, internet, pretty much a steady diet of doom, gloom, hatred and anger. So love is the thing most people are looking for.

Artists need love songs to attract the opposite sex to their brand. That is what sells records, t shirts, fan clubs, personal appearances. Basically, love is what PAYS THE BILLS. The women who go for a certain male singer wish they could be with that singer. He is singing to THEM. Same with females, although they tend to be pissed off and while anger does sell a little,it also burns out easily. But the female singers, love to do the ACSS (Angry Chick Singer Syndrome) and that does explain why they sell less than one sixth of male artists. Trying to get a girl a record deal right now is right up there with popularizing the EBOLA virus In a business, where NOBODY is selling records, females are selling even less. They are so busy peddling anger, they never stop to think that guys already have all the anger they can deal with in their own lives. Either deservedly so or not so.

The songs you mention, "Eleanor Rigby", (All the Lonely People) (I think you are talking about the same song) and "Horse with No Name", all were written by the artists themselves and were released after they already have classic careers going. The Beatles were well into their run as the most popular band in history before they released theirs. Sure, they had different songs, WHEN I'M SIXTY FOUR, MAXWELL'S SILVER HAMMER, MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR, DAY IN THE LIFE, But their other songs, "All You Need is Love" Please Please Me" Saw Her Standing there", Revolution, Come Together, etc. all VASTLY outsold all their challenging different songs. Basically LOVE was the biggest theme of the Beatles entire career. And even their solo stuff, IMAGINE, SOMETHING IN THE WAY SHE MOVES, etc. are mostly all about LOVE. That is why the Broadway and Vegas show with Cirque Sole' was titled "LOVE."

"HORSE WITH NO NAME", was like many songs of that era, tail end of the 60's into the 70's singer/songwriter groups. America was known for their harmonies and so the NAH, NAH, NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH.....part probably sold that record far more than any thing about some pony running around in the desert. People could care less about any story of that. And their other songs, "Sister Golden Hair", "Ventura Highway", etc. made the way for "Riderless horse nobody knows the name of" song. Actually what America sold was SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA in the 1970's. That, and a few hits of acid, and a nice drive down the Coast, A1A, would have you singing about anything. Worked for the Beach Boys and all the California sound groups of that era.
When it comes to questioning about why certain songs work, you can never separate THE ERA AND THE TIMES for certain songs and artists. They worked when they worked and they might never have worked if it wasn't for all the other things that are around them. Of if those certain songs were released in a certain order, they may have never gone anywhere outside some random cassette tapes in somebody's attic.

So, sure you can write obscure songs that are not about love, people do it all the time. But what is going to be interesting about YOUR obscure songs about odd things, over an ARTIST'S own songs about odd things that THEY experience? And that is the overall thing about this business. If you are trying to get your songs to someone else, you are going to have do something they can't do themselves or do it in a way they have not done. The subject matter has to appeal to them. You will find the love song is the single most appealing thing to artists. Always have to please your audience first, or you don't have an audience. That is the primary reason for WRITING SONGS WITH THE ARTISTS in the first place. The rest is just trying to put your words into other people's mouths. In this day and age, that is a pretty hard sell.


#1125734 - 03/23/17 02:31 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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PS: ELEANOR RIGBY" is actually ABOUT the LACK OF LOVE and people trying to FIND LOVE. That is the point of the song. So even in your example, love is part of the subject matter in that one. Funny how that works. You will find the majority of songs in history are about love in one form or another.

#1125736 - 03/23/17 02:53 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Trollboy 1 Offline
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If the publisher doesn't like your song then you won. Thats a surefire sign its good. If the publisher loves your song it probably sucks,

#1125737 - 03/23/17 03:31 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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There's some truth to that. Publishers are there for the very reason to COMMERCIALLY EXPLOIT creative works. If you bring them something that is non-commercial, in their opinion, it does no one any good. So from a creative standpoint ,that might be true. From a career standpoint, not so much so. But you can always have songs for your own collection, enjoyment and sharing with others. Not every song is meant to be a pitchable song. Again, just depends on what your intention for a song is. If it is not a commercial entity, you shouldn't expect someone who HAS to have commercial entities, to embrace it.

