Writing Songs Across Genre


I’m really happy that Emeli Sande – following her Brit Award success – has validated something that I teach in my Songwriting Business Academy (www.songwritingbusinessacademy.com)


It is a contentious point but I maintain that genre is just a vehicle for melody. It doesn’t matter if you are writing for rock, blues, hip-pop, pop, metal, kwaito or any other genre, the melody is the king of the song and it should be able to work in almost any genre (in Eastern and some African music, there are different modal patterns so there might be some variation but the point remains the same).


Genre’s job is to deliver a powerful melody in different styles of music. That’s why a lot of artists often sound like great bands by really nailing the style of the genre, but the songs aren’t strong and so they end up doing well live but struggling to achieve mainstream success. This is often indicative of songwriters spending too much time worrying about the music and not enough time crafting the melody.


Think of Metallica’s version of Nothing Else Matters being performed by The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziThYl6B2vw) , or Travis’s version of Britney Spears’ smash hit “Hit Me Baby One More Time” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSDrHV0KsOA) or – one of my personal all time favourites – Johnny Cash covering Trent Reznor’s Hurt (that version still makes me cry) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ur8j4xWe_44) . The melodies and the songs all work cross all genres!

Metallica and San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

In a recent interview for www.Radio.com, Emeli Sande challenged herself,  “Can I write a big pop thing? And then go and write something that’s completely different in a completely different genre with an artist like Susan Boyle?”


She continued, “And then could I go write for Rihanna as well? I think that if you’re good at writing then you have to be able to do it in any genre. And if the production changes, the song can still stand. I love that challenge.”


So you don’t have to just take my word for it any more.  If you have anything to add or any comments, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave comments in the box below.


Until next week,


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3 Responses to “Writing Songs Across Genre”

  1. Rene C says:

    Yes, I agree, melody is the most important part of the song, very often great musical accompaniments fail to accomplish what a great melody does. I believe a great melody is a great story as well. I believe quality is the key, creativity, work and experience. I strongly believe one does need to keep up with practice singing, piano or songwriting as well but if that person stops doing it very often the luck is gone, but it is still tricky, many people work more than others but never achieve great quality, because of that I also believe there must be a proper education for the songwriter, yet is even more tricky because there are many ways to write songs and worse people are very different. It does happen with singing as well, many singers are pretty much a copy of someone else, but outstanding singers are different, because they studied it somehow. So in resume I blame education and work for the whole success of songwriting, melody it is still the most important part of the song and before that I’d tell that the story behind that tune is the root of the whole thing.

  2. Jon Savage says:

    Hey Rene
    Thanks for your valuable comments!!!!

  3. John P says:

    This is a great way to look at the way songs are written. I happen to be in the camp where melody comes first. I know that this is not true with a majority of songwriters. They will start with a lyric. But after years of listening to song critiques at out local songwriter’s guild, it is easy to pick out the songs where the lyric can first. The biggest problem is the melody lacks shape and sometimes even wanders about. And yes any melody can be “styled” it cross over genre.

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