Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has been all over the news. He has been dictating the conversation in the debates, in the news, and over coffee at breakfast tables around the world.
Is he controversial? Perhaps, but there is no denying that his choice of topics have been issues at the center of the conversation. That’s not all. His tone, and manner of speaking has been called in for discussion. He has been called brutish and even worse, yet he has resonated with a great percentage of the population.
Other politicians are clearly speaking with more flowery, eloquent speeches, yet the polls have shown that all of that effort has produced less than desirous polling numbers.
I’m not about to get into his merits or faults as a presidential candidate. You’ll have to have coffee with me to hear my thoughts on that. I’m here to tell you what I learned from paying attention to his speeches and their effect on virtually everyone who has listened to him.
Say What Others Aren’t
Trump makes the news daily for saying things others either aren’t thinking about or are unwilling to bring up. As a songwriter, we have to also bring up topics that others aren’t writing about. That way, our songs will be the songs people talk about, sing and buy!
Relationships are what most songs are about. Love is probably the topic most written about, but that is not the only feeling we experience in relationships.
Are you always in eyelash batting love 24/7? Of course not. Sometimes you are angry, jealous, patriotic, sad...etc. the list goes on, and we can even write about our interactions with our pets, or even our cars, our house… whatever!
Willie Nelson had a huge hit with a song called, “Hello Walls,” in which he actually was talking to his house after the love of his life moved out of it.
The Young Rascals had a hit that was simply about a beautiful morning. While others are simply writing the same old love songs you can offer something different. But you don’t need to overthink it. In fact you want to keep it simple, and that brings me to my next point.
Sing to Your Simplest Listener
Trump detractors have been quick to call him stupid. Some wonder aloud how anyone could support someone who has put things so simply they aren’t even sure if he could actually be serious. But I believe he is serious. He is so serious, he is making sure that even the simplest among us understand his message.
Additionally, he brands his competitors with simple descriptions. He’ll say Jeb Bush is “low energy,” or Carly Fiorina is “robotic.” Even if you like the person he labels, you are likely to think of that short label every time you see them.
This is a great way for you to think when you are writing lyrics. Keep it simple so your song is instantly understood. If you want your listener to dance to your funky beat, just say it!
Sly and the Family Stone had a huge hit with, “Dance To The Music!” Can’t get any simpler than that!
If you can say something with less words - do it! If you have words in your lyrics that don’t add anything to the story such as, “well,” “so,” “even...etc.” cut them out. If the melody works without them, they serve no purpose and water down your lyrics.
You see, although I’m asking you to write simple lyrics, I still expect them to be strong and well stated.
In the chorus of “Dance to the Music,” you’ll notice that that is all the lyrics to the whole chorus, which brings me to the next great Trump tactic.
Repeat Repeat Repeat
Remember Trump’s simple description tactic? Well, he really makes it work by saying it a few times. In fact, sometimes that’s all he’ll say for awhile. Hmmm… sounds like a chorus!
When you have a catchy part in your song, don’t be afraid to repeat it enough so that it becomes something catchy resonating in the listeners’ heads all the way home from your show.
I think I may have heard someone once say, never let a hook go to waste.
So, what exactly is a hook? I’m glad you asked. Mr. Trump uses the very technique I have been teaching songwriters for decades and I’m going to show that to you in a minute.
You Never See it Coming
Trump often begins by making some remark apparently critical of the Mexicans and the Chinese. Then he says, I love the Mexican and Chinese people, and they love me, especially the rich ones who buy my apartments or stay at my hotels or play on my golf courses. Notice what has happened. The potentially offensive insult turns into backhand praise of its targets, at least of those who can afford to live in Trump's world.
If he had, as expected, continued to speak critically of those countries, the listeners may simply zone out or nod off. Instead, they are surprised and “hooked” to listen to what he’s going to say next.
Likewise, we can create great hooks in our songs by setting up the listener to expect one thing and then give them something else.
There is not enough room in this blog to give you the full details on how to do this or the aforementioned points you can learn from Donald Trump’s speeches. However, feel free to try these techniques and email the result to me. I’d love to give you my opinion or help.
If you’d like to meet face to face and talk about your songs, I’d love to meet with you. Just fill out the form with your info or email whatever you would like to firstname.lastname@example.org
Or we could just get a cup of coffee and you can tell me who to vote for!