BY EMMA WESTCOTT//
I had to have an original song ready to perform (IN FRONT OF PEOPLE) by Saturday, so my bright idea was to start writing on Wednesday. Now, maybe that seems like a lot of time, but if you write music, sometimes that’s just not enough. Sometimes, it’s the kind of night where the concepts are there, in your brain, but they’re stuck to the walls of your skull with honey, so they’re only very slowly dripping out. Or sometimes, they were solidified into cement, so they can come out in big blocks, but then you get nothing else for a few days. But the worst nights are the ones where you don’t have anything at all; no chords, no concepts, not one line to get the ball rolling. Wednesday night, though, was none of these. Wednesday night was great.
Now, that’s not to say I didn’t need some motivation. Before you play in a big game, you watch game highlights and film to get a feel for how your formation should look. You watch videos of teams in the past celebrating their wins so that you can harness that feeling. It’s the same thing with music, for me anyway; if I can get into the headspace of musicians I love, then I can write music I’ll love. So, I compiled some of my songwriting hype songs.
First, we have YUNGBLUD’s “god save me, but don’t drown me out”. Dom always makes me jealous, because he has this way of bringing all of his fans together, whether you’re a diehard stan or a casual listener. This song in particular has this energy that starts deep in your stomach before it blooms onto your face, and you feel like you can take over the world. The next track is “The Bewlay Brothers” by David Bowie, my favorite from his Hunky Dory album. This is a perfect example of Bowie’s skills in crafting lyrics that you can tell are art, even if you don’t really know what they mean. That’s what he wanted. Gatlin follows Bowie with “I Think About You All The Time”, a song that I see as dark purple, as those gasoline puddles you see on the pavement in October. It’s the kind of song that I could listen to all day, and still be freshly charged to write my own music.
Taylor Swift and Bon Iver absolutely killed “exile”. It’s the song that got me into TS in the first place, and the story they tell shows that your music doesn’t have to be about you to be personal. Following “exile”, I have to include “Still” by Niall Horan. This song fully embodies the “last track on the album” energy; cinematic yet personal, intimate yet big, and he wrote it in seven (7) minutes. If that’s not a hallmark of an incredible songwriter, I don’t know what is.
“Weakness” by Jeremy Zucker exists on its plane with a more minimalist style of production, something I hope to emulate. It makes me feel like I’m sitting on a balcony in the rain, but I somehow stay dry. In The Valley Below follows Zucker with their track “Peaches”, a concert track in my opinion. It makes me want to play some festival in a much-too-dry climate with people in floppy hats jumping with their friends to my song that they don’t know, and won’t remember the next day. “So I Don’t Let Me Down” by Clinton Kane is here because of Clinton himself. He shows his writing process on social media, and the amount of joy you can tell he’s feeling when he listens to the finished product is something I can only hope I experience. The song is beautiful as well; he writes about losing yourself with an ironic amount of self-awareness and assurance.
The 1975’s “Be My Mistake” is a song I’ve written about before on my column, but this wouldn’t be a piece about songwriting if I didn’t include it again. The lyrical gymnastics that this band performs with this song is so genius to me. The crudeness of the lyrics themselves somehow makes the underlying message so much softer and so much purer. Two certain lines in the song make me scrunch up my face with how hard they hit me; I’ve explained them to people and seen that same realization hit them once they know what Matty Healy meant by his words. It’s just incredible.
Finally, because there could literally be no one else to round out this type of playlist, Phoebe Bridgers’ “Savior Complex” gives a touch of fantasy to something so unfortunately stuck in reality. I could have picked any of Phoebe’s songs, honestly; she is one of the best writers in the industry right now, and she shows no signs of stopping. She delivers track after track of both melancholy and thrill; she can be a writing inspiration to anyone, musical or otherwise. This song specifically, though, puts me in some sort of semi-catatonic state, but in the best way. I just sit and really drink in what she’s telling me, and mostly, how she’s doing it. Then, I close out of Spotify, open my journal I spent an unnecessary amount of money on at Barnes & Noble, and I get to work.
- god save me, but don’t drown me out by YUNGBLUD
- The Bewlay Brothers by David Bowie
- I Think About You All The Time by Gatlin
- exile (feat. Bon Iver) by Taylor Swift
- Still by Niall Horan
- Weakness by Jeremy Zucker
- Peaches by In The Valley Below
- So I Don’t Let Me Down by Clinton Kane
- Be My Mistake by The 1975
- Savior Complex by Phoebe Bridgers