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What makes a song good?
9 July 2012
3.47am
mr. Sun king coming together
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A few years ago, I used to be mortified if someone didn't like a song I liked. I couldn't stand it, I got offended. Now, I've got the memo that taste is subjective, and songs I hold dear may be hated by some. But it still makes me wonder - what makes a song good to one, and not to others? (Also, let's keep it respectful - this is entirely subjective.)
Is it lyrics? Melody? Story behind it? Memories attached? What makes a song tick? Does popularity among the population at large matter? Does the opinion of friends and family help form your opinion?

For me, any song needs something different. It needs… that unexpected twist. Like, Two of Us is an okay song. But I LOVE it. Because, the first time I really paid attention to the lyrics, I heard one line, and it struck me. "You and I have memories longer then the road that stretches out of here". I don't know why, but it got me. Or, Florence and The Machine's My Boy Builds Coffins. I had never found anything to like about the song, but circumstances changed that. My mother was out of town visiting my grandparents, so I had to walk to school Monday morning. When "My Boy Makes Coffins" came on, it took on a whole new level of meaning, and love. And, in a funner (I know it's not a word - I merely don't care) example, what about songs you hear for the first time live? At their Friday night show, the Arkells played No Champagne Socialists. I'd never heard the song, but my brother had the album it's off, so when I borrowed it today, and put on No Champagne Socialists, I fell in love, because of the show.

So, what makes it tick for you?

(If I'm half as incoherent as I bet I am, tell me. I'm exhausted.)

I tried to think of something powerful and moving… and failed.  "You were given a choice between war and dishonor - you chose dishonor, and you shall have war" - Winston Churchill
9 July 2012
4.57am
unknown
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I think I have said this before, but what makes a good song for me is the emotion it brings you. Like some songs really aren't that great, but I like them even more because of a memory attached to them that lets me see something more in the song that that I wouldn't without that memory. One example is That's Life by Sinatra, which reminds me of when I went to Disney World last year, because I listened to that song a thousand times on the plane ride there, and that was a pretty happy time, so that song makes me happy.

I don't think popularity of a song makes a difference of whether or not I like it, but I am definitely more likely to give those songs a listen than I would to go out of my way to find music I like that not many people listen to.

Opinions of myself and family (not really friends because they don't like most of what I do) do make a difference for me. My brother, for instance really likes The Strokes now. I had heard their music before and didn't think much of it, but him playing them in the car had me listening to the music closer, and they're actually pretty good. Another one would be much of The Beatles solo work. Liking them so much just gives me a better appreciation for the individual members, so if I didn't really listen to The Beatles I don't think I would like too much of their solo stuff.

 

Also, isn't it "You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead"?

All living things must abide by the laws of the shape they inhabit
9 July 2012
9.02am
Ben Ramon
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paulsbass said
I've always been a melody man, I need a good riff or hookline or bassline or some else that grips me.

Definitely agree with this, although I do enjoy some more experimental, atonal stuff from time to time.

That's one of the reasons I never was into the Smiths or the Kinks, they are lyrics bands, and many ADORE Morrissey or Ray Davies for the lyrics, but that doesn't do it for me.

They certainly are lyrics bands, but I'd say both of those bands have their share of great melodies and hooks. It's impossible to argue with the immortal riff and rising hysteria of "You Really Got Me", or the absolutely beautiful melody and harmonies in "Waterloo Sunset."

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'
9 July 2012
10.30am
Ben Ramon
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paulsbass said

Ben Ramon said 

It's impossible to argue with the immortal riff and rising hysteria of "You Really Got Me", or the absolutely beautiful melody and harmonies in "Waterloo Sunset."

And I won't do so!

I meant apart from their five or so great classic songs everybody knows.

I've got a two-disc best of and the whole second disc has nothing for me. Primarily later songs, which are said to be lyrically deep, but not memorable to me.

There's not a single Smiths song I can think of, not a single melody.

I used to be like that with the Smiths but after a few more listens I found the melodies caught onto me a bit more. Their album The Queen is Dead has some great hooks, guitar riffs and basslines, such as "Bigmouth Strikes Again" or "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out." They obviously don't jump out at you like a Beatles song would though.

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'
9 July 2012
9.08pm
Into the Sky with Diamonds
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The great thing is that there are so many paths to a good song.

I agree that it starts with the melody.

There are any number of songs that I like without a clue what the lyrics are.

It doesn't work the other way around. I can't say, "I love this song but I have no idea what the melody is."

Having said that, for a song to be great, the lyrics have to strike a chord with me (pun half intended).

