Is it different from a hook?

Yes – a hook’s a part of the song’s construction that helps articulate the song idea usually in a single statement in the chorus.

So, what is a song idea?

Well, it depends who you ask! According to Jimmy Webb in his book Tunesmith:

“A great song idea usually utilizes an interesting hook line or title and incorporates it into a fully realized scenario that reveals in careful, logical stages the true goal or intent of the writer.”

Sheila Davis, in her book The Songwriter’s Idea Book, says a “genuine idea” is:

  • About convincing humans in believable situations
  • That expresses one clear attitude or emotion
  • That’s substantial enough to be set to music
  • That strikes a common chord
  • That puts the singer in a favorable light
  • That millions want to hear again


So a song idea ends up being the combination of the message and the story that delivers the message.


Song Idea Examples


“Fighter” (Title/Hook)

Artist:   Christina Aguilera                                      Songwriters: Christina Aguilera & Scott Storch

Song Idea: Attitude/Emotional plot (a single attitude or emotion is the core focus of the song). Convert the seemingly negative things from her childhood into positives: made her smarter and stronger, not the victim – wanted a positive, empowering message, particularly to women. First person perspective and written as an anthem with an attitudinal plot (no real story line, all about an emotion).



“The House That Built Me” (Title/Hook)

Artist: Miranda Lambert                             Songwriters: Allen Shamblin & Tom Douglas

Song Idea: Storyline plot (sequence of events with a beginning, middle and end). Home is the place you can go back to when “things are broken” to go feel better

What’s the Story Behind The Song?



“Jesus Take The Wheel” (Title/Hook)

Artist: Carrie Underwood                  Songwriters: Gordie Sampson, Hillary Lindsey, & Brett James

Song Idea: Storyline plot (sequence of events). There’s the hope of a higher force one turns to when in trouble or troubled for peace of mind



“Roxanne” (Title/Hook)

Artist: The Police                                               Songwriter: Sting

Song Idea: Situational plot (there is a single emotion or attitude, but there is a known circumstance for context – still no concrete story line). Inspired by the prostitutes he saw near the band’s seedy hotel while in Paris to perform at the Nashville Club, the song focuses on a speaker who falls in love with a prostitute and tries to convince her she could leave that life for him.



“Wichita Lineman” (Title/Hook)

Artist: Glen Campbell                                                       Songwriter: Jimmy Webb

Song Idea: Situational plot (there is a single emotion or attitude, but there is a known circumstance for context – still no concrete story line). Describes the loneliness a telephone lineman in the middle of nowhere feels while he works and imagines what he says to an absent lover.



“Fifteen” (Title/Hook)

Artist: Taylor Swift                                                           Songwriter: Taylor Swift

Song Idea: Situational plot (while reminiscing events that occurred during the speaker and her best friend’s freshman year of high school there is no real beginning, middle and end). Cautions young girls to not fall in love too easily. at such a young age – new to the experience and heartbreak can be the outcome.



“God Made Girls” (Title/Hook)

Artist: RaeLynn                            Songwriters: Lori McKenna, RaeLynn, Liz Rose, & Nicolle Galyon

Song Idea: Attitude/Emotional plot. Idea focuses on a list of things that many women inspire, or coax, their men to do, all in the name of making someone they love better.

What’s The Story Behind The Song?



“Maps” (Title/Hook)

Artist: Maroon 5              Songwriters: A Levine, A Malik, R Tedder, B Blanco & N Zancanella

Song Idea: Situational plot. The search for a lost love out of regret for ones actions isn’t a clear path back to that person.



“American Saturday Night” (Title/Hook)

Artist: Brad Paisley                       Songwriters: Ashley Gorley, Kelly Lovelace & Brad Paisley

Song Idea: Attitude/Emotional plot. Capture multiple cultures that make up America beyond “redneck, Saturday night bonfire”. Create a song that looked like a typical New York street fair with different cultures, food, textures, and celebrate the diversity and influences that make America – America.



“Galveston” (Title/Hook)

Artist: Glen Campbell                       Songwriter: Jimmy Webb

Song Idea: Situational/Circumstance plot. A young soldier remembers his hometown, bringing back memories of the girl he left behind, and the fear of never seeing her again.