How To Avoid Clichés In Songwriting

How To Avoid Clichés In Songwriting

 

Repetition, cheesy lyrics, bad rhymes and another love song?
We all came across songwriting clichés, right? They aren’t necessary a bad thing because a cliché becomes one after something worn off. So that means at some time it was THE thing.
Thankfully the clichés have been identified and there are alternatives to avoid them. I will cover the most common ones, explain them and present another option.

Today I would like to give you some insight into songwriting clichés and how to avoid them or even use them to your advantage.
Feel free to ask any questions, I’m always thrilled to answer to your feedback.

 


Disclaimer:
I’m not a professional, famous songwriter(yet). So the following tips are based on my opinion + a lot of research. I do have a lot to learn and I will update things, once I progressed with my journey. Additionally, I don’t want anybody to feel bad using clichés. I want to give helpful information and insight, if you would like to avoid them.  
Thank you.

What Are Songwriting Clichés?

Let’s identify the most common clichés, you probably heard of every now and then. Feel free to post your opinion on the whole topic.

1. Repetition

Repetition comes in many forms and colors but it always means that something is being repeated.
The repeated part can be lyrics, melody, an instrumental motif or chord progression.
In Lady Gaga’s song “Judas”, she repeats the word “Judas” 37 times and I still dig that song.

Repetition is a cliché with an intention. It should draw the attention to a specific point of your song. It also makes the song extremely memorable and relatable, if done correctly.
To be fair, repetition is not only a cliché but much more a well known technique of writing in general soo…. next!

By the way, repetition and practice makes perfect!

2. Forced Rhymes

As a songwriter, whose native language isn’t English(it’s German), this does give me quite some headache from time to time. You are writing a really nice verse and even your rhyme scheme is on point but then your have to rhyme the word “Day” for the hundredth time. “May”, “Way” or “Stay”?
One little gadget that saved my butt quite some times, is an app called Rhymer’s Block. It provides me with rhymes even beyond the “perfect rhymes” like “day and stay”.
I just had to try it with the word “Day” and here are some of the results:

  • Convey
  • Bouquet
  • Sorbet

This app increases my lyrics value incredibly. Check out my Recommendations Page to find out about my most helpful gadgets and tools!
Sometimes it’s even cooler to break your rhyme scheme and do the unexpected and not rhyme at all.

3. Telling A Story Instead Of Showing

I know it can be incredibly hard to sound all poetic and paint a scenery with words but you should really give it a try.
Using metaphors and creating a scenery can be shockingly beautiful. I remember the first time listening to Lorde’s “Liability” and there was one particular part that touched me, especially when I realized the meaning of it.

I do my best to meet her demands
Play at romance, we slow dance
In the living room, but all that a stranger would see
Is one girl swaying alone
Stroking her cheek

At first I thought:
Who did that to that poor girl but later I understood she was singing about herself.

What I’m trying to say is, a song is much more interesting, if you can find something out. There is a kind of discovery and interpretation. Maybe the lyrics mean something completely different in your opinion and that’s great.

One technique, I use to create a scenery and describe the situation, is object writing. It really helps me setting the mood of a song. You should really give it a go! At the very least, it will improve your writing skills. So come on and check it out right here!

Stereotypical Storylines

How many love songs are there?
No seriously I’m interested right now and I will google it….
I’m taking the first scientific number that I’ve found and it’s 60% in 2005.
60% of songs in the charts were about love and relationships.

Some more stereotypical storylines you all know about

  • Partying and getting wasted
  • Loss
  • Joy
  • Sorrow
  • Hate

It’s our job to rethink these storylines and make them interesting. So many songs are about love, what can your song potentially do different? How can it be more exciting and not another love song?
You could sing about how tired you are about them like Troye Sivan. I’m sure we will keep finding ways to make our songs interesting.

Bland lyrics

There are those catchy songs that I secretly really like but listening to the lyrics make me cringe. Some songs just have the most stupid lyrics but I’m still enjoying them. I won’t shame on anyone right now… maybe we can throw some shade when I do my first Q&A.
Always try to make your lyrics meaningful. Your song should tell a story and nobody wants a song without meaning…right?
Well that leads me right into the next point…. transitioning at it’s best!

Are Songwriting Clichés Always Bad?

No, in my opinion they are not.
Let me make this clear. There are clichés that like more than others. It all comes down, wether it does prove my point or not.

  • Is that technique helpful for my song?
  • Do I want to write about love/fear/hate?
  • Is forcing rhymes my trademark?

We should really calm down and not try our hardest to avoid all the clichés because we might want to be unique.
The tough part is to use them wisely to prove a point.
I’ve giving examples of famous singer and songwriter that use clichés.
Taylor Swift used a whole lot of melodic repetition in her 1989 album. A lot of Lady Gaga songs repeat the core message a dozen times.

These days, songs are short. People seem to not have time and want to get to the chorus and main part of the song as quick as possible. Clichés can get you there immediately. Everyone knows what a love song is like, how love is like.
Repetition of certain phrases emphasize on how much two persons love each other or how complicated the relationship is. Smart use of your words is the key here.

Successful Abuse Of Clichés.

Most of the songs and artists, I mentioned are Pop musicians. Pop music plays with clichés like non other. These songs are extremely relatable and will stuck in our heads forever.

It’s the job of us songwriters and artists to make the songs interesting. Give at a unique, your side of the story. Additionally, don’t limit yourself. Don’t block yourself to certain strategies or techniques, just because you think that they’ve been used 100 times. That might be true but give it your own flair.
We definitely need to put our inner saboteur far away, when making music. For me, it’s a tough thing to do but it will help you in the long way!

 

I hope you enjoyed todays post and maybe I could make you think about clichés a little.

Take care of yourself and I will talk to you soon.

Marc

 

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