Guide to Songwriting in 2021: The Year None Of Us Trust Yet
Over the past 11 months, a platitude I’ve frequently heard is how many great songs and works of art will come from this horrific time. There seems to be a confused optimism about how artists are handling the world events. Do you people not remember that we are the most fragile of you all? I understand that as the resident tragic figure in the shadows, you assume that I am well equipped to deal with the chaos that has existed, but hello, no thank you. I like to be the only one with trauma around here! What exactly do I bring to the table if we’re all equally messed up?
It has been much more difficult than expected to find the emotional energy to write and create, what with the entire world on fire around us. After so long, it almost feels impossible to return to a normal songwriting process. But we must pull ourselves up by the bootstraps- the streaming services simply will not wait. That’s why, for the sake of us all, I put together this helpful How-To Guide to Songwriting in 2021.
1. Categorize Your Art Immediately
First, let’s pick what genre you’ll be writing in. If there’s one thing I learned from High School Musical, it’s that labels are very important. Thanks to Spotify and their list of over 5,000 options (this part is not a joke, there are literally 5,071 options available on Spotify), genres are now very vague and offer no actual indication of what the music will sound like. In fact, you can basically just pick three random words, stick them together and say it’s a genre. No one is going to know. Now let’s get started on your Southern Glitter Serotonin hit single!
2. Choose A Topic That You Are Mildly Passionate About, But Not A Topic That Is Too Uncomfortable for Your Mother, Who Will Want To Share This On Her Facebook
They say to write about what you know, but what I know is how to accurately sort my pets into their Hogwarts houses based on their predominant personality traits. Songwriting is all about saying what other people want to hear, so you need to find a solid topic that will play well with a large audience of people you don’t know, and a disproportionately small audience of people you do know. Sometimes it helps to gather inspiration from the world around you when searching for the right song topic. Unfortunately, the world around us is currently an absurd combination of the absolute nothingness of quarantine and somehow every single bad thing from 1918 on. I implore you, do NOT gather inspiration from the world around you, it will only overwhelm.
3. Cultivate the Perfect Environment
You accidentally looked at the world around you. Now you must stare blankly into the void. Shhhh, it will be over soon. You’re doing great. Do you have a candle? I guess maybe light that.
4. Create Your Chord Progression
As a woman, I only know four chords – making this part of the writing process a breeze! My close friend and accomplished songwriter, Matt, has Synesthesia and can see the colors of music. Matt once told me that his brain processes each note as a different color, so he is able to arrange beautiful melodies through both an audio and visual experience. That sounds way better than what I do, which is generally just scrambling the order of my four chords and hoping for the best. I recommend Synesthesia, if you can.
5. Medicate, But Not Like That
Many songwriting legends have admitted to using drugs or alcohol to fuel their creativity but I’m almost 30 now and I simply don’t have the time or energy for a midday hangover. I don’t bounce back the way I used to; one writing session could put me out of commission for days. Instead, I recommend clinging to the intoxicating aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Plus, you can drink as much as you want, because at least it isn’t whiskey.
6. Countermedicate, You Moron
Your hand is now trembling with the force of 5 cups of coffee and 100 bad song ideas. You need water. Water is pure, water is elemental. Michelle Obama warned us about this, and like fools we did not listen.
7. Write Your Hook and Forget the Rest
Now we’ve moved on to my favorite part: the lyrics. Everyone knows that the most important thing a song can do is rhyme, so I recommend choosing a few rhyming words and simply making up the rest. Every word that does not rhyme is just filler; they do not matter. As I always say, “if the words don’t rhyme, I don’t have the time.” For an even easier experience, just stream-of-consciousness your entire song onto a sheet of crumpled notebook paper (paper is so retro) and strum languidly as you take time to feel proud of yourself. You’ve created something meaningful.
8. Get Ready To Go Viral
Editing is for chumps, why mess with perfection? This song is DONE. Sit back and get ready to be lauded.
Alex is a native Huntsvillian and a singer/songwriter, culture promoter, and content creator.
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