Recipe for a Generic Pop Song

On the 8th of November this year, it will be 41 years since the release date of what is widely regarded as the greatest song ever written: Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin. Now personally, although I love the song, I don’t think it is the greatest of all time but for the purposes of this post, let’s just assume it is.

Now in that 41 years, can we still say that the music released is of the same standard, substance, and longevity as songs such as Stairway to Heaven and other masterpieces of it’s generation and those previous? Really, is it plausible to think that in another 40 years time, people might regard the music of today as highly and consider them masterpieces? With no due respect what-so-ever, I really don’t think the time, effort, work and genuine soul that ARTISTS put into their work 40 years ago is present in today’s music and pop culture. Because that is exactly what the work they produced could be considered as: Art.

Now I know there are some of you out there who are permanant residents of  ‘the fence’ and like to appear suprerior in a musical argument by playing the whole “music is subjective” card and “everyone has different tastes, so why bother arguing” song and dance. And I cannot refute those statements (irritating as they might be). What I can argue though, are the differences in the process to which songs today are written and produced and recieved by the public. As unlike trying to argue whether one song is better an other is a purely subjective, the aforementioned can be argued from an objective stance. So sit back fencers, you might actually have to form an OPINION!!!
Obviously, as a ‘trainee journalist’ and in no way a ranting man, I have done the necessary investigative work in order to further support my opinion. And I am so commited to this piece that I have been working non-stop to get it right. Every day for the last year infact; every time I turn on my car; every time I go out with friends; every time I turn on the TV…Infact, arguably I have been forming and moulding this opinion since my brain was competent enough to memorise sounds. Yes, since my childhood, my ears have been bombarded by music. All types of music. Some good, some bad. But at the time I had no real distinction between the two. My first recollection of music that I felt was my own, that meant something to me, was the day I got Green Day’s American Idiot album. Only then were my ears filled with sounds and words that I had a visceral connnection to. It wasn’t another catchy chorus; it wasn’t what was popular with friends; it was…real music!

That album, was the cornerstone of which my music taste was built on. I would certainly not pigeon-hole myself into a particular genre but that is the point: from that album, I have continually expanded and diversified the music I listen to to incorporate practically everything. And only when you can appreciate so many types of music can you really understand what goes into creating the sounds, the words and the stories that undeniably become a part of us.

That, was my intro, here is what I am really driving at…
For the purposes of comparison, I am going to take a model song that I hate in the charts at the moment: How We Do by Rita Ora. Firstly, this song doesn’t even have a gramatically correct title but let’s not be too pedantic to begin with. I will get onto lyrical content soon…
Recipe for a Generic Pop Song


Step 1: Intro
The intro for your Pop Song first and foremost must be instantly recognisable and have the same affect on the listener as 200volts to the backside (in other words: makes them want to dance). As in How We Do by Rita Ora, they have opted for the ‘sing-along-vocals and guitar only’. A very widely used approach as seen in Good Feeling by Flo-Rida and You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful by One Direction. Alternatives can be diving straight into the main melody of the song more often than not played on the synth (see We Found Love by Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna) or the more complex option being a softer introduction, trying to decieve the audience before hitting them with ‘da beat’ (Chasing the Sun by The Wanted). To judge whether your introduction is successful, your audience should collectively shout “AWWWWWW!!!” upon hearing it. The intro basically is the rest of the song so if you get it right just press copy, paste and your done!

Step 2: Main Melody/Theme
Now, pop songs are aimed at the youth of today. And what do they love to do more than anything else? Partying! Or so pop songs keep telling me…So what you want for the melody of your pop song is more than anything just a really loud, bass and synth driven, repititve chord progression that must be in a major key (because hey, who wants to hear something depressing right?). The only exception of the key of the song (for those of you not musically literate, major=sounds happy; minor=sounds sad) is if the song is sexually suggestive. A master of this technique is Rihanna. However, for basic melodies good examples come from Nicki Minaj, Cheryl Cole etc…And yes, they really do always sound the same!

Step 3: Da Bass
Now I know I briefly mentioned bass in the previous step but this one is important. Infact it is fundamental to modern music in general. The reason people dance, the reason people have a strong reaction to this music is essentially the beat. See that constant, unrelenting, pounding you feel on the dancefloor? That’s what is called a 4/4 bass drum beat. Nothing more. Basically, a computer has been programmed with this as the default to every song released. With this in your song, people cannot resist to move your song. It is in our blood as human beings; as animals. We have a reflex reaction to a drum beat, a setting that was installed when our ancestors were first experimenting with rhythm with their sheep skin bongos around a fire. So in order for your song to be played in clubs where your audience is, it needs this essential ingredient.

Step 4: Lyrics
“There’s a lady who’s sure, all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven…”
Yuck! See those lyrics – pointless in a modern pop song.Why? Too ambiguous, too wordy, too much…meaning! Who wants to sing along to that after a few jagerbombs right! No, for your modern pop song all you really need are 5 words. 5 words. It really is that simple! All these words need to be is easy to remember and to reflect the setting in which they are being sung. For example, 5 words at random for your song could be “party”, “night”, “baby”, “good”, “time”. These are probably the 5 most used words in modern music because that is what people are doing these days! That’s all they want to hear! Why be reminded of inconvenient subjects such as the recession, poverty, war, corruption and the such when you can not challenge yourself at all and just think of how GREATyour night is!

Step 5: Musical Talent
You kidding? No, for modern music all that is required is a laptop and a face to attatch to the Apple Garage Band production. You may be sucked into the lie that those adorable little boy band members have real musical prowess when they’re doing an acoustic version of their already annoying song with a guitar but really, they have no more skill on a 6-string than a lepar. So really no genuine, raw talent need be found. Even for vocals, as today we have the beautiful invention of Auto-Tune, which to the untrained ear is practically undetectable, so don’t go to too much effort in this stage of making your pop song.

Step 6: The aforementioned ‘Face’
What you really want to strive for when completing your pop song is the cherry on top to make it all the sweeter. And that cherry has to be a real shiner, so no rotters. Think Rihanna; think One Direction; Nicki Minaj (so I hear); Cheryl Cole. Wonderfully crafted tools which don’t necessarily have any real ability but look good pretending to know. So to really give your song some ‘zing’ I suggest only the best.

And that should be about you! Once your pop song is packaged and ready to be displayed, always remember that this process can be recycled to produce similar results again and again until humanity collectively goes insane because of brain damage caused by excessive bass exposure. At which point, the only music we will be able to hear is the harmonising screams from the other patients in the psychiatric institution we all share!

I have been Ryan Stewart, thank you for reading my miserable blog post. I cannot be held responsible for any injuries or fatalities you cause to yourself or others following the reading of these words. But cheers all the same!

One Response

  1. insightful, informative but very very true

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