There was a question in the RMMS newsgroup recently about whether or not there are “too many” love songs out there. This lead me to thinking about the topics we choose to write about and how we choose them. Are there “too many” love songs?
When you think about the topic of love, there are at least a zillion ways of approaching it…okay, so a zillion is an exaggeration, but think about it for a moment. There’s the ‘falling in love’, the ‘unrequited love‘, the ‘love from a distance’, the ‘first time’, the ‘breakup’, ‘jealousy’, and on and on. So you can approach the subject from a whole bunch of angles and then some!
But the core reason that songwriters almost always have a whole bunch of love songs to their credit, is because it is a universal event or emotion that pretty much everybody can relate to on some level. We’ve all been there! And the subject of love itself is so BIG, that it is virtually impossible to say everything there is to say about it all in one song. Maybe what the original poster meant was that there are too many BAD love songs out there 🙂 From his viewpoint, that is!
Once you have come past the desire to simply express yourself and want to move onto the point of having other people hear your songs, your most IMPORTANT consideration will be whether or not people can relate to them. But don’t get it mixed up with the idea that you have to tell someone else’s story exactly how THEY remember it…you don’t necessarily have to second-guess everything you write! What you DO need to do is to write YOUR story, and tell it in the very best way you can. Do you know anything about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity?
Well, I’m certainly not going to go into some long-winded physics dissertation, but let me apply just a small part of it to songs…just as two people at two different physical locations view a moving train in two different ways, they will also hear your songs from different ‘places’. You will NEVER write a song that will relate in exactly the same way to EVERYBODY so don’t even try!! Each person has his/her own sieve of experience to process a song through. You will often be surprised when you hear what somebody “got” from listening to it, sometimes it is something that you had no idea you were saying!
The theory of relativity also applies to taste…now if I were a real scientist, I would guess that our physical makeup has something to do with how we hear music. We are ATTRACTED to certain sounds, notes, chords, voices, and instruments. Someone who listens to and loves jazz MAY have a different way of listening than someone who likes rap. Some people enjoy simple sounds, some love complex, some love all of it at once! I also believe that age and time often have an effect on our taste in music. But beyond that, think about the person who is listening to your song, and always take that into consideration when you get a reaction from them. Someone who hates country music will not like your country song, no matter HOW well it is written or performed. Your mother will LOVE everything you write because she loves YOU. That is a real lesson in “relativity” 🙂
A person who just broke up with someone will probably not like your “I’m So In Love” song. At that point in their lifetime, it will likely be a complete turn-off. But that’s not your fault! It’s simply how they are able (or not able) to relate to your song. And it is also really important to understand the theory of relativity when you present your songs to other people. Your friends and family are NOT the measuring stick by which you should judge whether or not you’ve written a “great” song. Relatively speaking, they have an emotional connection to you that is difficult for them to separate themselves from. You wouldn’t want to play your soft and sensitive love song as an opening act for a metal band either 🙂 I mean, you might find a FEW fans, but you get what I mean 🙂 Understand your “target” audience and seek them out. Know who you are writing for (that includes yourself!), and you will more easily understand whether or not you are getting your message across. The other night, I played at a songwriter-in-the-round event. We were all very DIFFERENT writers and our in our audience were DIFFERENT listeners. But hell, we sure don’t all want to sound the same, do we?
So, in conclusion, the very best you can do is to write from your own experience or imagination and try to express that as clearly and as powerfully as you can, and look forward to the time when someone comes running up to you saying “how did you KNOW so much about me??”!