TikTok Songwriting Trends

Yes, I know. TikTok is in my blog post title. How very Gen Z of me. However, I think there is something to be said about a trend I’ve been following on the app for the last few months. It’s been super cool to watch, and has taken off quickly in the TikTok community.

The first time I saw a TikTok of someone playing original music, I didn’t think all that much of it. Sure, it was cool, but people post original music on SoundCloud, Youtube, Instagram, etc. I didn’t see how TikTok could do anything more for creators than these other platforms. I think it’s safe to say now that I was wrong.

Since I joined the app in September, I have witnessed songwriters years younger than I am blow up for posting just 15-60 seconds of a song.

I remember scrolling through my For You Page and coming across a video of a blonde girl singing an original song into a microphone. It was a simple video. The lyrics started “I’m mad at Disney, Disney / They tricked me, tricked me / Had me wishing on a shooting star”

Chances are, if you have ever spent time on TikTok, you are familiar with those words. The song blew up big time, and now serves as the audio for over three MILLION videos.

“How can you miss someone you’ve never met / Cuz I need you now but I don’t know you yet” (IDK You Yet Alexander 23)

“Low key f*** 2020” (F2020 Avenue Beat)

“Don’t stay away for too long / don’t go to bed / I make a cup of coffee for your head” (Death Bed Powfu)

“Now I could write 10 songs about 9 ways you ****ed me over” (Never the 1 ROSIE)

“I would rather be distant with you / than feel distant with someone who / is standing in front of me” (Long Distance JORDY)

“Cuz I never meant to fall out of love with you” (Out of Love With You Avery Lynch)

I’m betting you’ve heard at least one of these lyrics before. Each and every one of these songs was written, posted, and born from the TikTok platform. This just goes to show that the world of music is changing RIGHT NOW. The artist ROSIE, for example, posted “Never the 1” on TikTok after her boyfriend broke up with her less than a year ago, dropped out of school a few weeks later, signed with a major record label, and is now recording music for a living. Social media has such power in all aspects of life–and songwriting is no different!

Other notable examples of TikTok music include Ratatouille the Musical–a full musical written/created by TikTok users, Bridgerton the Musical–a musical in progress being written and scored by @abigailbarlowww and @mlebear, song-a-day challenges like the one being undertaken by Vaultboy, and many more super cool projects. If you’re already a TikToker, I recommend checking all of these people out! If you’re not, I still recommend giving at least some of their content a listen! TikTok can be a time-sucking addictive mess, but there is definitely good to come out of the platform.

 

Do songs have to rhyme?

One thing I think I’ve grown at during my songwriting career is my appreciation for the different forms lyrics can take. Lyrics are in many ways just poems set to music, and when most people think of poems, they think of structures ending in rhyming parts. These parts are pleasing to the ears, but are not required to write a successful poem–or in that case, a successful song.

When I wrote my first song I was eight years old. It was called “Sun is Shining,” and was pretty much what you would expect an 8-year-old to write. It went:

“Sun is shining,
trees are swaying
wind is blowing
flowers waving”

etc. I was so proud of myself for the way the lines sounded when sung together since they all ended in the ‘ing’ format. To 8-year-old me, lyrics could be written in one way, and one way only.

As I grew up, my lyrics got a little more complicated than talking about what I could see in the prairie outside my living room window. In middle school I wrote “Juliet in Me,” a song which my mother swears will never be replaced as her favorite piece of mine.

It began:

“Sitting in the darkness
in a princess dress
I felt like a girl people would fight for
but how am I supposed to act my part
when the only love I’m in is through Juliet’s heart
and my Romeo doesn’t even know my name”

Based on my musical theatre endeavors, this song was a venture into the world of lyrics where not EVERY line had to rhyme. I also employed rhymes/similar sounds within single lines of text for the first time: I.e. RomeO doesn’t even KNOW my name.

In college I got into the groove of using near rhymes–words that weren’t identical in their patterns, but exhibited the same vowel sounds and therefore sounded like they did rhyme when sung. One of the latest songs I wrote uses this technique in its chorus:

“I am a kid again
chasing fairytales and booking flights to places I’ve never been
Because life Isn’t long and we don’t know when it will end
and sometimes you can’t wait around for your prince to step in
oh I am a kid again”

Every word at the end of a line in this chorus is a near rhyme. AgAIN, bEEN, ENd, IN, and agAIN. If you spoke this chorus aloud, odds are you would catch the discrepancies in sound, but when sung over a background of musical instruments, it’s less obvious. This is due to the fact that vocalists tend to linger on vowels instead of consonants while singing, Since the vowel sounds in all of these words are very similar, as the vocalist lingers on them, the vowel becomes the most important part of each of these words and the rhyme scheme works.

