Negative Nancy's Hate Thread

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This thread is for discussion of what we DON'T like in songwriting. It's not for singling out any fawmers or their songs, just for talking about what we don't like in general. . . like this:

I really don't like too much topicality in songs, especially if they're political. Writing songs about how much you hate the current U.S. President, UK Prime Minister, or New Zealand Cannibal King just invites disagreement and bickering, and means the song will soon be dated and sound obsolete. It's mostly the same with songs about current events, though they're maybe not as bad in terms of inviting dissent.

You can achieve the heights of dudgeon you're trying to reach without falling into the topicality pitfall by simply refraining from naming names or making allusions that too clearly point to anyone or anything very specific. Don't write about how much you hate Trump; write about how much you hate leaders, or the government, or stupid arrogant liars. Don't write about the Covid-19 pandemic and quarantine; just write about illness and death, isolation and loneliness.

To break this all down and sum it up into a good rule of thumb, TRY TO WRITE ABOUT THINGS THAT ARE UNIVERSAL, not things that invite disagreement, or that will soon be receding into the past. Don't write just for people who agree with your particular opinions and perspectives; make an effort to get the whole human race on your side and thinking "Yeah, I totally agree!" or "Yeah, I know how that feels!"

(What do you mean New Zealand doesn't have a Cannibal King? Next you're going to tell me that Paizuri Futinari isn't the President of Japan!)

Interesting thread!

I hate songs that are not topical enough. I like it when songwriters grow a pair and write something that is crystal clear and current (like my new song, Wear The F#cking Mask You F#cking Baby!

Don't dance around a topic hoping for something universally relatable because many people won't figure out your message unless you spell it out for them. Ya gotta come right out and tell it like it is! And even then, some dummies will think The Boss is praising the USA when he sings Born in the USA!

And I will always believe Ol' Neil made the right decision to sing "four dead in Ohio" instead of "some soldiers shot some number of people somewhere"!

(But my real point here is write whatever you want to write. Topical...not topical...simple...complex...current...ancient...whatever you want to write!)

dzd's picture

I have to agree @motisbeard Especially when it's a topical song that is the going trend it seems more done just for pats on the back than anything someone might actually believe in
@johnstaples you're right too, even if posting a song you wrote kind of isn't the point of this thread(if I read it right about it not singling out individuals or their songs) but what do I know, but yeah, most people are dummies....viruses are teenie tiny little things, but if security blanket masks make people feel better then sure....go ahead and wear them.......being told you're a baby.....yeah that'll draw people to message behind the song Wink ....if you don't care then fine...there goes half your audience....if you don't care about that, are you going to tiptoe around every popular decision?'s a big grey area....there's writing what you believe and what you think everyone else believes in too....cojones has nothing to do with it.
Half of writing a song(if you want others to hear it) is its relatability.....letting the listener make their own conclusions....same song about a whole lot of different things to different least any one I'll listen to more than a cursory one time.

I personally hate uber specific story songs for the most part, there's exceptions, but it better be a really good story, or songs that stick to some made up metric of what makes a "hit" or even super specific "genre" songs

@dzd, I wear a mask during the pandemic because I care about my health and the health of others. The science is there.

Regarding songs, I write them for me. So if I like the songs I write then they are perfect. If someone else likes them too, well, that's a nice bonus but entirely unnecessary!

This whole idea of writing universal songs is misguided in my opinion. You'll never reach everyone no matter how non-specific you make your song so it's better to know your audience and write songs they will love! Using my song "Wear The F#cking Mask You F#cking Baby" as a great example, I have received a LOT more feedback on it outside of 50/90 than anything else I've written this year. And the most common response is "Hell, yeah!" Am I changing minds with it? Almost certainly not. Am I entertaining people who share my view on the topic? Absolutely. Win!

I prefer to surround myself with positive Nancies. We have an absolutely delightful one posting the weekly challenges.

The whole maximizing the audience thing is one of two things that I dislike in songwriting, the other being the 'write from your life' advice that many singer-songwriters take far too literally.

