The writing blog of James Christopher Sheppard. I am a 26 year old gay male from London, UK. Here I present my experiences, poems, thoughts and opinions...

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Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Deconstructing popular lyrics

I am currently studying a module at University called 'Smells like teen spirit- writing popular lyrics'. As you can imagine, we study popular song lyrics and write our own. I have looked forward to this module for years as I am a keen poet and a massive music fan, so I thought this would be right up my street. For weeks, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't write a decent lyric that stuck to the very rigid structure of ABCB rhyme and 3/4/3/4 stress. I had a meeting with my tutor and was told I was being too poetic and putting too much into the lyrics and that I should write things as simply as I possibly can, and to channel universal regret- something that everyone will relate to. I was told to listen to Adele and other very popular artists at the moment. I did so, and was struck by the simplicity of almost all of the commercial music I listen to. Some of these songs are quoted and quoted and appeal to millions of us, but it seems the art is really to say something as simply and vaguely as possible. I have learned from this that I am definitely a poet and not a song writer. Now I am writing these simple lyrics, I just laugh when I read them back because they are so bad- but that appears to be what is wanted from me.


  1. Tutor was right, a pop song has to be simple and catchy. Many times when a pop song is read it sounds silly, but is still a good song. A comedian years ago (Steve Allen) used to read songs and it was funny. Good luck and Thank You for your work.

  2. Does this raise the question, Which come first, the music or they lyrics?
    Or does it mean we need small words in popular songs?
    And why did I never find really cool classes like that one to take in college?

  3. Thanks Anthony- I'm going to check Steve Allen out. I've studied poetry for years, so assumed lyric writing would be similar, but how wrong I was!

    You have a good question there Susan. I think it would be easier to write with the music already there. The class is part of my Creative Writing degree at Kingston University. :)