Anyhow. There was that quote from Beethoven. Know what I think? Beethoven is a dope. Making 'a little extra money' is the whole point! Keep It Simple, Sell!
Anu mentioned "simple songs". Yeah, this is the way to roll. When I sit down to write, I'm thinking about a lot. "Emotion recollected in tranquility", for sure, except that I figure if you amp up the situation you get something even more powerful.
But more than that, I'm thinking about how to write something that will sell. BIG. Short list of things it's gotta include:
- "Don't bore us, get to the chorus" Does it hit the chorus in the first 30 seconds? (It used to be 60 seconds, but the iPod generation has lopped that down. Many hits now START with the chorus)
- "If you want that bling, you gotta make it ring" Does it have a hook that works as a ringtone? That means a simple monophonic melody that a synth can reproduce or that will play back well over a tiny phone speaker
- You have to have a danceable beat. Every top 10 song ever has.
There really is a formula, and there really are manuals. I've read 'em all (and given away some of my best ideas to friends who've written them).
There's no percentage in writing complicated songs. You're not Cole Porter, and even if you were, people would rather sing "Night and Day" because it's old and associated with a bunch of other things (and maybe even out of copyright).
Writing simple means you have more time for important things, like interviews, promo, touring, and writing hits for other people. Don't slave over it, kids. Bang out your ideas and move on.
James Brown had a "one idea, one song" rule. If he (or more likely, someone in his band) came up with a different idea, that was a different song. End of story. James Brown had a lot of hits. You do the math.
When I was a kid in the 80s, I wrote real simple tunes because I didn't know any better. I was just happy to slap any verse against any chorus and call it done. Then I spent a long time in the wilderness of bridges and vamps and key changes and d-sections and codas and reprises before I came back to the truth: You need a great chorus, and one other part to make people miss the chorus enough to want to hear it again. MAYBE you put in one more bit if you must.
I like Beethoven as much as the next guy, but when I'm listening to the 1812 overture, I'm thinking "why can't we have the cannon part NOW?" (And how come nobody has sampled that yet?)
New Pants record is coming. I'm working on it. Gotta finish a few more songs. The trick isn't writing them...the trick is the chopping them down to the leanest meanest, essential bits, so they're all hook and no fat.
See you soon, Pantfans!