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How to Write A Hit Song

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Mon, May 16, 2016 @07:22 AM

How to Write a Hit Song

by Shelly Peiken
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I WISH I knew. If I had the answer I would have written a whole lot more. Anybody who tells you there’s a formula...like always have the title in the first line of the hook or always get to the chorus in thirty-seven seconds, is probably describing a winning scenario that works sometimes, but I assure you, no formula will work every time. As for me, as soon as I think I’ve found the perfect cocktail, somebody hides my vodka.
 Having said that...I have picked up some songwriting tips from partners and colleagues that have resonated with me over the years. Such as...

Stay True
—I was on a songwriting panel with Kara (“American Idol”) DioGuardi, and she said something that was quite matter-of-fact. Let me Karaphrase: “If it doesn’t feel inspired going in, it won’t feel inspired coming out.” Sometimes the simplest ideas go under-appreciated. How many times have I been complicit in finishing a song I wasn’t “feeling,” so as not to be the stick-in-the-mud or disappoint my co-writer? The answer is: a lot more than I’d like to admit. Even though sometimes those songs manage to get recorded, more often than not, they don’t, and then I fail with something I didn’t believe in in the first place.

  • Walk Away
—When you’re stuck...take a walk! This can be more visually stimulating in a city; however, there are other ways to clear your head. Here in L.A., we drive to a place where we can walk. Or we sit by a pool; there are so many pools. 


  • Separate
—Dan James, Leah Haywood and I had bits and pieces of a puzzle that we just couldn’t seem to put together. Dan left the studio for a coffee and a smoke and as soon as he came back in, he spewed a whole hook. Just like that—as effortless as a fart. After all that constipation, Leah and I looked at each other—WTF, Dan? And... did somebody get that? 
Songwriter Michelle Lewis excuses herself to “powder her nose.” She always comes back with a clever line; I know it has nothing to do with her nose. She just needs a little space. 


  • Double Down
—When I first worked with Albert Hammond, Sr., he suggested using the same exact line back to back. I said, “Albert...Umm...you just used that line.” And he said, “So what? Did it feel good?” It did. He said, “ Then don’t worry.” 


  • Be Ready
—Though your mobile device with its Voice Memo App is most likely by your side 24/7, sometimes it’s just nice to feel a pen glide around on paper. So keep a pad of Post-it notes on the piano, under your pillow, in your closet, in your sock drawer, in the spice cabinet, by your toothbrush, the kitchen sink, in your man-purse, the glove compartment, the bathroom, your gym locker—you get the idea— because you never know when an idea is going to tap you on the shoulder. You can swear you’ll remember it, but you won’t. 


  • Work It Out
—Get that blood closer to your brain. Good things happen when your heart beats faster. 


  • Leave Room to Pace—
Get out from behind the computer. Staring at a screen can hold you hostage. Release yourself. Your mind is freer when it’s not confined. 


  • Keep Going—even when you feel like you’re filling up pages with meaningless gibberish. Often the golden nugget turns up at the very end of the last page of the stuff you thought was nonsense. 


  • Be Disciplined
—Sit at the piano or with that guitar every morning and noodle... even if nothing comes. Eventually something will. 


  • Word Games
—Crossword puzzles let you practice fitting words into limited or specific spaces...twisting and turning concepts around until some- thing clicks—like writing lyrics. Sometimes, just when you’re certain you can go no further, the next day you’ll be crossing the street and voilà...23 Across (or that missing line) becomes obvious. Your brain is working, even when you’re not. 


  • Listen
—Keep your ears open for snippets of conversation that catch your attention—a slur from a drunk in the checkout line, a blurb about the weather on the news, a lament from a tired two-year-old. We hear things selectively for a reason. 


  • Rhyming—
Soft rhymes or sound-alikes are pleasing. They have texture. They are fresh. Exact rhymes can sound stale. A perfect rhyme that’s “ball- park” is not nearly as interesting as a scrappy one that tells the truth. 


