VIEWS: Who Writes The Songs?

VIEWS: Who Writes The Songs?

Who writes the songs? (Everyone)

By Graham Boyle

Most of you will have seen the Meme on social media comparing Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

It’s no doubt ably resurfaced lately due to the release and huge popularity of the Bohemian Rhapsody film biography of Freddie’s life and subsequent awards nominations.

The main focus or theme as you like, being that Mercury wrote and produced Bohemian Rhapsody – a six minute rock opera song that spent 9 weeks at number one, sold 6 million copies worldwide, and became an instant classic and career defining single for the band, all by himself.

Whereas Beyoncé required 6 writers and 4 produces to come up with, what is seen as basically a repetitive chorus of Girls Run the World.

Naturally giving the view that the song is inferior, and without the same artistic merit, now that depends on your viewpoint of course, to some “Run the World” is a perfect mix of Electronic and Tribal beats and an anthem for the Millennial women of the noughties.

It performed well as a lead single off the album 4, although if looking at sales alone, Beyoncé was closer to a million, in the modern age of streaming vs unit sales, this does not provide proof of the better performing or better song . When you take into account that Beyoncé unlike Freddie was required on top of her song writing and production duties, to release a visual album, tour the world, continue to churn out music, maintain a social media presence, promote like her life depends on any release, star in feature films and add to this all her other commitments required by a modern recording artist,

The fact that Beyoncé required 6 writers, which actually officially becomes 5 additional when you note one of these was herself, you shouldn’t judge her too harshly.

The other writers on Run the World were:

Terius “The-Dream” Nash – Who has written for Britney, Ciera, Justin Bieber, Mariah and Diddy

 Nick van de Wall (Afrojack) – David Guetta, Madonna, Paris Hilton

Thomas Wesley Pentz (Diplo) – Gwen Stefani, Britney, Madonna, Shakira, Justin Bieber, Usher, Chris Brown, Ariana Grande

Dave Taylor – Christina Augilera, Brandy

Adidja Palmer – Major Lazor and Rhianna

All of these are big names and many continue to rule the music industry, leading you to think does anyone write and produce their own music?  Are the stars of today comparable to the legends of yesterday?

The answer to this is yes and no.

Firstly looking at two very notable current music superstars who write their own Material.

1 – Adele

No one can deny her success and talent, she is rare in the music business in the modern world, as you could argue although Beautiful, her success is not based on her image and visual representation.

Her talent lies in writing and performing beautiful songs that touch and inspire people, she admits herself that her music can be somewhat morose and down tempo, joking during her recent tour that if you wanted to get up and enjoy yourself make the most of the next one as the rest are a bit depressing.

When you look through her impressive backlog of hits, even she has worked with super song writer Ryan Tedder from One Republic who has worked with everyone from Westlife to One Direction and U2.

2 – Ed Sheeran

Arguably the most successful song writer and performer currently in the world, Although he has written for others, he writes his own songs, and even is the star of a documentary film based around his song writing and talent, but a scan through the list of credits on his albums reveal even he had a small number of collaborations in regards to writing an example being Pharrell!

These two examples of the modern performer have the luxury of being allowed to be song writers and the public love of their performance comes from the pathos and performance of the lyrics and emotion. They are not expected to break into a full on dance routine, with wind machine hairography and ass less chaps.

When superstar song writer Justin Tranter was interviewed by Rupaul on his “What’s the T podcast” he revealed he had been responsible for many of the largest hits around at the time, He had been involved in writing Justin Bieber’s “Sorry”, which was partly responsible for changing the style of modern dance pop music and propelling Bieber into the stratosphere, he was also all over songs by Selena Gomez, Maroon Five, and 5 Seconds of summer.

The main focus of the interview was how he had gone from very modest success with his band Semi Precious Weapons who you may remember from supporting Lady Gaga on her first world tour.

To writing some of the biggest hits of the last 5 years. He shared his experiences of writing and the modern day phenomenon of the writers camp whereby a team of writers are brought together to collaborate and come up with ideas with a view to writing hit songs. Not necessarily for anyone in particular but hit songs. Which shows the motivation of the record companies nowadays.

With streaming and the way people digest music today, you have to hook a listener in quick to avoid being fast forwarded or skimmed, or in the worst case possible skipped all together. The need to provide performers with continued hits is huge. Which goes back to the old argument what came first the hit record or the hit performer. There is no denying a Superstar performer needs hit records, look at Katie Perry, she released some amazing singles from her most recent album Witness, Chained to the Rhythm, and Bonapatite were a great step forward for her, they were different to her previous sound, but kept the same charm and cheekiness, but the album that followed was a perceived flop!!! And following her recent collaboration with Zedd and the chart failure, she is on shaky ground.

She needs a guaranteed hit to keep her star in ascendance or at the very least maintain the position and quick.  But without the Star power of Perry and her like she won’t even get offered the songs that will be tomorrow’s hits!!!.

There are not many artists today that can write, produce, perform their own material and sustain the relentless cycle of promotion, touring and endorsements required to maintain their superstar status, without heavily relying on support to do so.

You only have to look at the X factor and even the Voice who is yet to generate a star. You can have the best voice but if you are not hungry enough, don’t have the determination to make it, and when you strip away the lights, smoke machine and makeovers don’t have the performance skills but even more importantly don’t have the full support of a record company and the buying power to get you the hit songs, you wont last in this cut throat industry.

So Beyoncé may require 6 writers to come up with a hit song for her but she has something that most don’t have to firstly reach the levels of success she has enjoyed but importantly maintain that success in an ever changing music industry, where winning a TV talent show and having the best vocals means nothing to the music consuming public and being able to write the best songs yourself does not equate to your own personal success.

Queen took many years to reach the levels of success they enjoyed. If Freddie was trying to make it in today’s market would a record company afford him the same time and money to develop his talent, or would he be reduced to one of 6 writers contributing to a chorus of “We run this mutha?”


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