Why is it that some songs will only stay on the charts for a short period of time, while others are able to stand the test of time? It could be a chord change in a certain section of the song, a lyric that reaches out and grabs you, or many more possibilities.
Analyzing the qualities of timeless songs is a great tool to enhance your songwriting. Using examples from this list of the 30 most timeless songs, let’s explore three commonalities that you can practice applying to your own writing.
1. They’re relatable
Timeless songs have lyrics that feel very personal and understandable. The story of the song is very relatable, reachable, and believable. Accompanied by a strong melody and well-written harmony, the lyrics feel as if they were written just for you.
As an example, let’s take a look at the lyrics to the chorus of “Let Her Go” by Passenger:
Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missin’ home
Only know you love her when you let her go
And you let her go
This is a song about not appreciating something while it’s in front of you, but finding that you miss it when it’s gone, which is a universal feeling for people to grasp on to. Writing a lyric that’s relatable and believable when you sing it is a great way to keep your listener’s attention. You would be surprised about how many times your story can generally relate to a large audience! Try to write lyrics that are understandable, yet still tell the story in your own unique way.
2. They’re singable
Not only do the lyrics in the song sit right with you, but the melody does as well. Most timeless songs have a melody that is singable, memorable, and easily perceived by the average listener. Take the melody in the song “Hey Ya” by OutKast, for example, where the chorus is only two words with three different notes. This shows that not all well-written melodies need to be complex. Try writing a song with a simple and understandable melody.
3. They take you somewhere
Have you ever listened to a song, and when it finishes, you felt like you just came back from an epic journey? The combination of all of the different components of songwriting working together allows the listener to forget that they’re listening to music and can take you wherever the song wants to take you.
Take John Lennon’s “Imagine,” in which the lyrics paint the picture of where you are, and the melody, harmony, and rhythms keep you listening.
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Try writing lyrics that describe your story and can take your listener to that exact time and place.
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Joe Capalbo is an intern for SongwriterLink.