Sunday, May 16, 2010


I play guitar with a wonderful singer songwriter named Jamie Green who has entered one of her songs in a contest to perform at one of the Lilith Fair venues. The contest is set up in a neat way, 4 songs come up at a time and you order them from best to worst then the program uses some algorithm to rate the songs. You have to listen to at least 15 seconds of each of the songs in order to judge them.

To participate in the judging, go to Ourstage, click on "judge," choose the "Lilith Fair channels," and pick the city you want to judge (Jamie is in the San Francisco, LA, San Diego competition).

It is addicting and I have listened to snippets from well over 200 of the entries and I've been thinking a bit about songwriting. There are some great songs and great performances (Jamie's included) in the contest and some real bad stuff and it has led me to think about pop songs. There is an old saying among pop songwriters that goes something like - "Don't be a shnook, get to the hook. Please don't bore us, get to the chorus." In well over 1/3rd of the songs I have heard, nothing at all has happened in those 15 seconds. So I listen to the first 30 seconds and if nothing has hooked me, I go on to the next tune, knowing that I may have missed out on something wonderful, but why waste the time? If I listened to more of the songs, I might never get to the one that really is amazing. So, I skip ahead if that first 30 seconds doesn't catch my attention. There is wisdom in that silly saying.

I also have found that there are a lot of songs that sound very similar and a lot of artists who sound alike. Some are better than others, but there is a generic quality to many of them that gets tiring quickly. Then there are the ones that are trying very hard to be different. And some are... most not in a good way. There is a reason why the verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus out, works. When it is well done with material that is interesting and relevant, it has a way of getting past our defenses very quickly. Add a good production and a good performance and you have a great pop song that sticks with us. It may not be great art that will last for generations, but it speaks with an authentic voice and touches our hearts.

So, head over to ourstage, judge some tunes and see if you find a new favorite artist... and if Jamie pops up in one of your quartets, be sure to place her at the top of the heap.

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