If you have a particular style and already have an audience to maintain then maybe there's (commercial) sense to it. But if you're just writing songs for the hell of it, as most of us here are, then allowing some imagined audience to censor your ideas seems a very odd thing to do. That way lies madness for the writer and bland nothingness for the songs. If you've got anything to say that conveys an opinion you're going to offend someone. Writing for an audience also means you get 'OK Computer pt 2' rather than 'Kid A' or endless rehashes of 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' instead of 'Tomorrow Never Knows'. Every new genre ever created arose through a 'build it and they'll come' attitude; not pandering to audience expectations.

Don't offer an opinion; don't use big words; don't use strange chords, ugly sounds or difficult rhythms; don't make clever references -pander to the lowest common denominator; maximize your audience.

The 'write from your life' thing is another imagination killer - how many singer-songwriters descend into a never-ending series of songs about their relationships; rock bands who get huge and then start writing tons of dull unrelatable songs about life on the road.The true greats use real emotion to suffuse imagined characters and scenarios - David Bowie or Kate Bush didn't 'write from their life' in the sense that it is often applied.

Finally, topical songs - I think they're great as long as its recognised that they are of the time ('And it's 1,2,3 what are we fighting for ...') and have no shelflife, but that's not the point of them - they are about capturing a moment. The songwriting equivalent of reportage. Listening back to songs from old 50/90s it's always nice to have that year defined by a few songs that were inspired by events of the day.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and there are also subtleties that seem like exceptions but may not be.

Topical protest songs like Neil Young's 'Ohio' or Country Joe's "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" do seem to be exceptions to the rule at first glance, but they have an underlying universality; DEATH AND WAR ARE BAD and you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagrees with that. Thus, while these songs are topically-bound to specific then-current events, they're not primarily beating people over the head with some kind of controversial opinion, like "YOU ARE A BIG BABY AND SHOULD WEAR A MASK BECAUSE THAT WILL HELP, STUPID." It's true, Neil Young specifically slammed Nixon in 'Ohio,' but that was an era in which you would also be very hard-pressed to find anyone listening to rock 'n' roll who liked Nixon (or the war in Vietnam).

I also have to say that I find what @johnstaples had to say -- while certainly welcome here -- a bit cognitively dissonant in that he claims in the same breath to want to slap people around with messages that carry his opinions, yet also to only be writing songs for himself, with no regard to what the audience thinks.

Eh, whatevs. I don't want to get into debates here; I just want us to have a small corner where we can indulge ourselves in the luxury of griping about stuff we don't like in music.

Here's something else I don't much care for: overly-standard chord progressions that do nothing to push the envelope or advance the craft.

OK, you love the blues; that's fine! It's just that if you're going to beat out the 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000th shuffle rhythm or straight-8ths song on the tired, swayed, dead-horse back of poor old I-IV-V, it had better be absolutely chock full of amazing riffs, fills, flourishes, solos, cool turnarounds, etc.with truly amazing vocals and lyrics if you expect it to be at all interesting to anyone older than twelve, no matter how much they like the blues too. This ain't the '70s; strumming those chords won't do anymore; they have been so completely overused that you have to SCINTILLATE to an exceptional degree to breathe any new life into them. Can you play like Robert Johnson? Then sure, I'd love to hear you trot out the old 12-bar. If you can't, then put some effort into your compositions, please. There's very little new under the Sun, but that doesn't mean there's nothing worn out, either.

All through history music has been used as a political weapon. If done properly they should be in at least an attempt to unite not to divide. Suppressed medieval folk sang topical political songs, Slaves sang topical political songs, most countries with oppresive societies had ordinary folk sing songs to keep there hope alive. Some of the 20th century greats seager, guthrie dylan young, buffy st Marie lennon sang political songs. Many of these people helped better change occur. At the very least writing a political song is better than many alternative ways of showing dislike. Almost everything becomes outdated sometime. I again reiterate i think its better to seek unity than division. And like Mr Staples says write what you want! Oh and his mask song is good whatever your political or non political beliefs.

You know what I don't like in music?
People who criticize other people's songwriting styles.

