5 Ways to tell if a song is a hit💥
This post loosely accompanies Gab & Jam, episode 233. 5 Ways to tell if a song is a hit blog
You KNOW that we like to explore those age-old questions that face D.I.Y. Rock Stars, so this one is no different. Today’s topic answers the question, “How can I tell if my song is a hit?” Over the years, these are the 5 ways that we’ve identified.
Gab & Jam, episode 233. 5 Ways to tell if a song is a hit blog
Instead of spoiling it by telling you what we think, we are going to share the tales that we’ve heard hit songmakers over the past 4 or so decades say. Also, keep in mind that our sincere goal is to have you all weigh in on these ideas, so feel free to drop a comment below with your input!
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Check out the episode to hear the full discussion and check out our blog post: https://bit.ly/233issongahitblog
What's the difference?
—We also have to distinguish between what is a “good song” and a “hit,” because we feel that these are two different things—even though they may overlap in some respects. –In our estimation, a “hit” indicates some kind of commercial/monetary/public success, while a “good song” is one that either lasts the test of time or has all the tell-tale markers of a song that meets certain agreed-upon writing objectives. –While we do NOT intend to head down THAT rabbit hole right now, we thought it was worthwhile to give SOME kind of scope for this topic.
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Here are the 5 ways to tell if your song is a hit:
1. Chart position (objective numerical results):
While this is an “easy” way to qualify a hit, it does nothing to help us in our creative process, since it happens after the song is created and is making its own way in the world. –Bruce mentions that markers, like repetition, length, etc. can be listed as what these songs all have in common, there is NO way to tell if adding in all the checkpoints will help make this song hit home for your listeners.
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2. Strangers singing your song (Sting song):
According to Sting, The Police was on tour in the late 70s, when he heard a window washer whistling his song. He says that he KNEW this meant that is was a hit. The fact that awakened by a dude whistling “Roxanne” was all that he needed to KNOW that the song was bigger than he knew.
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3. Can you remember you came up with (Bruce story):
Bruce’s age-old way to know if a new song part is a “good” one is that he needs to be able to remember it the next day. If it has this stickiness, then he feels as if this part has legs and is worth keeping. If he cannot remember it, he keeps searching for what he considers a better part; one that he can remember from one day to the next. (However, Bruce DOES admit that, in the day of using your phone to record an on-the-fly voice note likely gives a life to MANY a part that may NOT have survived in pre-iPhone times…. What COULD result is a cavalcade of ideas that need to be parse through, when his former method would have weeded those out.) Nowadays, this method has changed slightly to privilege those parts that “call to him.” Therefore, if, of the MANY parts that he’s recorded, one of the many stands out more than others, then THAT’S the one that gets preferential treatment.
This parsing through by a feeling is also a method I use to choose which blog posts to finish and which ones that will end up languishing in draft mode. While I have ideas every single week, there are sometimes posts that go unfinished, because I am NOT excited to share what I have written for it. –Keep in mind, that to-date, I have roughly 50 blog posts from the past 5 years that I have YET to hit “publish” on…
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4. Gets goosebumps (Quincey Jones story):
When Quincy Jones was working with Michael Jackson the Thriller album (add link), they went through 600 songs before settling on the 8 on the album. In his recounting how they “found” the song “Human Nature,” he said that while the songwriters had sent a set of songs for review for the album. However, those songs didn’t do anything for him, but the song on the B-side played and it was the one! He said that he knew, because as he heard it, it gave him goosebumps. So, it WASN’T that the songs they intended Jones to hear weren’t professional, solid songs, but they did not give him that feeling that struck him from Day One that made sure that it would be chosen.
A very similar method was Michael Jackson feeling as if he HAD to dance when he heard something that was a “hit.” If he couldn’t stop dancing, he HAD to use it. —And speaking of not being able to stop dancing AND Quincy Jones, it is rumored that “Smooth Criminal” was one of those songs that Jones didn’t like, but that Jackson couldn’t stop dancing to. Ultimately, the song made Jackson’s album and Jones was no longer a producer on Jackson’s work.
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5. You really can’t tell (Majority of songwriters/artists):
Most of the songwriters and artists—independent and major—have explained that they DON’T know what is going to be a hit until AFTER the fact (which is what we talked about in #1). We speculate that what makes a song a hit can rest on the song itself, the production, the performance, the cultural connection, the promotion; so that, ultimately, it’s about MORE than JUST the song itself.
What do YOU think?
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic!
Talk to us in the comments below.
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