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

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

Bits and Pieces

I’ve had a rough week or so in terms of writing anything good enough to deem worthy of finishing. So instead of posting a full song this week, I’ve decided to post a few bits and pieces I’ve written down in the last few months.

Some are sad, some are happy. The styles are all different, and I’m not sure exactly what the tune to some of them are yet. But there is a certain beauty in an unfinished song. They’re in their ‘poetry’ stages. So, here you go:

 

#1: (a song for the seasons)

Wake up blanketed in white
stars like tiny twinkling lights
and I’m finally home
porch is dusty striped with snow
air is biting bitter cold
and I’m finally home

And I open shutters wide
should I run, should I hide
Is it finally time

It’s another barely merry Christmas

 

#2: (a song for fading feelings)

What do I say when the feelings all fade
But I promised you my forever
What do I do when I said I’d stay true
But in all my dreams I’m not tethered
You’re all I have, and I know that
What my heart wants, is what it once had
How do I stay when I feel I must stray
Is my only choice now or never

Every new night I add to my lies
And I weave a new stupid pattern
With every word sent and every word meant
My bond to you has but shattered
You’re who I’ve got I want whom you’re not
I need to hold on but everything’s wrong
What do I say when it all fades to gray
And everything’s gone that once mattered

 

#3: (A song for the towns we call home)

Small town small minds
Not too many passersby
Crazy girls simple lives
Its home
Big fields bigger dreams
Everything is as it seems
Stuck there till seventeen
That’s home
Then we leave and we see what the real world says
About us small town home grown women and men

You tell em where you’re from just by naming a state
All they’ll nod like they know but they don’t what to say
And everywhere you go everything is strange
Like what are you doing here?
You try your very best to be a part of this place
But in the end you’re 2000 miles away
And deep inside a part wishes you’d stayed
Home home.

 

#4: (a song for MY town I call home)

I was born in a town
where the greatest place around
was the Culvers on the side of highway sixty
And our idea of a getaway
Was a 40 minute drive away
To the shores of the Great Lake out in Milwaukee

 

#5: (religious, but my attempt at a song of lament)

Oh Father how I feel like old Jerusalem
Once full of people and the vibrant lives they shared
Now like that silent city I will weep away my sorrows
and it’s more than one small single soul can bear

The tears are streaming faster as I count the names of friends who’ve turned their backs as they have carried on their ways
Now like the silent city I will find no rest tonight
for my mortal heart is once again betrayed

What is a Hook?

This week’s post is going to be a bit more informational than creative. As I’ve been messing around with my own music in the past few months, I’ve been trying to experiment with a specific aspect of my songs: the hook. Though ‘the hook’ is usually singular when people talk about it in reference to songwriting, in all honesty a song can have one, three, four, or fifteen hooks depending on what the artist is going for.

But what does this term mean? Why is it so important?

Most people associate the hook with a song’s chorus. This can be true, but it isn’t always the case. Examples of hook-y choruses can be found in many modern pop songs–these are the ones you hear on the radio and for some reason can’t get that one line out of your head. Hint: that’s probably a hook. A classic for me growing up was “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA4iX5D9Z64 ) by Taylor Swift. The “never ever ever ever”s repeat multiple times throughout the song and stick in your head for hours after listening to it. They’re interesting and memorable enough where the song becomes something you want to listen to again. They’re also relatable for many teenagers who’ve gone through similar situations to the one Swift is describing in her lyrics. This is crucial for a lyrical hook.

But hooks don’t have to be lyrical. There are musical and rhythmic hooks as well.

A great example of a musical/rhythmic hook is the classic Queen song “Another One Bites the Dust.” Though I could not repeat the lyrics back to you word for word, I can immediately identify this song if it comes on in a restaurant or supermarket or wherever else. The bass line is iconic and functions as a hook within itself. It is recognizable, reproducible, and helps a listener identify the song within seconds. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVIbCvfkO3E ) Other examples of songs with rhythmic or musical hooks include: “Sweet Caroline,” (BUH BUH BUH) and “Mamma Mia.” These both have specific musical passages which are catchy and memorable.

Hooks can be produced with percussive beats as well. The best example I can think of off the top of my head is “We Will Rock You.” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tJYN-eG1zk ) There’s a reason Queen is such a successful music group. Their hooks–lyrical, melodic, rhythmic–are all fire. Each song stands apart from the others in a good way and is interesting within itself.

Many record labels encourage artists to focus on adding multiple hooks to a song. Lyrical hooks are the first step–you need words which people will relate with and catch themselves singing on their way to work. But the other types of hooks are just as, if not more, important. They are the small musical passages which will have a song stuck in someone’s head even when they don’t know the words. They’re not quite sure when they even heard the song, but because of the different hooks at play, it will be hard for them to forget it.