@Fuzzy Then why are you in this thread at all? To criticize people for being critical?


@coolparadiso I'm a little brow-furrowed here, because my original statements have been strawmanned into me supposedly saying that (A) you should do everything you can to maximize your audience, and (B) you shouldn't write political songs.

All I'm saying is that if you have a message, you can get your message across more effectively without alienating anyone -- and more importantly, can CREATE BETTER ART -- by stripping your message of overly-specific elements, and distilling them into universal human truths.

Uh..oh - looks like this is turning into *THAT* thread - there's always one every year.

Time to bail.

And what I'm saying is that everyone has their own ideas of what BETTER ART is.
No one likes to be told that their songs aren't good enough.

Smile there was a time, not to long ago, but long enough where folks 180 degrees apart commented on the "song" (craft). I think I was one of the last if not the last when then commented, on the craft, and then?

So, now, I pop popcorn, and keep a case o beer handy and sit back and watch, -- 'cause there's always someone here that blows their wad in this stuff, no matter how well "liked". Ah, the cool-kids club... membership there never started the next movement in music, culturally or otherwise. (Oh, and when appears is loosing the "argument"?, moves it to Facebook or other back channel dsicussion not under the 500watt light of "all to see", "courage" and spine?)

So, the spine needs to be grown back in the folks who had it removed to get along to go along, and just be about the music regardless of content. (E.g., a real comment about the time it all went to hell here: "Dude I want to like your stuff, it's really great, but I can't tell what side you are on, so I can't comment Wink " yeehaww and Amen, Praise the Lord HIS Holy name, -- the Truth. "Fake Christians", Heathens, ---- and et alia! Smile the truth, in Science'd good data indeed!)

I, in my mind, a wonderful place to be, -- that solves everything, -- back to song craft regardless of content, yeehaw! What a novel idea for a place that erases itself and starts over again every project to, -- remove allot of krappolla that otherwise tanks any songboard, -- the "Gentry" foothold of all the cool-kids whipping all into shape under them, indeed! Who can wet the wall the highest this year? Same as last year? Hmmm, membship is "changing"... we shall Sea!

Need evidence? Did you keep your "Watch LIst"? I wonder if this place (the fawm machine in total), could have been grown another ~2000 or so, more even if known now for what is "purported" and simply not fact, but was once, ---- data noir? or not, science; purely opinion science. Smile (The world per science was once Flat and All revoved around It, -- and then?)

I love opinion, it can never be wrong, since -- opinion. It can then even have it's own facts. Indeed Smile ... my "mourniing-morning-5-min-news-writes, rights rites Smile -- best reflection of the day anyone can enjoy, if only my opinion, so right, write, rite Wink

So, I agree with all of you and so dearly love you all regardless of the curses you may otherwise "wish upon wish upon wish and thereby in fact contract the contractions of the contracitions, -- I contradict" Wink (c) 2020 ustaknow (alias), -- meaning, ---- it's all music, and it is all only about the music, well, unless it's Muzak?

Or is this a substation for "other", Fifth Column Media Buzz? Hmmm... ...

One of the first things I said in the thread-opener was that this isn't about pointing fingers at anyone in particular, or their songs; it's for talking about generalities.

I just listened to your A PLAGUE OF SINGER-SONGWRITERS and it didn't seem like you had any problem being very critical -- of specific artists -- in that (it was kind of weird though, because it's not about songwriters at all, but about people who play cover songs by artists you don't like and are critical of).

Post-Modernism -- which denies that there is any such thing as truth, and tries to enforce a dogmatic insistence that everything cultural is of equal value -- makes it easy to get on a high horse about anyone criticizing anything. . . but I personally think Post-Modernism is wrong, and maybe this is a thread for people who don't have a problem with that. Can we please have just this little corner in which to talk about it, without being fucked with about it?

50/90 is awesome. Let's keep it that way!

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@nancyrost Sorry for the title of this thread; it wasn't at all a reference to you.

Did you post these guidelines because you feel that the very nature of this thread violates them? I need to know. The guidelines are reasonable enough, but if we can't have even one thread in which we can openly talk about things we don't like in songwriting, then I find that oppressively stifling and don't want to be here.

