Song Plots You Need To Know

If you listen to any genre, you’ve heard them – the three primary song plots.

You’ll notice they increase in complexity as you move from Attitude/Emotion to Situation to Storyline.

For example, pop songs tend to be Attitude/Emotion song plots (to paraphrase Gillian Welch, you can get ready for a date listening to them).

Situation/Circumstance song plots are a bit more grounded in reality, but still do not have a discernible time line.

Storyline song plots are literally just that – a story with a timeline.

For your songwriting, the plot type should be something you determine early. Your lyrics will be constructing the plot, so choosing the type at the outset is important.

Attitude/Emotion Song Plot

  • A single attitude or emotion is the core focus of the song.
  • Descriptors are focused on the emotion or attitude
  • Commonly used in pop songs and blues

‘Uptown Funk’  – Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars (Pop)

Songwriters: M Ronson, B Mars, J Bhasker, P Lawrence, D Gallaspy, N Williams

‘Girl’  – Marren Morris (Country)

Songwriters: G Kurstin, M Morris & S Aarons

‘Unchain My Heart’  – Joe Cocker (Rock)

Songwriter: Bobby Sharp


  • The attitude or emotion is given a situational context, or circumstance, which dominates the song
  • Most commonly used in the blues, R&B,  and pop songs

‘Crossfire’  – Stevie Ray Vaughn (Blues)

Songwriters: Tommy Shannon, Chris Layton, Reese Wynans

‘If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Want To Be Right’  Luther Ingram (R&B)

Interesting to note that Barbara Mandrell had a country hit with this song too. So, both of them are here! It’s also interesting to listen to the production and arrangement changes between the two genres.

Songwriters: Homer Banks, Carl Hampton, Raymond Jackson

‘If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Want To Be Right’  Barbara Mandrell (Country)

‘Talladega‘  – Eric Church (Country)

Songwriters: Eric Church, Luke Laird


  • The song’s events have a clear beginning, middle and end
  • Most commonly used in the country genre

‘A Boy Named Sue’  Johnny Cash (Country)

Songwriter: Shel Silverstein

Yes, the children’s poet wrote one of Johnny Cash’s biggest hits.

‘Two Black Cadillacs’  Carrie Underwood (Country)

Songwriters: Hillary Lindsey, Josh Kear, Carrie Underwood

‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’  Glenn Campbell (Country/Pop Radio)

Songwriter: Jimmy Webb

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