  • The More the Merrier—
If you can’t sing, consider writing with someone who can, especially if you are aiming to pitch the song to an artist with a big voice. A singer with range can take you to melodic places you wouldn’t have ventured yourself, simply because...you can’t sing! 


  • Access Your Madness
—Even the most mentally healthy songwriter harbors a bit of emotional dysfunction. This is no time to be sensible. Unleash it. It will serve you well. 


  • Dream It
—When you’re searching for an elusive word or an alternative melodic shape, concentrate on it when you go to bed. What we fall asleep thinking about is often what we dream about. If it comes to you in your sleep, document it as soon as you wake up, because we forget 90% of our dreams within ten minutes of waking. It’s been said that the introduction to “Satisfaction” came to Keith Richards in a dream. Makes me want to take a nap. Yawn. 


  • Set the Mood
—If you want a song to have a certain melancholy feel, listen to another song that has a similar melancholy feel, while you’re working on the new song. I’m not suggesting you rip it off...but use it like Viagra, if you will, to get in the mood. (If you remain inspired for more than four hours, be sure to get medical help right away.) 


  • Keep Perspective—
I’m uncomfortable when a co-writer automatically defers to me. He might think I know better just because I once wrote a big hit. I don’t. Conversely, sometimes I’m writing with someone who just had a hit and I start thinking maybe she knows better. She doesn’t. 


  • Stay Clear
—A lot of great songs have been written under the influence, but be careful. While being high may open your mind and let you see things in a different light, sometimes that heady mist of open-mindedness makes it hard to tell whether you’re really brilliant or just imagining you are.

My apologies to everyone who saw the title of this chapter and thought by reading it they’d know how to write a hit song. It’s just not that simple. If I had to come up with one X factor that I could cite as a characteristic most hit songs have in common (and this excludes hit songs that are put forth by an already well-oiled machine...that is, a recording artist who has so much notoriety and momentum that just about anything he or she releases, as long as it’s “pretty good,” will have a decent shot at succeeding), I would say it would be:

A universal sentiment in a unique frame.

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Shelly Peiken is a Hit songwriter who is best known for writing #1 hits "What A Girl Wants" and "Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)" by Christina Aguilera, #1 hit "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks, and the Top 20 hit "Almost Doesn't Count" by Brandy. She has also written songs that were recorded by some of the biggest names in music: Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Gladys Knight, Cher, Gloria Gaynor, Samantha Fox, Taylor Dayne, Natalie Cole and many more. She wrote the book "Confessions of a Serial Songwriter” published by BackBeat Books, available on Amazon and at Bookstores near you.

 

To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, Britney Spears, How To Write A Hit Song, hit songwriting, Shelly Peiken, Christina Aguilera, Meredith Brooks

Max Martin, the Most Successful Songwriter

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Tue, Mar 15, 2016 @07:00 AM

Max Martin, the Most Successful Songwriter (in the last 20 years)

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Just turn on Top 40 radio and you will hear one of his songs "Shake It Off", a song recorded by Taylor Swift. Max Martin, is a Swedish songwriter and producer has replaced Diane Warren as the most successful pop songwriter of the last 20 years.. He rose to prominence in the mid-1990s after making a string of major hits for artists such as the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Bon Jovi and NSYNC. Some of his earlier hits include "I Want It That Way" (1999), "...Baby One More Time" (1999) and "It's My Life" (2000).

Martin, born Martin Sandberg in Stockholm, won the Grammy for producer of the year, non-classical, in 2015 and Album of the year (for Taylor Swift’s “1989” Album) in 2016. He has written 21 No. 1s on the Billboard Hot 100, more than any other writer in history except for Paul McCartney (32) and John Lennon (26). Martin has produced 19 of the Hot 100 No. 1s, more than any other producer except for another Martin: Beatles producer George Martin, with 23. Max Martin's run began with Britney Spears' "…Baby One More Time: in 1999. He has also written No. 1s for *NSYNC, Katy Perry, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift and The Weeknd.

Hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts is the absolute "Olympic Gold Medal" measure for a songwriter. In the Billboard Charts' Hot 100's 57-year history, only Paul McCartney (32) and John Lennon (26) boast more leaders as writers.

Expanding the scope to the Billboard Hot 100's top 10, Martin's sum swells to an astonishing 58 top 10s on which he's credited as a writer. While it's not an all-time record (yet; McCartney boasts more).

 

Here are Max Martin's 58 Hot 100 Top 10s as a Songwriter

Peak Pos., Title, Artist, Peak Date

No. 7, "Do You Know (What It Takes)," Robyn, 8/2/1997

No. 2, "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)," Backstreet Boys, 9/6/1997

No. 7, "Show Me Love," Robyn, 11/29/1997

No. 4, "Everybody [Backstreet's Back]," Backstreet Boys, 5/9/1998

No. 1 (two weeks), "...Baby One More Time," Britney Spears, 1/30/1999

No. 6, "I Want It That Way," Backstreet Boys, 6/26/1999

No. 10, "(You Drive Me) Crazy," Britney Spears, 11/13/1999

No. 6, "That's the Way It Is," Celine Dion, 3/4/2000

No. 6, "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely," Backstreet Boys, 3/18/2000

No. 9, "Oops!...I Did It Again," Britney Spears, 6/10/2000

No. 1 (two weeks), "It's Gonna Be Me," 'N Sync, 7/29/2000

No. 9, "Shape of My Heart," Backstreet Boys, 12/2/2000

No. 2, "Since U Been Gone," Kelly Clarkson, 4/9/05

No. 6, "Behind These Hazel Eyes," Kelly Clarkson, 6/11/05

No. 9, "U + Ur Hand," P!nk, 5/5/2007

No. 9, "Who Knew," P!nk, 9/29/2007

No. 3, "Hot N Cold," Katy Perry, 1/22/2008

No. 1 (seven weeks), "I Kissed a Girl," Katy Perry, 7/5/2008

No. 1 (one week), "So What," P!nk, 9/27/2008

No. 1 (two weeks), "My Life Would Suck Without You," Kelly Clarkson, 2/7/2009

No. 1 (one week), "3," Britney Spears, 10/24/2009

No. 10, "Whataya Want From Me," Adam Lambert, 5/1/2010

No. 1, "California Gurls," Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg, 6/19/2010

No. 2, "Dynamite," Taio Cruz, 8/21/2010

No. 1 (two weeks), "Teenage Dream," Katy Perry, 9/18/2010

No. 4, "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love," Usher feat. Pitbull, 10/9/2010

No. 8, "Teenage Dream," Glee Cast, 11/27/2010

No. 1 (one week), "Raise Your Glass," P!nk, 12/11/2010

No. 1 (one week), "Hold It Against Me," Britney Spears, 1/29/2011

No. 2, "F**kin' Perfect," P!nk, 2/12/2011

No. 7, "Blow," Ke$ha, 3/19/2011

No. 6, "Loser Like Me," Glee Cast, 4/2/2011

No. 1 (five weeks), "E.T.," Katy Perry feat. Kanye West, 4/9/2011

No. 3, "Till the World Ends," Britney Spears, 5/14/2011

No. 7, "I Wanna Go," Britney Spears, 8/20/2011

No. 1 (two weeks), "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)," Katy Perry, 8/27/2011

No. 3, "The One That Got Away," Katy Perry, 1/7/2012

No. 6, "Domino," Jessie J, 2/18/2012

No. 1 (one week), "Part of Me," Katy Perry, 3/3/2012

No. 9, "Scream," Usher, 8/4/2012

No. 2, "Wide Awake," Katy Perry, 8/11/2012

No. 1 (three weeks), "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," Taylor Swift, 9/1/2012

