Songs That Break The Rules



As soon as we start using the word “rules”, a lot of songwriters coil in disgust at the thought of having to conform to anything.  So actually, I wrote that title to grab your attention in a negative way, but at least I know I’ve probably got your attention :-).

New Discovery!  Silicone Molds...I'm hooked!
Image by HA! Designs – Artbyheather via Flickr

The examples of songs I’m going to present in this article simply jump out of the mold, so to speak, and do things that aren’t conventional, but still work.  In some cases, they are subtle, in others, not so.

My first example is of a song that breaks out of the song form mold.  It’s a song by Sheryl Crow called Soak Up The Sun.  Here is a rather standard song form, where “A” is the verse, “B” is the chorus and “C” is the bridge:

A A B A B C B

There are many variations of course,  but while Sheryl’s song starts out pretty standard, with an intro, verse, chorus and then another verse, but she changes it around and instead of repeating the chorus, she throws in a bridge first.   She goes back to the chorus and then another verse, but throws in the bridge again before the next chorus.  So her song form looks something like this:

A A B A C B A C B

Below this article is a player where you can have a listen, it’s a great song worth listening to anyway.


The Beatles were notorious for breaking all kinds of “rules” and still having huge hits.  They loved to throw in an odd chord change or time signature change, and their lyrics were often off the beaten track.  I’m sure the haze of drugs had something to do with that :-).  As an example, here is All You Need Is Love.  Have a listen below and just try counting the time signature and you’ll see what I mean.

Also below is what some might consider a “novelty” song, but it was written by a prolific songwriter named Harry Nilsson.  This song was #8 on the Billboard Charts in 1971 and what makes it unique is the fact that it has only one chord.  The bass alternates, but essentially it sits on the same chord for the entire song, letting the story in the lyrics take the main stage.  It’s called “Coconut“:

These are only three examples where breaking out of the mold works very successfully, and I’m sure you can think of some others on your own.  If you do, post them here!

And, remember, you don’t have to write like anybody else 🙂


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