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What Makes a Song Good?

07/03/2011

Sounds like a simple question right?  Most people think they know what they like but most people are usually wrong.  Its not that the majority of people are dumb, its just that people can’t be experts on every subject.  There are always more details that could massively change a perspective once understood.

I personally have no idea what makes a song good.  I can’t even say I know I like a song when I hear it.  I didn’t like Skinny Puppy the first time I heart them but now I’ll swear that Too Dark Park is one of the best albums ever made.

Is it the chaos?  The beats?  The order?  The repetition?  Most of the time when I write a song I feel like I don’t have enough in it.  But then look at Iggy Pop’s The Passenger.  That song is literally 4 chords long.  The chorus is the exact same chords as the verse and its a fantastic song.  The vocals are the primary things that change throughout the song.  The rest is practically the same thing for almost 5 minutes!  But I can’t imagine a person alive who would argue that The Passenger is not an absolutely fantastic song.  It is the message of the vocals?  I would argue no since I’m not a lyric fan and therefore have no idea what the lyrics are even about.  Some guy driving around looking at the sky?  I know, I’m every poets antithesis.

And then look at Zappa’s Strictly Genteel: Classical Introduction one of the most complicated pieces of music ever written and I could not get rid of the album fast enough.  What a piece of trash!  And I love Frank Zappa.  And I love classical music!  Hell I even know the classical genres that aren’t classical that everyone considers classical!  And not just Baroque!  Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Debussy, these are some of my favorite musicians of all time.  You really don’t have to look past Beethoven for a perfect vision of a romantic tragedy.

Beethoven is an interesting example because, to paraphrase Gary Oldman comments in Leon The Professional, his intros are great but he tends to fizzle out as the song goes.  And that is true of the overly popular 5th and 9th symphonies.  Ever listen to the 7th?  Particularly the 2nd movement?  It is nicely featured in a movie called “The Fall”.  Classical music (or in this case Romantic depending on what side of the argument you believe Beethoven falls under) is always fascinating in how it uses repetition.  Typically the same melody is repeated quite a bit but in different keys or on different instruments.  Or maybe the rhythm of the primary melody will repeat.  Or maybe vice versa and the melody will repeat with a different rhythm.

Anyway, I’ll continue this post some other time as its already long in my search for what makes a song good.  If you’re wondering this was set off by a plethora of reasons including a personal quest for myself and my music.  And also discovering how much I hate Soulja Boy through Dance Central and not understanding why anyone likes that song.

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