This is the same technique I use in the song I am currently writing. It is a duet–featuring a male voice speak/singing a part over the bridge. Part of his lyrics go:

“I thought I saw you last night
Across the bar with some other guy
True, you were never mine
But when he held you tight
I said “I’m fine”; I lied
Can’t you see I’m crying”

This goes even one step further than the song about being a kid again. Not only does it use the same vowel sound at the end of every line, but it also sneaks it into the middle of lines here and there. In this case the sound I was looking for was the long “I” sound.

I thought I saw you last night
Across the bar with some other guy
True, you were never mine
But when he held you tight
I said “I’m fine”; I lied
Can’t you see I’m crying”

So, do songs HAVE to rhyme? No, of course they don’t. Is rhyme a good tool to use to make your lyrics easy to remember? For sure! However, there’s no ONE way to use rhyme. You can go the simple way with perfect rhymes, or dive into something a little more complex. To each their own!

A Box on the Bucket List

Hey guys!

This post is going to be short this week. I’ve been spending way too many hours in the past few days working on a project that I am currently super, super excited about. It’s my first full-length, fully mixed song that I am crossing my fingers will turn out professionally enough to put on Spotify!!! That’s a huge bucket list item for me, and if all goes according to plan, the track will be ready by the end of this month. So… keep a lookout for that!

I’m currently recording on my Yeti microphone with GarageBand and my Mac pro. It’s far from a professional set-up, but it’s also incredibly amazing to see just how much someone with zero (and I mean ZERO) experience recording can do with just a few tools. This has proved to me that literally anyone can be a recording artist if they so choose to be. As long as you put in the time to figure out how your software works, you’ll be able to produce some really awesome stuff.

This new song is called “i used 2 sleep with my phone” (I’ve been feeling the artsy lowercase titles lately) and is my attempt at a typical angsty pop song–which is something I do not ever write. It also is definitely influenced by my experience here at UMich with the a cappella scene. At this point I feel like I have a whole choir of my own voice singing behind me on the track.

I will update on here how everything is going every week until the track is released, but as for right now that’s all I’m going to say! Thanks for reading, and if anyone else is a GarageBand fanatic, let me know! I’d love to listen to some of your stuff.

-Josie

Some Songs Don’t Come from Diaries

Here’s the deal, guys. People think you have to have some deep emotional traumatic experience to write a good song. And sure, lots of angsty ballads are born from tear-stained diary pages, but not all songs have to be that complex. In fact, I find that sometimes the best songwriting exercises are writing about things that have no real significance whatsoever.

For example, here’s a prompt to get you started.

Write a chorus of a song incorporating numbers 1 through 10. You don’t have to use all the numbers, but write as many of them into your chorus as possible.

Here’s my attempt:

You’re the only one
I can call at half past ten
and I can hold onto
through all the could’ve and should’ve beens
But you left at a quarter to 5
baby, what were you yelling for?
Didn’t break the walls round my heart didn’t tear me apart
didn’t realize what this was
until I walked out my door your car not there anymore
you gave up on us
you gave up on us

Notice not all the numbers are in numerical form. But using the words “onto” and “for” give the illusion that I am continuing on with the numbers theme.

An example of this in popular culture would be “New Rules” by Dua Lipa. The chorus goes:

“One: Don’t pick up the phone
You know he’s only callin’ ’cause he’s drunk and alone
Two: Don’t let him in
You have to kick him out again
Three: Don’t be his friend
You know you’re gonna wake up in his bed in the mornin’
And if you’re under him, you ain’t gettin’ over him”

This attempt at using numbers to tie together a chorus is much more structured than my attempt. It’s in list format, and the numbers are all ‘numerical’ and aren’t slipped in through the usage of other like-sounding words.

Here’s one more try by me to create a different sounding chorus using numbers 1-10 as an inspiration:

Lately
I see
All the things
I couldn’t see before
You walked out my door
Baby
trust me
when I say
going my own way
i’ve never felt so insecure
don’t wanna try anymore
take me back
come back
quickly

This one is different because the numbers themselves don’t appear in the lyrics. Instead they influence the number of words in each line. It goes 1-2-3-4-5 / 1-2-3-4-5 / 4-3-2-1. There was no inspiration behind this chorus whatsoever besides thinking of words that would fit this numerical pattern.

