It's all about the song
Tone, Attitude and Perspective
I had someone yesterday put a song up on Facebook, asking for opinions on the song. Kind of a dangerous thing to do, first because songs that are not finished are not really ready to put out. They usually keep changing and you will probably get fifty million opinions. You'll end up chasing your tail trying to please everyone. Also, you get one chance to make a bad first impression, so it's best to get things to a more complete point before you post it.
But what I was struck with is something I deal with a lot. The TONE of songs. His song was fairly depressing, sort of a "poor poor pitiful me" thing about a woman leaving, the relationship being over, and...well you know. It was once quite in vogue, and called the "Crying in your beer" songs in country music. Dark, depressing, always about love gone wrong.
And yeah, they are still out there but fewer and farther in between, and when you do hear them, they are usually written by the artist's themselves, who are going through some form of personal pain and are not going to take someone ELSE'S pain over their own.
Now understand here, I am talking mostly to people who are trying to write songs to be PITCHED, but also for those young artists, who are trying to get and keep attention. Artists and writers will write what they SEE and FEEL, and it is SO HARD to find a different way to say the same thing that has been said a billion times, that the first thing you have to do is AVOID what everyone else is doing.
I see it almost every time I go out to hear music, play on writers nights whatever. An average writers night or open mic, will have 20-30 writers, doing three songs each. That is between 90 and 100 songs. 80% of those will be depressing, negative, angry, bitter, issue oriented, preachy or just plain DARK AS HELL!!!!
When you hear this over and over and over, you pretty much start to want to hide all the silverware in the place to keep people from slitting their wrists. And for the most part it leads to what I lovingly refer to as "GLOW SONGS." This is where the audience gets so bored, or disinterested, they pick up their cell phones, and start texting, checking messages, playing games or just checking out. You see the "GLOW" in people's faces all over the place.
Check it out next time you are out. .Quite amusing actually.
But if you are a performer, this is your DEATH!!!! You done lost em!
We are all trying to get people to PUT THE CELL PHONE DOWN. And the BEST WAY you can do this is by changing the TONE of the song. We hear it all the time in Nashville by pitches. We are told to keep it "UP TEMPO AND POSITIVE."
This is actually a misnomer. It is actually more MID TEMPO AND NOT NEGATIVE.
We all live and see the same stuff. Amateurs write it the same way we all see it. Professionals will present the same thing we have heard but in a way WE DIDN'T THINK OF. And for the most part it gives some LIGHT at the end of the tunnel.
Or what I refer to as "ROPE OF HOPE."
I'll give an example.
We have all seen the rashes of shootings recently. Las Vegas being one of the worst. Big country concert, crazy assed shooter, starts whacking people from a hotel room window. Lots of death, horror, terrible situation.
An amateur writer would see that and probably write about it explaining the horror. The people screaming and running everywhere. People dying. How horrible the guns were. How we all need to DO SOMETHING (as if there is anything you can do with crazy people), and basically comment on the terrible parts.
I understand. The problem for a writer is that THE PEOPLE HAVE ALREADY SEEN THAT. You are telling them something they already know.
A professional writer would focus on that person that SAVED a bunch of people. The guy show stood up and directed other people to get out of the area. The "Random act of Kindness." A really good writer would probably make the central character get killed, although that might be a bit much. I saw news reports of several people who did this. And in most of these incidents, the New York terrorists, The people who DRIVE over other people, other areas, there is always some hero. An average person who stands up and saves lives.
That is the difference in TONE and PERSPECTIVE. The pro writer will find the "little edge" that other people missed. And most of us hear that and go "WOW! I never thought of it like that!"
And that is the difference in pro and amateur writers.
Amateurs write what THEY WANT TO SAY.
PROS write what THEIR AUDIENCE WANTS TO HEAR.
Doesn't have to be about earth shattering things. Anything.
A "break up, or relationship that DIDN'T WORK OUT?
An amateur writes about what it did to them, how bad the felt, how hard it was getting over it.
A professional writes "UNANSWERED PRAYERS."
So, my crazy compadres. .Think of your music. Think of your approach. What are you saying and how are you saying it?
Go to the top songs on the charts. See how many are negative, angry, bitter. (there will be a few, but all artist driven and remember also about GENRES. Some genres, like GRUNGE, some ROCK, the brooding singer songwriter, are ALL ABOUT PAIN AND NEGATIVITY. But those are also ARTIST driven.
If you are a mega hit selling artist, you can get away with that. Climbing that ladder, especially in a town like this, YOU CAN'T.
Then go to a writers night or open mic and see how many angry bitter songs you hear. I label them:
ACSS. (ANGRY CHICK SINGER SYNDROME)
DDSS. (DEPRESSED DUDE SINGER SYNDROME)
Everybody swimming in a "RIVER OF BITTERNESS."
That's a line from my buddy Jimbeau Hinson.
I know, some people say " I LOVE THOSE DEPRESSING SONGS!!!" Really? Go to a writers night. After about the 30-40th one back to back, tell me how you feel then.
People are still going to write them and still going to perform them. But if you want to separate yourself from everyone else, try finding the TWIST ON THE TALE. Doesn't have to be all HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY, but you don't have to DEPRESS PEOPLE EITHER.
CAN ANYBODY LOOK AROUND AND TELL ME THERE IS NOT ENOUGH DEPRESSION, ANGER, BITTERNESS OUT THERE? DO YOU NEED TO ADD TO IT?
If you think that, you are not paying attention.
Hope this helps. Try not to suck.
Marc Alan Barnette