One thing that really bugs me about many hit songs that have made it to the Top 40 over the years is what seems to be the lack of time spent on the lyrics. So many seem forced or incomplete, almost as if they were written only as an afterthought or because they were a dreaded requirement. Many times they sing okay but are downright painful to read, which is not the case with great lyrics.
This lack of craft doesn’t have to be so, and anyone who puts a little time and thought into it can probably beat out the typical Black Eyed Peas lyrics (who are very good at lyrical hooks, but less so with the rest). Robin Yokiko recently wrote a great article regarding the 10 Tips For Better Lyric Writing on the Music Clout blog. Here they are:
1. Have a theme. Themes don’t make your lyrics boring, they make them cohesive. Think of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and its whimsical sky references (clouds, birds, stars, chimney tops). It’s about world-building that sweeps the listener away.
2. Try to stay away from perfect rhymes. Day and way. Run, fun, sun. They sometimes ring as childish, especially if the context is not interesting enough. Be more adventurous and less strict (fade and wait, mine and kind, crazy and maybe, etc.).
3. Make the context interesting. If you are singing the same old love song, say it in a different way. Build from real memories, real conversation, or unusual metaphors.
4. Put the rhymes in unusual places (internal rhymes, in the middle of phrases). It adds meat to the bones of your song.
5. Change up the rhyme scheme. An example from Pat Pattison, “Mary had a little lamb, fleece was white as snow. And everywhere that Mary went, she sold the fleece to pay the rent.”