Hit singles that strayed from songwriting tradition that can inspire you to supercharge your own songs.
Posted: 16 July 2019
Writing a song isn’t hard. Writing a good song, however, is an art. We all recognise the standard structure of a song—verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s safe and dependable and if you’re lucky it’ll even become a hit. But sometimes it’s the songs that break the mould that we remember. Here’s just a few that stand out from the crowd and can influence your next tracks.
Bohemian Rhapsody is just one on those songs that you can feel in your bones. One minute you’re minding your own business and the next thing you know the whole gang is in diamond formation, holding torches under their chins and belting out the famous lyrics. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. On paper, the song shouldn’t be so memorable. Songs are usually defined by their choruses, but Bohemian Rhapsody doesn’t have one. In fact, all seven of the song’s verses are completely unique. That’s just what happens when you roll three different songs into one musical epic.
Nothing sums up the 60’s quite like Jefferson Airplane’s psychedelic masterpiece. However, it’s not just the hallucinogenic lyrics that make this track so unique. Another song without a chorus or a fixed structure, White Rabbit is essentially one long, awesome crescendo. Add to that a catchy bass intro and a marching band style drum beat and you end up with one killer track.
Sometimes you’ve just got to cut straight to the action and that’s exactly what Bon Jovi’s hit single does. The hard hitting first chorus gets you pulse racing and then they slam you with an early guitar solo. That’s a pretty wild journey for the first 30 seconds of a song.
Lady Gaga might not be very rock and roll but with 39.5 million followers on Instagram alone, there’s no denying that something about her songwriting is working. Where some artists reject choruses, Gaga is all about the repetition. As well as the chorus and the ‘rah rah ah-ah-ah’ hook, Bad Romance features not one but two bridges with the 8-bar ‘walk walk fashion baby’ and 16-bar ‘I want your love’ sequence.
The weirdness of this Radiohead hit doesn’t stop at the title. Aside from the instrumentally dense nature of the verses, the beginning of the song sets us up for a typical verse chorus verse structure. Then the guitar charged middle 8 gets us pumped for a third chorus that never comes. Instead we get a stripped down lyrical bridge before an explosive musical outro. Although it seems strange on paper, Paranoid Android is a perfect example of how a great guitar riff can hold a complicated song structure together.
When it comes to unconventional songwriting, The Beatles have tried it all. ‘Love Me Do’ is essentially one repeated chorus with slight variations, while ‘Hey Jude’ abandons the chorus altogether. Instead it has an A/B verse structure with a stream of ‘na na nas’ that take up the entirety of the song’s second half. Another example is ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’, a multi-part song where each of the sections has a totally unique feel to it.
There’s nothing wrong with conventional song structures. Just scroll through the biggest hits from this week and you’ll find tracks that are arranged in all sorts of ways. That’s because there’s more than one way to write a great track. But if you’re looking to inject something a little different into your songwriting, why not give some of these tracks a listen.