No. 1 (nine weeks), "One More Night," Maroon 5, 9/29/2012

No. 5, "Beauty and a Beat," Justin Bieber feat. Nicki Minaj, 1/5/2013

No. 2, "I Knew You Were Trouble.," Taylor Swift, 1/12/2013

No. 7, "Daylight," Maroon 5, 2/23/2013

No. 1 (two weeks), "Roar," Katy Perry, 9/14/2013

No. 1 (four weeks), "Dark Horse," Katy Perry feat. Juicy J, 2/8/2014

No. 2, "Problem," Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea, 6/7/2014

No. 4, "Break Free," Ariana Grande feat. Zedd, 8/30/2014

No. 1 (four weeks), "Shake It Off," Taylor Swift, 9/6/2014

No. 3, "Bang Bang," Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj, 10/4/2014

No. 7, "Love Me Harder," Ariana Grande & The Weeknd, 11/22/2014

No. 1 (seven weeks), "Blank Space," Taylor Swift, 11/29/2014

No. 3, "Love Me Like You Do," Ellie Goulding, 3/7/2015

No. 6, "Style," Taylor Swift, 3/21/2015

No. 1 (one week), "Bad Blood," Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar, 6/6/2015

No. 1 (one week to-date), "Can't Feel My Face," The Weeknd, 8/22/2015


  
To enter the 21st Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net

 
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Tags: songwriter, song writer, song write, Song writing, Songwriting, songwrite, song demo, Britney Spears, Co-Writing Songs, The Weeknd, Ellie Goulding, Taylor Swift, Jessie J, Max Martin

TEEN PHENOM WINS USA SONGWRITING COMPETITION, NEW COMPETITION BEGINS

Posted by Jessica Brandon on Wed, Dec 09, 2009 @02:18 PM

Sarah Lonsert

Teen phenom Sarah Lonsert won the Overall Grand Prize of the 14th Annual USA Songwriting Competition along with co-writer Jonathan George. Her winning song "Dancing Through Life" will be on the USA Songwriting Competition's compilation CD next year. Sarah Lonsert, only 17 years old, not only broke the first prize record of being the youngest winner but also the overall grand prize winner of being the youngest winner ever. The previous youngest first prize winner was Kate Voegele, who won in 2005 at 18 years old. Adrianne Gonzalez was the youngest overall grand prize winner at 22 years old when she won in 1999. Sarah also won first prize in the Dance/Electronica category, making her the first from that category to ever win the overall grand prize. Sarah Lonsert will be releasing a full length CD earlier next year. Although Sarah suffers from autism, she is a budding singer-songwriter and has also won the L.A. Music Awards last month.

Eric Colville (from Ipswich, MA) won the overall second prize and Anne Simoni (from Brazil) won the overall third prize.

This year also marks the first time that USA Songwriting Competition had two winners from Spain. Ariel Queupumil from Guadalajara, Spain won the first prize in the Latin Category while Eduardo de la Iglesia Nieto from Madrid, Spain won the First Prize in the instrumental category.

Celeste Scalone, an American Idol semi-finalist and "Making The Band" reality tv show finalist won 1st prize in the R&B category. 

Nicole Morier and Fabien Waltman from Los Angeles won the first prize in the Pop category. Nicole has written songs for Britney Spears and is also an artist. Helle Hansen (from Denmark) tied with Ariel Queupumil for having the most songs in the finals, at 5 songs each. Here is the list of winners:

OVERALL GRAND PRIZE WINNER:
Sarah Lonsert
Dancing Through Life - Sarah Lonsert & Jonathan George; Mission Viejo, CA


OVERALL 2nd PRIZE:
End of War - Eric Colville; Ipswich, MA


OVERALL 3rd PRIZE:
Papagaio - Anne Simoni; BRAZIL

 


FIRST PRIZES IN EACH CATEGORY:
1st Prize - LATIN
Fruto Prohibido - Ariel Queupumil; Guadalajara, SPAIN

1st Prize - LYRICS
End of War - Eric Colville; Ipswich, MA

1st Prize - R&B
Red Light - Celeste Scalone & Enpho; Sherman Oaks, CA

1st Prize - DANCE/ELECTRONICA
Dancing Through Life - Sarah Lonsert and Jonathan George; Mission Viejo, CA

