Home Directory Articles Forum JazzTube Classifieds About
Point of View @ MusicBizAustralia.com
Point of View 


Australian singer/musician/composer, Tommy Pickett asks the following question...

Tommy Pickett

November 2012

The Question:
What do you want in a song?

by Tommy Pickett share this - email, favourites, social bookmarks and more

A song is a 2 to 5 minute portrayal of 'something' via words and music.
We take it in through our ears and it gives us something.
Maybe something we like, maybe something we don't like.

What do you want in a song..?

I want to be told something truthfully or beautifully.
The thing I'm being told could be anything;
Someone's account of their heart being broken or mended, someone's angry opinion, a threat, a promise... Pithy advice for your life, like Billy Joel gives, or an aching memory in living colour like only Joni Mitchel can create.

...But I need to believe them !
I don't know about you but I get a sense, when I hear a song, of whether the writer is giving it to me straight.. or whether this is what they think the industry/public wants to hear.. You know.. feeling you get, just before someone tries to sell you Amway?
Lets not beat around the bush.
I believe Dylan, I believe Lisa Mitchell, I believe Jack Johnson, I believe Ian Moss, when he says "...how can I go home and not get blown away.." I believe every word Leonard Cohen ever sang.
I don't believe one syllable Bryan Adams ever sang, nor Nickelback. I'll turn the volume down to half when Lily Allen comes on, but that's a personality difference! I struggle to identify with her life or any of the things she sings about, but she is being honest and I DO believe her so I'll give her a nod for that and not demand she gets off my radio..
Dr Grouch.

© 2012 Tommy Pickett

Have Your Say
Scroll down to the bottom of the page to post your comments.

When Schubert set the words of the poet Ruckert, 'You are the peace, the mild peace, and the longing that stills it,' he explored one of the many facets of song-writing, namely, truth through paradox. The rhythm of the accompaniment, probably 'the longing' and the rhythm of the melody, 'probably the peace' work hand in hand. Another song which springs immediately to mind with similar paradoxes is 'Imagine' - the very simple chord progression of Cmaj7 and F sets up the basis for the 'imagination' to work. But, if I really knew the secret of sing-writing I wouldn't be posting comments like this, would I???

Posted by Richard Gill on Sunday 18 November 2012

Interesting what you say, Steve, about singing in foreign languages. Do you mean, the American twang? The R-rolling? I know what you mean, and I applaud the Missy Higgins approach, of letting your Australianness sit proudly up front. I myself am†someone prone to rolling an†R and tapping into those Texan roots I don't have.. but I realised something a couple of years back. There are different ways that varying nationalities embrace the English language.. a great variance in how open or closed the vowels are.. and the American accent, for all it's confrontingness is WIDE open, if you want to really sing out. This is why Irish bands, English bands, jeez, even Icelandic bands end up sounding bit that way. I'd like to propose the idea that, what often seems like pandering to some American impulse, might often actually be just wringing that syllable out the best way it can be sung. I tend to mimic, unintentionally, when I sing and my friends growl at me for it.. "Dude. You don't have to GO to Atlanta georgia and shave your head to sing REM.. You don't actually have to swig a Carling and start a fight to sing an Oasis song. Just be yourself, for God's sake. I'm getting better at it. I like Neil Finn's approach. He doesn't sound like a kiwi, an Aussie, an Englishman, or an American. He's found somekind of neutral place, where, it seems to me, everyone sings along feeling at home. Quite a dignified bit of Wizardry..

Posted by Tommy Pickett on Saturday 17 November 2012

It seems to me that rhythm and melody are 2 important ingredients for getting people into songs. Often, a song is successful even though the listeners donít understand the actual words. A good melody is a good melody in any language and that then implies the chords or the remaining harmonic structure anyway. A good rhythm can make people physically move, tap their foot to or subconsciously relate, again, without any language barriers. Like Tommy, if there are words that are discernable, then I have to feel that the performer means it and that it is believable! I personally have an issue with singers that sing in foreign languages as many Australian singers tend to do. Are they real or are they just trying to convince their fans that they can sound like someone else? Beats me!

Posted by Steve Newton on Thursday 15 November 2012

I think you make a valid point Tommy. It seems that a singer/writer's honesty is reflected in the people who appreciate their music - if the artist is a fake, or shallow, then his/her audience is too. I suppose they intuitively relate to what is sung on their level (obviously this isn't always the case...). I hesitate to mention names but there are many artists whose compositions are very clever, they are very good singers, and have incredible musicians in their bands, yet they do nothing for me. And then there is James Taylor who has all of the above but seems to be able to transcend all the bull and tell the truth always.

Posted by Bill Risby on Thursday 15 November 2012

I agree Tommy. Interestingly, David Byrne once said the more technically proficient a singer becomes, the less believable they are....and believing them is everything to me. My bench mark for believing every syllable is Johnny Cash's version of Hurt. See youtube if you haven't seen/heard it. Or Mary Gauthier singing Mercy Now. Thanks for the interesting thread.

Posted by Tony King on Thursday 15 November 2012
Post a Comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved.

Email Address (not displayed with comment)