Other ideas to base choruses on?

  • Colors!
  • Seasons!
  • Night/Day/Morning/Evening
  • One particular emotion
  • Months
  • etc.

If you get stuck and hit writers’ block while songwriting, simply pick a category and use it to influence a chorus or two. It may not be the best song you’ve ever written, but it’ll usually be enough to get ideas flowing once again!

Songwriting Resources

Hello, all! This week I figured I would share a few of my favorite websites/resources that have helped me with my music throughout my own artistic journey. Hopefully they’ll be able to inspire/instruct a few people just as they inspired and instructed me.

The big one: Ultimate Guitar. This is the place I find the majority of my chord sheets for different songs I cover. Users are able to upload and edit chords and tabs, and each sheet is able to be rated by other users so you can see what kind of quality the particular version is.
https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/

Chordify is another cool site. It takes youtube videos and mp3 files and turns the audio into chords on the spot. It’s not always 100% accurate or reliable, but it’s definitely a cool idea, and I’d say it’s worth checking out.
https://chordify.net/

For anyone who does any Christian religious music, SongSelect is my website of choice. This is a database of worship songs and other religious material which works great for printing out materials for church bands/worship nights/etc.
https://songselect.ccli.com/

Musescore is a great resource but you do have to have an account to gain access to its full features. This is a database of PDFs and sheet music available to purchase or download. It also allows you to create your own sheet music. I don’t have a lot of experience with this particular resource, but I have friends who swear by it.
https://musescore.org/en

If you write music note by note on a staff, Noteflight is the place for you. I’ve used it mostly for arranging for a cappella ensembles in the past, but I know people who arrange/write for choirs, piano, orchestras, bands, etc. on this site. It’s easy to use for the most part, and really allows for you to create whatever you can possibly think up: an A+ resource in my opinion.
https://www.noteflight.com/

OTHER TOOLS:

If you need an online guitar tuner, Fender has your back! I often forget my tuner when I bring one of my guitars somewhere, and this online tool has really helped me.
https://www.fender.com/online-guitar-tuner

The Ultimate Guitar mobile app also has a built in chromatic tuner, brain tuner, metronome, chord library, chord progression database, and much more. Honestly just download it right now. I use it almost every day.

RhymeZone is another big one for me. When I’m writing lyrics I often find myself stuck in a situation where I have one super strong line and nothing to pair it with. RhymeZone allows you to search for perfect rhymes, near rhymes, synonyms, descriptive phrases, and much more, It also displays single word results and entire phrases that may match your rhyme scheme as well.
https://www.rhymezone.com/

A Song for a New Season

Hello, all. I hope everyone had a wonderful break and a period of rest to focus on yourselves and your own happiness. Personally, this last month or two has followed quite the learning curve for me. The pandemic and other aspects of my life really got to me last semester, but I came to the realization over the holidays that the world doesn’t control how I feel. We make our own happiness. For the first time in a long time I feel as carefree and excited about life as I did when I was a kid. This song is a tribute to that feeling: I call it “I Am. Again.”

VERSE ONE:

Let me tell you a story
About a time in my life
When everything finally felt
Like it was going right
And my dreams they all seemed
Just one more flight of stairs away
Then I got my heart broken
But I tried to be brave

CHORUS:

I let myself be a kid again
Chasing fairytales and booking flights to places I’ve never been
Cuz life isn’t long and we don’t know when it’ll end
And sometimes you can’t wait around for your prince to step in
I am a kid again

VERSE 2:

Now I’m driving round the country
Making friends along the road
Just kicking it and trying shit
And never doing what we’re told
And if the car breaks down or we get lost
We’ll find another way
Sleep beneath the stars in a thousand parks
Watching night turn into day

CHORUS:

I am a kid again
Chasing fairytales and booking flights to places I’ve never been
Cuz life isn’t long and we don’t know when it’ll end
And sometimes you can’t wait around for your prince to step in
Oh I am a kid again

BRIDGE:

Thought no one would want me with all these bruises on my conscience
Took me 5 months to even start making progress
Now I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize the person
Staring out back at me yeah cause she looks happy

CHORUS:

I am a kid again
Chasing fairytales and booking flights to places I’ve never been
Yes I am a kid again
Chasing fairytales and booking flights to places I’ve never been
Cuz life isn’t long and we don’t know when it’ll end
And sometimes you can’t wait around for your prince to step in
Oh I am a kid again