#1126020 - 03/30/17 11:58 AM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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niteshift Online content
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niteshift  Online Content
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Hey Donna,

Answer : If it's not universal OR unique, it won't do any good. It'll end up in the basket of white noise like 99% of songs ever written.

If however, it's universal AND unique, you can start picking out the colour of your Maserati smile

cheers, niteshift

#1126026 - 03/30/17 04:18 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Kolstad Offline
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I guess that depends on what they are "publishing". Say in heavy metal there are lots of songs about drugs, rebellion, death, politics and much more. That is the most popular genre of music world wide, so it is absolutely not true that a song has to be about love. See https://www.dailydot.com/upstream/heavy-metal-fans-most-loyal-spotify/

Personally I prefer instrumental jazz, which also does not have any sort of universal lyrics, but of course is much more niche ;-)

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#1126042 - 03/31/17 08:59 AM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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Well, you can start picking out the color of your Matchbook or Hot wheels TOY Maserati.

An interesting excercise for Donna or anyone interested in "theme's" might want to go to YOU TUBE, pull up the TOP 10 SONGS of any particular Genre, country, pop, rock, blues, etc. You will usually find between 8 and 9 of those songs totally about LOVE. Either wanting love, getting love, or losing and wanting love. Now, it can also be about love in different ways, love for a loved one, family, friends, etc. But Love is the most primary issue ever being sung about.

Personally, I write about a thousand things OTHER than love. It is part of what I teach when working with artists or up and coming writers. Showing them how to approach other subjects BESIDES love, is a very good excercise. Having songs about inanimate objects, a house, towns, cities, some family heirloom, LIFE LESSONS, situations that happen to us on an every day basis, etc. Something that is NOT about love is a good way to find alternative approaches on life.
Since most artists have nothing BUT love in their catalogues, so if your goal is to get cuts or write with artists, it is a good idea to help them find something they DON'T have. publishers might not be interested in it but artists like to have other things that most people don't think of.

A couple of years ago in Nashville, two pairs of brothers, The Warrens' and the Beavers, set out to write "the dumbest song possible about an inanimate object."
They were looking around the room for something silly to write about, and one was drinking out of a "red solo cup."
They wrote that as a joke. Toby Keith heard it at a party and cut it. It became a pretty big hit.

So it doesn't hurt to have other things in your catalogue. Sometimes they might just be the DOOR OPENER that you need. Never know what you're gonna need.


#1126080 - 03/31/17 11:44 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Brian Austin Whitney Online content
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In a word: No

In a paragraph: You should always write about what you know in your own life. Sincerity in topic matters whether it is rap or country (actually, especially in those two). Some genres are about production however and in those cases only a catchphrase chorus, a hummable melody and a butt kicking production matters. In the end, write what you do best, whatever that is, and keep getting better by moving forward, not clinging to the same collection of songs. When what you do well meets what people like, then you can please both yourself AND your fans, but if it is either/or,choose pleasing yourself so that your music and the journey while making it will always pay off whether or not commerce ever enters the picture!


Brian Austin Whitney
Just Plain Folks
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"Don't sit around and wait for success to come to you... it doesn't know the way." -Brian Austin Whitney

#1126081 - 04/01/17 04:34 AM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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TC Perkins Offline
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TC Perkins  Offline
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I just go with inspiration and write about whatever is moving me at that point in time.

Songs can be anything you want them to be. Granted, love is probably the number 1 theme but there are as many types of songs as there are types of people. This doesn't mean everything you might write is commercially viable but my philosophy is "just write and let the chips fall where they may." There are certainly some strange and wonderful tunes out there that became classic hits because the artist left the beaten path (Bohemian Rhapsody comes to mind). Sometimes it's fun to just push the boundaries; even if that particular song doesn't turn out great, you learn something about yourself as a songwriter that may just help you write that next song.


If it has strings I will find a way to play it!

You can hear my tunes at https://soundcloud.com/tc-gypsy

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