Being able to grab your audience with thought-provoking, colorful lyrics is a difficult job, as it requires very different skills than your normal songwriting.
You need to be able to put emotions into words, make sure they’re not totally cliché and then make them fit your melody. Tough job.
One of the best ways to win an audience over is using the right words, what I call “Power Words”. A well-placed power word can be the difference of an audience with tears in their eyes and an audience that’s ROLLING their eyes, so getting this simple skill right has a lot of impact in your writing.
A great power word always has an emotional effect on your audience. Consider the difference between the word „fish“ (which is a very weak word emotionally) and „shark“.
Shark has a lot more impact, because you imagine a wild killing machine instead of your granny‘s gold fish.
We immediately react emotionally. That‘s what you want with your lyrics – a strong emotional reaction.
A lot of artists these days take drastic measures to evoke emotion, as with their use of the n- and f-word. They know that a shock reaction is extremely effective. These words are so polarizing that it‘s hard NOT to feel anything when you hear them.
This is a biggie. A lot of people mess this one up because they blur what they‘re trying to say through bad usage of metaphors.
I can‘t even count how many times I‘ve talked to songwriters who were extremely fond of using metaphors. And why not? It‘s SO deep…
Yes, they can be. But there is a BIG difference between „our love faded away“ and „I still make coffee for two“. The first sounds generic and doesn‘t evoke a strong emotional reaction.
While „to fade“ is a beautiful word, it‘s not specific enough to remind a listener of what a break-up is really like.
„I still make coffee for two“ however, is specific and instantly relatable (unless you don‘t drink coffee). By showing how hard it is to get used to not having your ex around anymore it is specific. And that‘s where the magic is.
Let‘s take a look at „shark“ again: It is not just more emotional than „animal“, it‘s also more specific. Similarly, „wreck“ is stronger than „break“, „bad blood“ is stronger than „anger“ and „grenade“ is stronger than „weapon“.
So here‘s my tip: Whenever you‘re describing a situation, go past those blurry metaphors and find specific objects or emotions in the scene you could describe. The more precise, the easier it is to envision and the better reaction you will get!
For a list of 201 power words, check this out.
There are certain moments in your song that are more memorable than others. I call these „power positions“, because they give a lot of power to whatever word or line is there.
When I write lyrics (and I usually don‘t have a lot of time to do it), I tend to fill in the power positions first and go from there. I know that if I get these few lines right, I will have 80% of my lyrics done (even though I‘ve only written 5 or 6 lines). The rest I can fill in much quicker.
The most important power positions are in order (starting with the most important): the first line of the primary bridge, the first line of your song and the last line of your song (this is derived from the 1-2-3 rule, which I describe in my book “The Addiction Formula”)
Placing an emotional, specific power word in a power position is like magic. Try it out and see for yourself!
Songwriting Coach & Composer
With recommendations from industry heavyweights Erwin Steijlen (Pink, Shakira), Conrad Pope (John William’s orchestrator), Jeff Rona (God of War III, Traffic) and Rene Merkelbach (Within Temptation), Friedemann started his songwriting/producing school Holistic Songwriting in November 2015.