1st Prize - FOLK
Bullets To Bite - Melissa Greener; Austin, TX

1st Prize - COUNTRY
You and I - Kyler England; Los Angeles, CA

1st Prize - ROCK/ALTERNATIVE
I'm Not - Carla Cappa; Blue Bell, PA

1st Prize - POP
Good Boy - Nicole Morier & Fabien Waltman; Los Angeles, CA

1st Prize - HIP-HOP/RAP
Strange Kinda Love - Ashley J. Llorens, Monique Harcum, Steven Boel & SoulStice; Columbia, MD

1st Prize - WORLD
Papagaio - Anne Simoni; BRAZIL

1st Prize - INSTRUMENTAL
The Pursuit - Eduardo de la Iglesia Nieto; Madrid, SPAIN

1st Prize - JAZZ
Your Eyes - Vanessa Moodley; Durban, SOUTH AFRICA

1st Prize - GOSPEL/INSPIRATIONAL
Every Time - Tom Poulter; NSW, AUSTRALIA

1st Prize - NOVELTY/COMEDY
The Starbucks of County Down - Greg Trafidlo, Neal Phillips & John Seay; Salem, VA

1st Prize - CHILDREN
Tallest Tree - Jeremy and Rebecca; Visalia, CA

 

Honorable Mention Awards
1. Vamo Ya - Peter Torsiello & Liliana de Leon; Mesa, AZ
2. Beautiful Life - Claire Ulanoff, Will Hopkins; Nashville, TN
3. Anyway U Want - Nichole C. Minor aka Alias; Washington D.C.
4. This is My Life - Andrea Benham; Bloomfield, NJ
5. The Peddler - Maria Dunn; Edmonton, CANADA
6. Hurricane - (Mandee Radford) Alathea; Unicoi, TN
7. The Runner - Jesse Terry/Fred Wilhelm; Nashville, TN
8. Bait Shack - (Whitelaw, Lewis & Lewis ) Jimi Whitelaw; Gallatin, TN
9. Hard To Smile - ORBO & The Longshots; Os, NORWAY
10. Waiting - Jonathan Ferreri & Chris Upton; Nashvile, TN
11. Guitar - Carsten Lindberg, Joachim Svare, J. Belle & Jayden; Loa Angeles, CA
12. Eye for an Eye - Rebecca Wolfers & Dirtywings; Queensland, AUSTRALIA
13. Vai-e-Vem - Luiz Simas; New York, NY
14. Reason For Me To Smile - Helle Hansen & Ole Kibsgaard; Copenhagen, DENMARK
15. Where There Are Dreams - Jen Waters & Bob Farrell; Toluca Lake, CA
16. What I Do With Your Time - (Anadara Arnold and Stephanie Lewis) Anadara; Nashville, TN
17. I've Done It - Brent Lillie & Paul Harris; Queensland, AUSTRALIA
18. Jubilation - Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer; Kensington, MD
19. Woman In The Dark - Dewi Puspita; Bali, INDONESIA
20. Hypnotized - Beezy; Commerce City, CO


Entries are currently being accepted for the 15th Annual USA Songwriting Competition. Winning songs of the 15th Annual USA Songwriting Competition will receive airplay on a nationally syndicated radio program "Acoustic Café" as well as Sirius XM Satellite Radio. This is the first Songwriting Competition that gives airplay to the winning songs, giving deserving bands, songwriters the recognition and exposure they deserve. Entrants stand to win a grand prize of over US$50,000 in cash and music gear from sponsors such as Sony, D'Addario Strings, Ibanez Guitars, Audio-Technica, IK Multimedia, and more, making this the largest prize package for any annual songwriting competition. For more information on the 15th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, visit:
http://www.songwriting.net

 


Tags: Songwriting, Sarah Lonsert, Nicole Morier, American Idol, USA Songwriting Competition, winners, Britney Spears, Songwriters