Again, this thread is not for throwing shade on each other; it's for general discussion of what we find undesirable in songwriting, like being overly-topical, or not being topical enough.

Just a reminder from the moderating team when things get heated.

This thread is not about the "cool kids" whipping the other kids into shape; it's just about discussing approaches to songwriting that we find less desirable, IN GENERAL.

Please stay on-topic rather than posting what you think of the thread. If it's not for you, nobody is forcing you to read it or comment. What do you think is good to avoid when writing a song?

@motisbeard, re: "we can (sic) [can't?] openly talk about things we don't like in songwriting, then I find that oppressively stifling and don't want to be here."

Well, unitl this year... eh. I had after about two months of "songwriting" on a songwriters forum thread, -- locked. Moreover, after the project was over and ALL abandoned the forums for "better places"? Indeed..., and so some, many nevertheless read every world of a flow of thought between two people only in a correct place, for TWO MONTHS prior with so many posts... you'd have to be CRAZY to read it all, I certainly did not Wink Some folks "write" into -- then writing and what I and my buddy was flow of thought wacking each other toward.

Ironically, almost to the hour the thread got locked Smile we were abandoning it Wink wow, timing is everything -- we both were moving into Musication Mode. HOWEVER, THAT broke the FLOW. For 1 person? Many? In a project OVER for two months and ALL abandoned... took two months to debate what back channel to go to to do "more", better? work? Who knows. I don't.

So, a content provider when starts to engage Second Amendment elelments then falls into an issue as many today can read about, -- well that is another real time topic, isn't it. And for this thread? The second amendment not just for full eft wing iberals only? Wink I don't know what a eft wing iberal looks like, but look allot like the 5th column media buzz of the 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, '20's Smile ... aye? Who knows, I don't. I just do my music and muse about what others do and use it. Chaos helps me write better, -- don't ya think?

There are "many" or a few "Moderators" here. Allo volunteers. (And while some places may 'Train" them within "Group Formation" elements, -- who konws anymore? I don't.) We are infact ALL considered mods and in fact 98% of time do a "fair" job. I often at one time LINKED only to the FAQ's... eh, no one listens to a gentle hand, -get a bat, the new paradigm esp when not of what you agree.

I can't wait to see what happens next... alert the Media... 6'oclock news here we come. Get your DEMO's a ready!!! Yeehaww!!! Oh, and don't forget the grey-web... that'll be activeated to?

--Oh, and let me finish my Breaking of the Flow... I, we, went somewhere else... indeed Providential.

Keep in mind, the "paradigm" here is the delete itself. But, they do try to come back and re-establish as if not deleted... so interesting to Study (what this is anyway, research data). And, again, watch the membership data and what happens if stay. And, collate that to for e.g., 2000 members and 250 post and 20 are full engaged. All sudo-numbers but an easy supposition to make at first glance thesis discovery.

Great thread... you got cahonas, big ones... so, watch what happens next and know, there IS always one every year and a path it takes.

-- Yeah for the 2nd Amendment for as long as it lasts, long may it wave.

(Appologies for typos and grammar, -- gotta get back to my day job Smile hahhh, not sitting in my living room in fuzzy slipper with a glass of wine with LED Display Bravery Wink )

Ah @motisbeard you posted while i was writing... indeed, I love it. You may misunderstand me on first glance. And, that's ok. Most folks do not get what I write. It can take a bit of thinking. This is a longitudinal, bi-directional, authentic communication.

I only plan on watching moving forward. In a thread like thiis, not a phone call... in real time, -- Time is the pro-asset, not assumption.

-- Cheers I'm not made of glass, swing away if that's what you want... I won't complain, -- really. Only the cool kids do that.

Oh, and I find, cool kids whipping others into shape an undesirable method, generally speaking -- on topic indeed.

