What Is A Song Idea?

The number one question: is a song idea different from a hook?

Yes – a hook is part of the song’s construction. You’ll find it somewhere in the song (usually the chorus), and it’s often repeated. In pop songs the hook repeats a lot. The hook helps articulate the song idea in a single statement.

So, if a hook isn’t the same as a song idea, then 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.

“Heart Like A Truck” (Title & Hook)

Artist:   Lainey Wilson                                   Songwriters: Lainey Wilson, Trannie Anderson and Dallas Wilson

Song Idea (SI): Attitude/Emotional plot (a single attitude or emotion is the core focus of the song). Write a song that uses a truck as a metaphor for a person’s heart. First person anthem about triumph over heartbreak with an attitudinal plot (there’s no real story line, and the lyric is all about an emotion).

“Fighter” (Title & Hook)

Artist:   Christina Aguilera                                      Songwriters: Christina Aguilera & Scott Storch

SI: 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. It made her smarter and stronger, not the victim. A song with a positive, empowering message 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

SI: 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

“Jesus Take The Wheel” (Title & Hook)

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

SI: 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

SI 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

SI: 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

SI: 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

SI: 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.

“Maps” (Title & Hook)

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

SI: 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

SI: 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

SI: 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.

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