Songwriting and Publishing: Chorus Crisis

Chorus Crisis

Personally, the most challenging part about writing a song is figuring out the chorus. It strikes me as difficult because it’s the climax of the song. Remember the plot diagrams that teachers used to show us in our English classes growing up? I’ve come to realize a song is somewhat like that. The rising and falling actions reflect the verses and bridge, and the climax is the chorus. There’s always a build-up to the chorus which is why there is so much pressure to make it catchy or unique because it’s what some listeners resonate with the most. I find a chorus hard to write or even compose because it needs a wow factor to stick in the audience’s brain. When writing this song’s chorus, I tried so many chord progressions, but I feel like I’ve hit a wall lyrically and melodically. With frustration at my fingertips, I try to not give into that energy and force myself to remold that into inspiration, so I turn to the artists that have influenced me most. 

My favorite Taylor Swift song is “Clean” from her fifth studio album, 1989. I absolutely love that song because, to me, it represents hope and the ability to rebuild yourself from a tumultuously toxic relationship or experience. The chorus is a breakthrough and feels like you are about to “punch a hole in the roof” as she says in the second verse of the song. When the chorus hits, it feels almost like a release of your emotions and the lyrics surround you like a warm hug to let the listener know that they made it past these strenuous endeavors. The lyrics, “Rain came pouring down/ When I was drowning, that’s/ when I could finally breathe/ And by morning/ Gone was any trace of you, I think I am finally clean” not only are melodically sound but allows those to dig deep inside themselves and relate this song to any life struggle. It talks about the loss of a relationship, but it could also be about addiction, depression, or the loss of someone. What I love about interpreting this chorus, is that there are no limits as to what this means to the listener. 

When writing my chorus, I keep these things in mind but also try not to allow the pressure of trying to achieve any kind of musical perfection, because that simply does not exist. With that weight off my shoulders, I begin to strum and sing what comes to mind. I finally reach what I think is going to be my chorus: “I found you/ in the corner of my eye/ hidden in plain sight/ where were you all this time/ so hard to find/ it’s too good to be true/ but I found you/ and you found me too”. I thought, yes Taylor Swift’s chorus is jam-packed with meaning and beautifully written metaphors that have all different kinds of interpretations, but there’s also a beauty to simplicity. I didn’t want my chorus to be too much or too copy-cat-esque, but I wanted to be my own style with that hint of her inspiration. 

I run into the problem of self-doubt a lot when it comes to writing music and writing in general. I always ask myself, is this too cheesy? Or is this too cliche? But what I’ve realized is that a majority of tropes that surround music are so cheesy and so cliché, but that’s because they’re universal experiences and feelings. I’m not saying that everyone needs to write a corny Top 100 pop song to be successful, but those themes are so common that it’s a matter of turning them into something that is unique to yourself. It is important to write something that will receive an emotional response, not only from listeners but from the person singing it. When I write, sing, or play an instrument, it’s something that I have to feel in my body and mind, or else the execution or performance is set up to be a disaster from the get-go. 

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By Megan Grosfeld

Megan Grosfeld is a Junior at Emerson College majoring in Writing, Literature, and Publishing with a concentration in Publishing. Her dream is to be like the modern Carrie Bradshaw of the Publishing world, but with more writing, sex, and infinite pairs of Manolo Blahniks.

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