Creativity and Performance

Creativity and Performance

A little while ago I posted a contest. Asking people to tell me the two most important factors of a popular (hit) song. And in what order. Maybe I didn’t word it perfectly but I didn’t really get the answers I was hoping for.

Most of them centered on things like the “hook” or a catchy chorus or even a template with a song arrangement. Now all of those things are important. But they’re not the most rewarded or most indicative of a very successful song. In other words, there are plenty of things a great song needs, but the most important factors that make it popular or a hit song are creativity and performance.

Why do I mention this? Because if your goal is to write a popular song, these need to be your focus from the beginning. Of course, you need a great melody. And a great title. Probably should have that title in the hook. Yes. You need all of these basic things. But the truly great songs that stand out from the pack are most often the most creative ones. And they’re followed by a great performance of that creativity.

Allow me to be more specific, as I have been met with many comments that these factors are too vague. Fair enough. When I say be creative, I mean, create something unique and interesting that many or most people will like.

Of course, any of us can get caught up in a creative moment where we write a 10 minute epic that sounds like the most creative thing ever recorded. And that can be rewarding for you. Maybe even a niche market. Plenty of people love the great work of a Frank Zappa for example. But he was not creating for the masses. So you have to balance that out if you want a different result.

My point here is that you can’t just be derivative. Checking all the boxes doean’t work for any genre of popular music. Sure, many hit songs have the same chord progressions or even sing about the same things, but they almost always have something that makes that song stand out.

Could be a guitar part. A guitar sound. The vocal sound. The production. Anything. But something that makes you go “wow”. That’s pretty cool. And different. And I haven’t heard that before. At least not done that way.

And by performance, I don’t mean the performance has to be perfect. Not at all. Perfect can be boring. But it needs to have greatness. Something that makes you admire that performance. And something that can’t be done by fixing it with Autotune or Melodyne.

Again. That stuff will make things sound usable or competent but rarely interesting or creative. And they won’t make it a hit.

The point I really want to hammer home here is not that my priorities of “creativity and performance” are right and everyone else was wrong. No. I created that contest (and this article) to inspire you to create something brilliant. Be creative and create brilliant performances of that creativity. It’s the best way to stand out and as I said earlier, it’s the main factors that have always been rewarded by fans of popular music. Good luck.

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I hope this message finds you well. Kenny Gioia