What makes a great song? Ask a bunch of different people and you’ll get a bunch of different answers. So that’s exactly what we did. We checked in with our Song of the Year finalists from this year’s Gold Coast Music Awards, and found out just what it is about a track that turns it from pleasant ditty to magical earworm.
What makes a great song? I think the beauty in the answer to this question is it’s in the eye of the beholder… or should I say listener. That’s the beauty of music… everybody has their own unique tastes and what appeals to one person, may not always appeal to another… but at the core I think a GREAT song has to have a memorable melody. It has to stick in your head and if you can combine that art form with an amazing story and great lyrics then you’re well and truly onto a winner!
A great song connects with an emotion in the listener. And that doesn’t necessarily just mean “I love you” or “I miss you and want you back”. It could be “It’s Friday night and I’m psyched to see my friends”, or “I’m so grateful to spend time with my dog”. There’s a lot of people feeling a lot of different things out there, and if you can tap into one of those feelings in a new way, you’re on the path to having a great song.
Eliza and the Delusionals
For me personally, I love a song that has a really catchy hook or guitar line – something that gets stuck in my head. When I discover a new song that does that, I find myself humming it constantly and playing it 100 times while I’m driving. I think sometimes a really good melody or certain chords together can make something really special as well. The cool thing about music and songwriting is that everyone has their own way of relating and connecting to music, and their own idea of what makes a great song.
I think the lyrical content itself can make even the most basic song genius. But for myself personally, it’s all about the melodic hook. The bit that sticks with you several hours after hearing it. The part EVERYONE – no matter the language barrier – can sing along to. Hooks can be sung, played or produced electronically. I always find it super enjoyable adding these little bits of magic throughout songs. It makes the ears prick up and makes the track super addictive.
I think a great song happens when a few key components all come together in harmony. When the feeling of the music and the sentiment of the lyrics are beautifully paired. When the melodies add to the emotion and draw you in to the lyrics rather than distract you from them. It should make you feel something. A great song should be able to change an atmosphere, change emotions, and have you fully immersed in the song for that moment.
This is hard one, because music is ultimately subjective. Of course there are aspects that make some songs “technically” better than others – well thought out lyrics that have an impactful theme, dope chord progressions, a chorus that HITS, musical foreshadowing and intricate composition. Yet, just because a song has all these things doesn’t mean it is good, or even great. Music is about the listeners’ individual journey with the song, and how they resonate with it. That’s what makes a great song, why you think it’s great, not what anyone else thinks.
Songs can be great in a myriad of different ways, but whether or not it’s considered great can be so subjective. So I don’t think I can speak for what makes a great song for any writer other than myself.
I look when I’m writing, for ideas that continue to resonate with me after I’ve finished them. If they keep coming up in the back of my mind, I believe I’m onto something. If the song has told the intent of the story but not given too much away, I think that’s great too, because to me it means I’ve captured the heart and the feeling, without pigeonholing the experience.
Something I definitely look for when writing is discomfort. If I can’t listen back to a song without feeling nervous, on edge, or exposed, I know there’s something in there of great value. That’s where the gold is, in that intense vulnerability.
There are so many different elements to a great song, it’s so subjective. For us, we think it’s all about character… a great song has something really familiar but different to anything else you’ve ever heard, and it pulls you into its world for three minutes before you hit rewind. That’s what it is for us.
One that in 20 years’ time people will still remember! A great song doesn’t mean the greatest lyrics or greatest chords as long as there is a catchy melody and food beat then you have it! At the end of the day not everyone will think your music is great but as long as you love your own music and you think it’s great that’s all that matters! A great song is one you are proud of!
It’s really hard to say – some super simple catchy tunes are great – then there is ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. I don’t know if I even have an answer but I guess a few things I look for in a song are lyrics that don’t seem throwaway or just chucked in to fill up space, Interesting sounds and melodies – and lots of personal truth.
Song of the Year category is proudly sponsored by CBD Live at Club Southport RSL. We announce winners of this and nine other categories of the 2020 Gold Coast Music Awards on Thursday 30 April from 7.00pm. Get the viewing details at bit.ly/GCMA2020. In the meantime you can get cracking on the Spotify playlist below: