Deep Dive: Current Trends in Pop Songwriting 

Hosts: Steve Parrish of Desertcoast Productions & Songwriter Randy Brown

Saturday, January 29th- 11:00 – 11:50 a.m

 

1.Overview:

 

A deep dive into the trends and techniques of pop songwriting; what's new and what's timeless. We'll analyze structures, styles and processes. We take a close look at a few modern pop songs, some classic ones and the pop side of "hot country" and how they share certain characteristics.

Our aim here is to be unbiased/agnostic on our personal “taste” but listen critically to what is being executed on songs that are reaching a WIDE audience. We’ll try to listen as

1.Writers

2. Producers

3. Fans last (and not really necessary!)

These trends/techniques reach into all forms of popular music, so don’t let the “pop” designation deter you from what can be gleaned by picking them apart :) 

 

2. Define "Pop"

For our purposes, pop is everything from an Ed Sheeran song on the Top 40 charts to Olivia Rodrigo. It can also lean into the pop side of country (bro country to some people). Even indie artists like Phoebe Bridgers still tend to stick to the "rules" enough to make it very obvvious when they break them. 

We won't cover much hip hop, but you might be surprised how many do adhere to many of the tried and true rules. 

(Examples: Kick,Push by Lupe Fiasco-Classic Story Song) https://open.spotify.com/track/6nz35DNIzbtj5ztpDEcW1j?si=f5e6446ab2634bb9 

We'll take a close look at some modern pop songs and (occasionally) some similar classic ones that incorporate the same techniques.

 

3. Modern Music Analytics and Classic Writing Techniques-How They Meet

 

Hit Songs Deconstructed : Looking at Trends

Examples:

Q1-Q3= Size of Songwriting Teams: 5 (Producer Teams are now commonly 3)

TikTok Continues to be a launchpad for Top40 Hits

Genres: HH  41%    Pop 36% (stayed longer on the charts than HH)  Country 5%

37% of all Top10 Hits were UNDER 3MIN. 3:24 Was Average (Typical for decades)

 

Songs that establish an instrumental hook that will later be used throughout the song

increased from 35% in 2020 to 46% YTD (later example "Blinding Lights": see link)

 

Intros: Decrease in Claps/Increase in Vocal Based Intros V Purely Instrumental



 

Max Martin:

No Pop Music Discussion Complete Without Discussing Max Martin

Suggest further searches on YouTube for Videos on his techniques. Refer to other sheet as we

discuss specifics of "Max Martin" techniques.

 

Techniques that we'll point out as they happen in our examples:

Verse & Chorus: Self Explanatory, but how about Pre Chorus?

No Intro (and other intro/outro technics)

The Anti-Chorus

The Broken Down Chorus (usually end)

Turn Arounds V “Post Chorus” in Modern Songs

Strategic hook creation and placement/Hook foreshadowing 

Chorus melody writing and arrangement ( ex: The Max Martin Money Note)

Notes in Lyric Tools / Phrasing Balance ala Melodic Math

Max Martin’s Reading Level scores on his hits: Typically 4th Grade




 

5. Structures (Capital Letter Indicates CHORUS)



 

Drivers License :aaB/aB/cb    

Example technics: Short Intro, Martin CO Money Note, Extreme Bridge Shift, End Co Variation

 https://open.spotify.com/track/7lPN2DXiMsVn7XUKtOW1CS?si=865885d13ab54044 

(Similar Classic Example: Penny Lane  aaBa(solo)BaaBa Not Exact, but similar)



 

Save Your Tears- aabC/aabC/dC  (illustrates common structures with variations)

AA(Modified) B(PreChorus) C-- AA(Modified)B(PreChorus)C -D(bridge-modified prechorus)C

https://open.spotify.com/track/37BZB0z9T8Xu7U3e65qxFy?si=123c2055987145b2 

This is slightly odd in how the extended PC works. 


 

You Should Probably Leave- aBaBcaB (Traditional Structure w/ hook in every section)

https://open.spotify.com/track/2UikqkwBv7aIvlixeVXHWt?si=a97b4a43f6dc4004 



 

Anyone-abCabCdC (Good PreChorus Example, Anti Chorus,Re-Use of Hooks in Bridge)

https://open.spotify.com/track/31qCy5ZaophVA81wtlwLc4?si=95307ec64e574985 




 

Bad Habits - aBc/aBc/dBc     (C Is the Post Co Example in this song)

https://open.spotify.com/track/6PQ88X9TkUIAUIZJHW2upE?si=4cb9416fd1ab417e 

 

Buy Dirt- aB/aB/cb  (Good Modern CO Pop Example- Bridge is mostly other elements re-used)

https://open.spotify.com/track/69AIpwGNLxr4qS1X5ynx60?si=0364604714614062 

(Similar but not exact "Take It Easy"  aB/aB/aB  with a solo thrown in there)


AAA (Not as common today)

Happier Than Ever https://open.spotify.com/track/32BeYxKPrig1LefHsC0Xuo?si=b2d645e62a384287  

The radio edit is close to AAA for a modern song. It still bends the rules quite a bit.

Classics with AAA: Hallelujah, I Walk The Line- Maggie May- Hey there Delilah

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1QY5spxaKheTpZzleFNsdI?si=cce8d8b3c1ef4f0e 


Motion Sickness-aaBaBcB

 Indie Pop:

https://open.spotify.com/track/5xo8RrjJ9CVNrtRg2S3B1R?si=1138b12eab854ec5 



 

Justified- abCabCC(Broken Down Co)  C(Out)

Country-Pop

https://open.spotify.com/track/6IW4TUC3zHW4tpikDg1w7Y?si=0c2064e51f1644db

Good Example of a “No Intro” and “No Bridge” but a very clear PreChorus




 

“Retro” Elements are always in play. Ranges from 60’s or 70’s soul/RB in Bruno Mars tracks such as “Leave The Door Open”. 80’s Influence is critical to all Weeknd Tracks. 

Adele’s “Easy on Me” is very traditional. Could have been recorded in almost any decade.


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Links:

 

Playlist:https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5UP4i47Hjzyp1I6Oqs03ZF?si=93eed2fe594b4c9c

 

Common Structures https://www.tunedly.com/blog/commonstructuresusedinsongwriting.html

 

AAA Format: A Guide To Song Forms - AAA Song Form - Songstuff

 

Blinding Lights: Video on "Motifs"  https://youtu.be/SaeRiQC11AU

 

Hit Songs Deconstructed/Serving The Song, Artist, Marketplace: https://vimeo.com/622796353  

 

Max Martin References:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOSSWXVOZ60 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nK4f5Lq2jg