Interesting discussion. I did try a song once about the class dimensions of the transition from liberalism to post-liberalism, but no one noticed. I like the way anyone can write anything on 50/90 and FAWM. I tend to avoid responding to, or writing, political songs that are too specific because I fear I might get into trouble, as I can be a both a contrarian and a pragmatist. and the temptation to offer an alternative viewpoint would be too much to resist. So I don't go anywhere near them. I can see an argument for having a politics free zone when politics is very polarised, as it seems to be at the moment, but clearly this is not what people want.

And it is best really people just do what they want. As for other things. 50/90 and FAWM are a good place to learn from mistakes, the debate around chord progressions is an interesting one, and worth having, but in the end someone learns how to make the chords they use in their song work by doing it, and there should be space for that here.

Good to have you here @Motisbeard and hope you have a good and productive 50/90.

@Frances Smith Thanks for the welcome, and for your thoughtful input.

When I say "don't play I-IV-V unless you can play like Robert Johnson," I am not saying that stuff has no business being on this website; it's just a general statement of my personal tastes, and -- I hope -- a good piece of advice for other aspiring musicians. I'm not an authoritarian; nobody has to listen to me, people can play whatever they want to play, and the nature of this site being what it is, I am in solidarity with everyone who welcomes all comers. All I'm saying is that I find nothing interesting in that kind of composition, and I'm not likely to listen to it all the way through, much less bother commenting on it.

The same goes for sociopolitical opinion songwriting. As it relates specifically to this site, I'm not saying there's no place for it; I'm just expressing my personal distaste for it, and pointing out that universal truths serve artistic goals better than soon-to-be-dated controversy. When it gets too specific to have at least a little bit of universal appeal, it becomes another form of songwriting that I am very unlikely to comment on, even if I agree with the writer's politics.

Yes, it really is best that people just do what they want. It's also good if those who are so inclined offer and accept advice to and from each other, or at least take each others' thoughts into consideration. Everyone can do that, just like they can play whatever they want, and nobody has to do it if they don't want to. I'm not the Music Police. . . but like you, I tend to avoid responding to certain things.

Here's something else I don't like in songs: there's probably a name for it, but I don't know what that might be. . . I'm thinking of that sound you get when you layer a zillion vocal tracks over each other, so instead of a singer and maybe a little harmony, you get a giant mob of soccer hooligans yelling the lyrics at you. It's not entirely horrible when used sparingly, like maybe just in the chorus? It's very easily overdone, though, and I don't think I'd ever use that gimmick at all. I know, I know. . . that's a production thing, not really anything to do with songwriting. Still.

Ah, see, now I get ya.
Your last post gave your personal opinion.
I understood your first post to mean "This just plain sucks".
I suppose I misunderstood what you were trying to say in the first place. Probably because you put the word "hate" in the thread title.

I was just being facetious with the thread title, Fuzzy. I'm a sarcastic satirical smartmouth with an overdeveloped sense of humor.

Me too.
And for various reasons I have a knee-jerk reaction to the word "hate".

Sorry to hijack the thread.
We will now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

I don't like hearing music that I don't identify with and can't understand. I'm almost biased in this way and I find myself in more of an investigation than listening for pure enjoyment. I don't like being left out of the party and if I don't understand and I wonder if I haven't been challenged or I'm losing my edge so I'll listen to stuff I don't like over and over. It could be attributed to a more general personality defect of mine but also, music listening isn't always about enjoyment to me. The music people enjoy says a lot about them as individuals and groups.

I don't understand what Leonard Cohen was singing about most of the time and there was a time when I thought I was supposed to. He sounds like an old wino singing nursery rhymes to some critters in an alley in New York, to me. There are a few exceptions.

If it's supposed to be nonsensical, that's splendid for me to let my mind wander and be at play but with some celebrated songwriters I'm not sure if I'm supposed to take an introductory course to Italian poetry before getting it. Some of Bob Dylan's work is cool to listen to but people get deep into his lyrics and it's like, I'm not sure Bob even knew what that was he just injected a little Shakespeare tongue into his Guthrie impression. I love Bob, but the enjoyment is laugh factor on a lot of his songs.

