Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Two Line Pop Songs

I have this position on pop songs that’s grown more vehement over the years, to the point at which I think it’s reached credo/philosophy proportions. I fundamentally believe that the optimum length for a pop song (and I affirm that basically everything that doesn’t require a tuxedo and a conductor is a pop song) is approximately two minutes and thirty seconds, and that anything after that just needs a brutal editor. Someone told me or I read somewhere (meaning this is a fact I’m probably making up) that songs recorded on vinyl used to be short because of the physical limitations of the format. Regardless of whether that’s true or not, when you listen to girl groups or old Beatles everything is all hook, a one-two jab of verse-chorus, then maybe an uppercut of a bridge and you’re out.

I don’t want your five minute guitar solos and I definitely don’t want sixty years of na, na, na NAnaNA NA. Two-minutes and thirty seconds is all you should get to say what you have to say, and if you can’t do it I’m taking out my red pen and you’re never getting your last verse back.

Because, okay, really? What is anyone ever yapping about in pop music that can’t be said in thirty seconds, let alone five times that? I love you, I miss you, I hate you, things rule, things blow, let’s fuck. The end. See how many words that took? FIFTEEN. Have you ever had to sit around and listen to someone talk about any of those things interrupted? And, if so, didn’t you want to swallow a razor blade right around the 2:30 mark?

Last night on the train I was listening to the Neil Young Sugar Mountain – Live at Canterbury House album and, of course, my favorite song by far is “Birds.” It clocks in at just over two minutes which is awesome, considering “The Last Trip to Tulsa” is over eight. Anyway, I like this song and it’s really pretty and sad and short…and you can strain it down to two sentiments: I love you. It’s over. Which gave me the idea: can you write a two-line pop song and have it be reasonably emotionally complete?

Yes. Let me show you them. Since I’m not a musician beyond knowing how to play the Peanuts theme on the piano, I’ve just written the lyrics.

In Fair Verona Where We Lay Our Scene
I’m over here with him, you’re over there with her,
You should be over here with me. Goddammit.

Read the Paper or Make a Move
I saw you on the subway and we didn’t say a word.
But you kind of looked at me. Love? Or boredom?

The Breaks
Dude, I really like you, but you don’t like me at all.
Isn’t that some shit? Isn’t that the shit.

Everybody Do the Brown Liquor
I think we’re breaking up. Yup, we’re breaking up!
I’m bummed about it. The rest of this song’s about whiskey.


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