Sometimes the melody and lyrics can be so-so, but the production is great (harmonies, clever phrasing of this or that instrument, great instrumental).

And yes, like everyone else, I associate certain songs with periods of my life, and they'll elicit a smile when I hear them. This is particularly true for my "educational" years. (I'm guessing I'm not alone here.)

"Into the Sky with Diamonds" (the Beatles and the Race to the Moon – a history)
10 July 2012
4.07am
mr. Sun king coming together
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Am I the only person here to find lyrical genius can overcome lacklustre melody? Take something like Bruce Springsteen's The River. I couldn't hum the tune, but the lyrics make it fantastic. 

What about the affect of the perfect guitar solo? Can an awesome guitar solo make a song for you?

Edit: Also, isn't it "You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead"?


Yep, you're right. I maintain it's better my way, but whatever.

I tried to think of something powerful and moving… and failed.  "You were given a choice between war and dishonor - you chose dishonor, and you shall have war" - Winston Churchill
10 July 2012
11.13am
Ben Ramon
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mr. Sun king coming together said

Am I the only person here to find lyrical genius can overcome lacklustre melody? Take something like Bruce Springsteen's The River. I couldn't hum the tune, but the lyrics make it fantastic. 

 

What about the affect of the perfect guitar solo? Can an awesome guitar solo make a song for you?

I used to think Bob Dylan at his peak was only great because of the fantastic lyrics, but then I realised the melodies, chord progressions and the way he sings are just perfect to exacerbate the lyrical meaning. It really depends on a lot of factors.

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'
10 July 2012
9.14pm
vonbontee
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Good words and a good tune generally make a good song - ESPECIALLY a good tune. (About 80% in my reckoning.)
But I've never placed any especial value on SONGS per se, as far as my personal listening goes. I'd much rather listen to a great performance of a bad song than a bad performance of a good one. The former is thrilling; the latter is torture.

I just want to play. I’d like to think I could work opposite Sinatra, B.B. King, the Beatles, or a polka band... - Jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, 1967
13 July 2012
3.11pm
Joe
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Not wishing to derail this too much, but The Smiths were incredible. Fabulous lyrics, yes, but don't underestimate Johnny Marr's skill as a musician and songwriter. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, Bigmouth Strikes Again, I Started Something I Couldn't Finish, That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore, I could pick a dozen more at random and they all had fantastic melodies, lyrics, hooks. This Charming Man still gets played on the radio (occasionally) because of the melody and guitar line, not for the lyrics. Their first album was a dirge, though.

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15 August 2012
7.11am
JET!
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What a ridiculously fantastic thread. I was just digging around here and I'm glad i found it - I applaud you, Mr. S. Loved all the replies.

For me, there are a lot of factors that can go into a song hitting me the right way. I've noticed that songs and albums that my parents used to play in the car when I was pretty young always stick with me as great music. I think that subconsciously it's probably the standart to which I compare everything (a ton of U2, Parachutes by Coldplay, Jimmy Buffett, Wings, etc.). So if I hear that music after a long time, the familiarity of it and the time I spent away from it makes me love it.

A catchy guitar hook will almost definitely do it for me. Like Under the Bridge by the Chilli Peppers and a lot of music by The Strokes and The Stones. Or a catchy melody.

But the emotions of the song really do it for me. I'm a huge sucker for upbeat electro-pop stuff, like Coldplay's new album and a lot of new alternative rock out there because it makes me feel energized. And it doesn't have to be upbeat to capture my attention - when emotion is conveyed through a big sound or really good piano playing or amazing opera singing I love it just as much.

Now if the song is fun to sing and it is perfectly in my range so I can sing along, that's a big part of it too. If I can be more engaged in it I love it more. I think my range is similar to Paul's, which is why I love to sing along to every one of his songs.

I do take into consideration whatever my family and friends recommend to me. What the general public thinks of it doesn't matter to me; I still like some top 40 music. only if it's good though.

Sometimes I won't like a song when I first hear it, but upon hearing it several times I start to see things in it that I like, such as lyrics or the particular way an instrument is used. That's how I came to like Radiohead - I really WANTED to like it but it didn't click so I listened to it over and over and now I understand why it's great music. When I pay attention to the lyrics and I relate to them or they capture my imagination, then I start to like the songs more. And songs that put me in a trance like Flying and Tomorrow Never Knows I don't always like at first, but after awhile they start to capture me.

And finally, the memories and nostalgia count for a lot. I love listening to my playlists from a few years ago; it's a great way to revisit who I've been.