I don't like about half of mid to late era Beatles songs because they're too goofy. I have a similar sort of allergic reaction to musical theater. It actually hurts. I don't hate The Beatles but when they get to their fantasy kid's show type songs I'm just creeped out enough to leave the room. It feels like I'm being forced to accept two contradictory realities with a rock band doing something too creepy for me. Similarly, with musicals I feel like I'm supposed to maintain some willful suspension of disbelief when everyone dancing and singing. No. I can't help it and this is a case where I've given up trying.

I've often wondered what the appeal is in today's rap. I don't know what to say about this one but I'm not getting it. Kinda sounds like a producer forgot to turn off the metronome and the talent was like, "LIT. LEAVE IT ON ALL MY TRACKS!" but with a couple shots of novocaine. I'm giving it a chance, still, because it's definitely a sound and the kids are into it. Rap was awesome to me when it was bars full of vocal technique, poetry, interesting samples, and tons of attitude. This stuff today sounds pretty lazy and drugged out but I'm still trying to get it and see past my own tastes.

[@jeustan], I agree with you about the Rap. I don't understand it, and it does seem lazy to me. But I'm an old guy, so maybe that's the problem.

@Fuzzy - You proved you're an old guy by calling it "the" Rap! Old folks (like me) are also inclined to say "the" Covid and "the" Facebook. And I call Apple Music "Apple Tunes" just because it aggravates my teenage daughter.
I've been following this thread all day, to see how nasty it might get. And I'm guilty of writing lots - and lots - of 1-4-5 chord structure songs (sometimes just 1-4 or 1-5!), and lots of 12-bar blues, and lots of songs that are very, very specifically about me. I'd feel picked on if I actually gave a damn or was looking to change what I do.
I will say that rarely - almost never - do I come across something on FAWM or 50/90 that I dislike. I appreciate the creative effort, no matter what.

Well, @Chip Withrow, at least I didn't call it "the Hippity Hop".

dzd's picture

@Chip Withrow I rarely hear much here I don't like either, contrary to popular belief I'm not an idiot, and do know what a "demo" is Smile .......but I think keeping this thread off of "our" stuff is the only way to keep it from getting nasty.....why I was particularly fond of the op's wording Smile I'm very guilty of standard progressions as well, even if its something I wouldn't go out and buy, and its so great to just bang out 12-bars and word salad on top of it.......I love hearing that stuff live, well used to Wink

Not a big fan of much post 2000's of that the hippity hop either, seems a cash cow was spotted and have just been riding that wave for awhile now with no innovation.

I absolutely hate, boom chicka boom chicka dance music!, but when it sounds even just a little bit fresh, with some humanization, it is some of my favorite stuff to listen to.

there's always exceptions to everything.....or else you're just not being honest with yourself Smile
also hate any kind of overly preachy stuff on any subject(even if I agree wholeheartedly)......I would never let anyone talk down to me IRL why would I want to hear that in music?

[@jeustan] Man, you are sniping at some sacred cows there! I hear you.

I never had much respect for Leonard Cohen because I always saw him as a phony and a tourist in the world of pain. He was basically a trust fund kid without a real problem in the world, kicking it in his mansion in Greece, or in a zillion-dollar-a-month NYC apartment with no need to work. I'd have been a lot more open to his musical deficiencies had he undergone anything real in the way of struggle that might lend something genuine to his songs. I'd prefer that the money and adulation go to someone more deserving.

Bob Dylan has been getting buried alive in praise as a great poet and the voice of a generation forever, to the point that he probably has had a hard time feeling like a real person (which makes me sympathize with him for being such a huge junkie). I like Dylan but I think his stuff is vastly overrated. . . and apparently, SO DOES BOB DYLAN. There have been numerous occasions on which he has wearily said things like "I just try to make it rhyme, man," and I think he probably rolled his eyes so hard that he got a glimpse of his own brain when they awarded him a Nobel prize for literature. NASHVILLE SKYLINE is on my forever and ever playlist, though.

Hey, now. If we can give a Nobel prize to Edward Appleton for saying the solution is circulating in the upper atmosphere, we can give one to Bob Dylan for saying the answer is blowing in the wind.

