(By Justin Gray (Songwriter/Producer/Founder www.MDIIO.com)
We too often take ourselves way too seriously. I recently saw of all things a TikTok video where a songwriting instructor said “we always try to prove how smart we are.“
The irony is that as creatives, we always overthink things. Is the melody great? Are the lyrics perfect? Are we creating something absolutely brand new and fresh and magical?
Paralysis by analysis.
Looking back at my career, too many times the songs that I wrote that I thought were absolutely brilliant usually went nowhere. And the songs that I barely gave a second thought to were some of my biggest success stories.
Case in point “Skeleton Sam“ from last week's blog.
It got me thinking about silly songs that became absolute smash hits. Sometimes magic happens when we’re not so conscious of trying to be the cool kids. We can hear the fun. Fun has a sound.
Here is my take on five hilarious hits, laughable lyrics, and just plain stupid smashes.
I Want Candy by Bow Wow Wow – Admit it. You just sang it to yourself in your head. This weird alt-rock band managed to perform a song that will probably earn high six figures a year for the rest of all time. But guess what…? They didn’t write it. It was a song from the 60s by a band called Strangelove. Without looking (and don’t cheat)…can you even name one other lyric besides the titular hook?
Do do do de da da da by The Police - I must admit…I really hated this song when it hit the airwaves in 1980. I still do. To this day, I can’t tell you why it was a hit…but it was. Ironically, it’s still one of the biggest hits by this iconic trio. I will say…a judgment of “hookability” is whether or not a listener can sing that chorus the second time they hear it. I’d say this song passes the test.
Yellow Submarine by The Beatles - I’ve admitted in writing that I USED to be a casual Beatles fan. Guilty. And I really never liked Yellow Submarine to be truthful. I’ve come to really prefer some of their deeper works like “Across The Universe” and “Don’t let me down”…but the sheer audacity of the biggest band in the world having a smash with an absurdly ridiculous ear-worm like Yellow Submarine was ballsy. And in the same year as the transformative “Abbey Road” was released. Mind-boggling.
Barbie Girl by Aqua - Honestly. Contrary to popular opinion, this may be one of the most perfect pop songs ever written. Literally, every single section of this song could stand alone as a pop smash chorus. And although not Swedish, these Danes were part of the massive Europop tidal wave that was about to hit globally.
Gangnam Style by Psy - The first time I heard this song and saw the video, I thought it was a complete joke. But digging under the surface, it quickly became clear that this song was a masterclass in production, programming, and songwriting. Every single element was a hook, and suddenly half of the English-speaking world was fluent in Korean. Gangnam Style was Incredibly cutting edge, and was really the tip of the spear for the new era of the mainstream K-Pop onslaught to come. Ready to feel old??? The song was released in 2012. Yikes.
The Coda: Realizing that it’s almost impossible to predict musical trends, and what will and will not be a hit is a fool‘s errand. As long as we follow our hearts and really just enjoy ourselves as we are creating, the outcome will be what the outcome will be. Que sera sera.
See you next week, and keep writing them hits.