My new-year’s resolution: write a bad song every week

A little over two years ago, I cracked the problem of how to write a song: let go of the idea that it needs to be a perfect, precious jewel, such as Paul Simon or Joni Mitchell might produce. As I put it at the time: “write a bad song. It doesn’t matter. Just write a song.

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So, needless to say, in the intervening time, I have written absolutely no songs at all.

2017 is the year this is going to change. I have made a new-year’s resolution, and I am putting it out there in public so I can feel the shame if I don’t keep it up. I am going to write a song every week. I don’t expect them to be good songs. Most of them will be bad. Some will be very bad. It’s likely I may never play most of them to another human being. But I am going to get it done, and get used to getting it done. (And who knows? Along the way, I might accidentally write a good one.)

My plan is to record the songs, but only for my own consumption unless I get lucky and strike gold. The point of the recordings is not really to have a record, but more to stick a post in the ground for each song and say “This is done”. At the end of the year, I will grit my teeth and listen through all 52 songs, and see if any of them are presentable.

The first week of the year ends on 7th January, of course. This year, that is a Saturday, so the goal is to get a song in the can by Saturday each week.

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What am I going to write about? It may not be easy to come up with 52 themes, and I am sure to repeat myself. But here are a few:

  • Love song
  • Memory/forgetfulness song
  • Nostalgia
  • Political satire
  • Political protest
  • Story song
  • Praise of local countryside (these always go down well at folk clubs)
  • Comic song

Any other suggestions?

16 responses to “My new-year’s resolution: write a bad song every week

  1. A song about adventure games (and/or BASIC, Commodore, etc)!!

  2. How about a meta-song about writers’ block and perfectionism?

  3. neutralangel, good call — a subcategory of nostalgia songs!

    Steve Sloan, another neat idea.

    Thanks to you both.

  4. A song about sushi, obviously.

  5. This is a fantastic idea. I think I’ll join you.

  6. Thanks for the (in retrospect obvious) suggestion, Ron!

    wallyfoo, you are more than welcome :-)

  7. Songs about weather, lists, time, pressure, rebellion, acceptance, ambivalence, dilemmas?

    Some frames: call and response, dialogue, acceleration, decline, no choruses, only choruses, uncommon time signatures, keychange every chorus (e.g. Nile Song), non-English, environmental ambience, backwards, risset tone, acapella

    Aim for a conceptually distinct intro and ending every time – doesn’t have to be original as long as YOU have not done it before.

  8. Hello, Simon. I’d not realised that was you before I followed the link. My word, you were busy in the 80s microcomputer world. Unfortunately, our paths were separate: you were in the Spectrum world, I in the Commodore world. Anyway, lots of excellent song suggestions here — thank you!

  9. Update: I have written the words of song #1, which predictably enough is a sort of anti-Brexi protest song. Not sure when I am going to be able to work on the music, as the house is currently full of people — my in-laws are staying. But, hey, I have till Saturday, right? How hard can it be?

    After all — it doesn’t have to be a good song!

  10. Religion. (Plenty of songs on that theme already; must be a thing that works. Try it for your own religion and, if moral qualms permit, for another quite different one.) Science. (Not so many of those; lots of unexplored territory.) Parody of other existing songs. Take the words of an existing song and try to give them utterly different music that still works. A song that’s about nothing at all (nonsense words/sounds rather than actual words). A song that discernibly *is* about something despite using nonsense words/sounds rather than actual words. A paean of hate to a company that’s screwed you over particularly badly. A song about (or written as if by someone in the middle of) an interesting historical event.

  11. You should share it on soundcloud, a friend did it on 2015 and it was really cool to follow him all year long: https://soundcloud.com/benbeltran/sets/one-song-a-week

  12. g, religion is an interesting idea. I don’t look very favourably on the existing “Christian music” genre (aka. CCM) — but a lot of my very favourite music, including most of Neal Morse’s, is very influenced by Christianity. Maybe later in the year, when I’ve got used to doing this at all, I’ll find myself in a position where I feel ready to make some attempt to express in song the very real and important things I feel about my faith. Science songs may be firmer ground for me: the world is inexplicably missing a song that enumerates the saurischian vertebral laminae as enumerated by Wilson (1999), so I may fill that void at some point. Thanks for the other ideas, too.

    pablasso, intriguing idea. I’ll see how I feel :-)

  13. This topic gives me a chance to name-drop shamelessly. So, I was talking to Joss Whedon the other day . . .

    No, not really. I attended a CD release event for the EP that Joss was involved with (story here) and his co-writer Shawnee Kilgore talked about her experience of writing a song a week (she’s been doing it for at least 2 years now), which she found a productive challenge. She talks about it on her website here (including the option to become a patreon supporter and hear here song of the week compositions).

    As far as topics, I’d say it’s worth experimenting with some random prompts — say, open a book to a random page, pick out a sentence and see if you can use that as inspiration for a song (that may be a bad idea, but something like that),

  14. Great story, NickS! I like the book idea, too. Thanks for the tip. (You probably know that George Harrison once opened a book twice to random pages, and found the word “guitar” and the phrase “gently weeps”.)

  15. Additional song topics suggested off-list by my friend Matt Wedel: how lame prequel trilogy Anakin is, how Silmarils make elves into jerks, and British big cats.

  16. I didn’t know that George Harrison story, thanks. That sets a high bar for the technique. . .

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