@Stephen Wordsmith If you're trying to bait me into writing a Dylan parody with the refrain "The solution to radar is circulating in the upper atmosphere; the solution is in the upper atmosphere," then you're not entirely barking up the wrong tree. If I had a big bag of weed I'd already be working on it.

Songs which are just four chords round and round while somebody emotes over the top really get on my tits.
Basically because that's what the pop music industry is now. It's all I-V-vi-IV rinse and repeat, or some basic variation on that (ie one of the chords is a substitution or the four chords are in a different order).

[@Jeustan], i didn't understand much of what you said, so i read your comment several times! Seriously though, while i don't necessarily agree with you about, say, the Beatles or even Bob Dylan, i do totally undertand what you mean. And your review of Leonard Cohen almost resulted in my laptop getting a mouthful of tea over the top of it!

dzd's picture

hahah "the solution is circulating in the upper atmosphere" has "hit song" written all over it!

[@jeustan] I have to agree about Leonard Cohen.....I heard an interview with him once about how many years it took him to write "Hallelujah".....really? While I've always found Bob Dylan, yeah a bit over-rated, but amusing all the same, doesn't seem to take himself very seriously either. I won't get too much into the Beatles, there's very few of their songs I actually enjoy, and granted I'm not old enough to know how "groundbreaking" they were, but I've also been around long enough to know, a lot of those ideas probably weren't their own in the first place Wink heard in some alleyway/small bar somewhere, "hey that sounds cool, why don't I try that....I'm young and good looking, the chicks will eat it up" Smile Another thing I hate in music! People thinking they had some genuine original idea and love to show off, hey look what I figured out! Moments after hearing something.

@Calum Carlyle

"Four chords round and round while somebody emotes over the top"

I used to really like the Dandy Warhols, but then I listened to their entire discography in a single sitting while driving a big rig across the Midwest, and realized that they only actually have six songs, and that describes all of them.

I secretly still kind of like them anyway.

Four chords still suffice. One chord, even. Even a single pitch used the right way is plenty for a song. The only real gripe I could have with a song is a lack of authenticity. Even the noisiest and most complicated compositions are lifeless and fraudulent without a spark endowed by a human. It’s as easy to identify as counterfeit merchandise at a bodega. You know monstrous, mechanized music when you hear it (think of the last time you went shopping).

Given, you can suck just as hard by trying and caring so much that the only thing captured in the song is the flavor of your labor and sweat, no tears (I’m guilty).

I confess I’ve heard only truth so far in this humble community of bards and songsmiths and I would listen to any of your skirmish output over any of The Beatles solo albums because it’s all authentic songwriting and it makes me feel something.

Ha! Now I'm REALLY motivated to pull out the CBG and do yetanotheryetanotheryetanother 12-bar-blues on the mean uncaring world that claims to be bored by my blues progressions. Then I think I'll hit the piano for some straight round/n/round I-IV-V perhaps with the odd VI thrown in (hey, if it was good enough for Palestrina it's good enough for me!). And as i can't properly play the fiddle, a one chord song is enticing too! ANd after that, well, perhaps some randomised dissonances with no chordal structure at all, just to round it off!

dzd's picture

@Tim Fatchen DO IT!!! hahah I know I'll enjoy it. Actually thinking about a few one note tunes myself Smile

He did it!

Yes but I'm not criticising the number or chords in a song, I'm saying those cheesy pop songs which are just a four chord trick and somebody wailing and moaning over the top of it. I'm sure it wouldn't bother me as much if they weren't so ubiquitous these days. Smile

On the topic of "one note", my partner and I just watched this awesome half hour programme from Adam Neeley about this exact thing, he explores the idea really well and in a nice funny way. Hope you enjoy:

12 tone serialism. That's it. Really. I mean sure I've listened to plenty of music that I didn't enjoy, but not because of a particular compositional tool or genre or practice. Basic chord progressions? Can't say that bothers me because I love Pete Seeger who once answered a criticism that folk music was just three chords by saying that the best folk songs only have two chords. And he was kind of right. Besides. None of us are actually breaking ground or pushing the envelop harmonically speaking. Whether you're playing the 12 bar blues progression or the I-VII "Drunken Sailor" progression or you've got some wild acid jazz thing going on. Someone has already done it. 12 tone serialism was supposed to break the mould and it failed.