Wow that came out a lot longer than I thought it would... I just love music so much *overcome with joy*

The sunshine bores the daylights outta me
15 August 2012
12.47pm
GeorgeTSimpson
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For me a song needs a good melody, lyrics aren't very important for me. Sometimes they are, though, mainly in ballads for example Golden Slumbers and The Long And Winding Road. What is also important for me is the voice that sings the song, for example I mainly prefer paul's and george's songs over john's becuase I love paul's and george's voice and I don't like john's very much. I also would love angie by the rolling stones if, for example, paul mccartney had sung it, Jagger's voice is okay in rock songs (not very good but okay) but it's terrible in ballad

Once there was a way to get back homewards. Once there was a way to get back home; sleep pretty darling do not cry. And I will sing a lullaby
15 August 2012
12.51pm
minime
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I like this thread too, Jetahdn_paul_06 Glad you dug it out.

For me it's usually the lyrics and singer combined; how well they can tell a story or pass an emotion or ambience, for example. I do believe that human voice is the most beautiful instrument there

Regarding the actual musical instruments, I'm more likely to be attracted to songs in which instruments such as piano ( or any other keyboard), violin or electrical guitar play a prominent; for some reason other instruments move me more than the others.

And of course, attachment to the band/ artist or the situation in which you have heard the song; if I hear unexpectedly a beatle song, for example, it's much more likely to make me grin than if I listened to it from the record on purpose ( not that I don't enjoy that, too) I suppose it has to do with finding a familar thing in an unfamiliar situation that makes you more comfortable

Sometimes techinal prowess just makes me gasp, even if I don't like the song in particular, but greatest moments are in doubt those in which the instruments and vocals become as one, like IWYSSH or While My Guitar Gently Weeps ; I can visualize the guitar weeping

15 August 2012
4.44pm
GeorgeTSimpson
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What is also important for me is which memories I combine with this song. For example, probably the only early beatles song I like is I Call Your Name. When I first heard it, something awesome happened, I don't know what but it was definitely one of the most awesome moments in my life. Every time I hear this song now I feel happy because It reminds me on the first moment I heard this song, even if I don't know anymore what happened in this moment

Once there was a way to get back homewards. Once there was a way to get back home; sleep pretty darling do not cry. And I will sing a lullaby
15 August 2012
5.24pm
FlyOn13
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For me, it's all about lyrics.
I remember the first time I heard "Shake it Out" by Florence + the machine. I was really upset at the time, and the song really spoke to me. It especially woke me up when she sang the words, "I'm always dragging that horse around, and our love is pastured, such a mournful sound, so tonight, I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground". I realized I needed to "bury" my "horse" (my horse being my problem) and moving on with life.
Here, I'll relate it to the Beatles.
The first time I heard "Girl", the lyrics blew me away. Each verse was filled with even more heartache than the last (the 2nd verse is my personal favorite). It really showed me that love is a complicated thing, the way the lyrics talk about this girl like he'll never forgive her, but he still shows admiration for her. Being an Almost-13-year-old-girl, I don't know a lot about this stuff, but the lyrics, plus John's singing, plus the melody, make it the perfect song.

“I was special. I always have been. Why didn't anyone notice me?" -John Lennon
15 August 2012
5.40pm
JET!
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minime said

And of course, attachment to the band/ artist or the situation in which you have heard the song; if I hear unexpectedly a beatle song, for example, it's much more likely to make me grin than if I listened to it from the record on purpose ( not that I don't enjoy that, too) I suppose it has to do with finding a familar thing in an unfamiliar situation that makes you more comfortable

Very true. Lately I haven't been listening to the Beatles a ton on my ipod because I am into a couple other bands for the summer, but yesterday Hey Jude came onto the radio as I was pulling into my driveway and I just had to sit there the whole song and sing every word and every na na. It's almost better that way, so I treasure it every time I hear their music unexpectedly.

And FlyOn13, that line in Shake It Out really got me too! When I heard it, that's when I started paying attention to the song. And it's conflicting for me because I really love horses and I spend every day with them, so I cringe a little bit internally at that line but it's such an interesting one. That song had such a big sound, it's awesome. Very well put-together.

The sunshine bores the daylights outta me
15 August 2012
6.17pm
Long John Silver
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FlyOn13 said
Being an Almost-13-year-old-girl, I don't know a lot about this stuff, but the lyrics, plus John's singing, plus the melody, make it the perfect song.

Oh you will found out pretty soon a-hard-days-night-george-10.

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