By Jason Blume
Part of your job as a lyricist is to get inside the minds of the characters you create in your songs. You need to express what is real for them. You also need to remember that the words that come from your heart and your pen will hopefully be coming out of a performer's mouth someday. The exercise that follows will help you craft lyrics consistent with the images projected by the artists you intend them for:
Decide which artist, in your wildest fantasy, you would most want to record your song. Be sure to choose an artist who records outside material. Write down that artist's name.
Close your eyes and visualize a stage in front of an enormous crowd of cheering fans. Hear the announcer introduce your "dream artist" performing his or her Number One smash hit--your song! Pay attention to the details. Notice what the artist is wearing and what kind of accompaniment there is. Then, listen to the artist singing your song.
Let these images "write" your lyrics. When the performance is over, soak in the praise and adulation of the fans. Then sit down backstage and have a discussion with the singer. Ask what the artist would want to convey in this song and what words and images he or she would use to say it. Now write down everything you saw and heard. Include specific details--especially any lyric ideas the "artist" suggested.
It can also be effective to imagine hearing your song coming out of the radio. In addition to helping you write a "radio-friendly" lyric, this exercise may also help you create the melody and arrangement.
Your fantasy artist may not be the one who ultimately records your song, but if that artist has a proven track record of hits, and you write a song he or she could potentially record, it's likely that song would also be suitable for a variety of other artists in a similar style.
"Strip away all the filler. It may take three, four, five, ten rewrites. You don't need five more songs in your catalog. You don't need one more. You need one great one. It's too competitive to let yourself off the hook with lines that are just okay. Dig deep to find that part of you that makes it special and get rid of the things that you would discount if it was another person's song. It's just too competitive."
Steve Diamond / Songwriter & Producer
Excerpted from 6 Steps to Songwriting Success by Jason Blume. Copyright 1999 by Jason Blume. Published by Billboard Books, an imprint of Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, New York.