Overly specific music. Nah. Can't say that bothers me. I rarely write it and when I do it's usually a writing exercise or me blowing off steam. I don't intend to use it past writing it. But again, I listen to folk music. We're still singing Woody Guthrie's songs about dust storms in the 1930s and our (I'm in the US) national anthem is an account of the siege of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 (with some fun super racist pro slavery commentary in one of the later verses that we just pretend aren't there any more), so clearly specific songs can last. When they're written correctly, they don't bother me.

Inauthentic... I mean yes. Music that I perceive as inauthentic I tend to not enjoy as much, but that's kind of a subjective marker. A few people here suggest that they find Leonard Cohen inauthentic, but I know a few music scholars that would disagree. I think authenticity is more about the listener and their relationship with the performance than it is about the songwriter. For instance, I'm not a huge fan of stadium country music. I don't seek it out. But if Freddie Mercury had decided to do stadium country instead of stadium rock, I'd probably have a different opinion about that. And that's not about the songs that he wrote. It's about how they were performed. Could you imagine any other group at the time getting away with writing Bohemian Rhapsody? It was ridiculous, but it WORKED because of those performers.

Genre... I haven't really found an irredeemable genre (except 12 tone serialism). I have found music in every genre that I like... classical, opera, rap, folk, jazz, standards, pop, metal, show tunes, traditional Finnish music, Zydeco, country, South African choral singing, highlife, ragtime, gospel, polka, American marches, ballet, the dance music attributed to Henry VIII... I could go on. I don't like when people make broad generalizations about a genre of music because I'm a teacher, and I know that when people do that, they close a door. I like what [@jeustan] said about rap... that you're still trying to get it. Not understanding something is not the same as closing the door. BTW, you might like Christylez Bacon. He's an acoustic rap artist and beatboxer. He's very good.

I don't know. Maybe it's because I'm a music teacher and I know my opinion matters to my kids. I don't want to shut doors for myself or for them. I'm not going to pretend that I like all music, because that is absolutely not true, but I try to leave myself open to finding things I like.

Except 12 tone serialism.

Yeah, @katpiercemusic.
I try to listen to all different kinds of music.
Just cos I don't like it doesn't mean that I can't learn something from it.
That said, I do have a hard time listening to Leonard Cohen.

Wonder-bread lyrics drive me nuts-- you know, too soft and fluffy, not an imperfect human emotion or action in them, and usually plenty of filler too. I mean, some of my fave old songs have "filler" or place-holder phrases in them that should have been nailed down better, but great musicianship saved the song anyhow.

I like oohs and ahhs and do-be-doos, those can be more substantive than they seem as part of a strong melody line; I mean the stuff that was thrown in just because it fits but that doesn't really add to the story in any way, or in not a good enough way compared to the rest-- those kind of fillers just take up space. It's easy to put them in when you can't think of the right words, though, and then you're used to them, and accept them more. To avoid this, and also avoid losing the whole song to one phrase that hasn't come yet, I will often (now) put in a piece of description of what should ideally go there instead, then move on. Yes, I might have to re-work the song when that perfect phrase descends upon me, but better than the empty taste of wonder bread!***

**Note-- to all Wonder Bread lovers, I admit I haven't tasted that stuff for over 40 years. It could be great for I all know now. My memory of it, however, is that it was flat and chemically whitened in both appearance & flavor.

BTW, love the name of this thread.

To answer the original question, what don't I like in songwriting, is nothing. I like everything. I have never come across something I don't like, be it song structure, lyrical themes, style, genre, instruments used, type of vocal, chord progressions, simple/complicated, angry, sad, happy clappy zippy dippy I love everyone kinda stuff. I like it all Smile
It is all interesting, and all original, and was all created by someone somewhere Smile
And it's that that I love Smile


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