One of our standard pro songwriter jokes goes something like this…
Bill – What are you up to today, Bob?
Bob – Oh, just trying to find another rhyme for love.
We joke about it because many hours in the life of a pro songwriter are spent trying to find a new way to say “I love you”. In many ways, love is the simplest and yet profound human emotion or feeling. From the love we first feel for our mother as an infant to the love that first breaks our heart and beyond, the story of love is the one we all chase in the pursuit of a hit song.
Another comment that I get frequently is “I have a horrible love life, so how could I possibly write a great love song?”
My first answer is usually, “Well, there’s always fiction.” Your love songs don’t HAVE to be about your love life, but they often feel more authentic if they are based on personal experience in some way.
One of my #1 songs is a love song called “Let Me Down Easy” that was written while I was going through a horrible divorce and my co-writers were actually divorcing EACH OTHER. There was some fiction involved, but we were also writing about love from a place that we were all experiencing. If any of us were ever going to love again, it would have to be with someone who would respect that we had been hurt by love in the past. We would need someone who would “let us down easy” if we started to fall in love again.
So, here are five angles that can allow you to speak about love in ways other than the obvious “I love you and everything is wonderful” kind of way.
1) Love that isn’t returned. Some great, great songs have been written around the idea of loving someone who doesn’t love you back. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is a prime example. Writing about this painful aspect of love connects with millions of people who have stood in those shoes. Toby Keith took a unique shot at this idea with his song “How Do You Like Me Now”.
2) Love on the rocks. A love relationship that is going through a rough patch can be inspiration for great songs as well. Neil Diamond had a song called “Love On The Rocks”. Many of the popular songs that dig into this aspect of love lay out the difficulties the relationship is facing, but offer hope that things will work out. People going through a difficult time in their relationship love these songs because it gives them hope that their situation will work out.
3) The love you hope to find. Michael Buble’ had a song called “Haven’t Met You Yet”. There was a song called “First Love” in a movie called “The Pirate Movie” that came out years ago that dealt with this topic. I got my first gold record (and platinum, double and triple platinum) for a song that Lonestar cut called “I’ve Gotta Find You”. This is a powerful emotion that anyone who has ever or is still looking for their “one” can relate to.
4) Being cheated on or done wrong by a lover. Many of us have been betrayed by someone that we loved. This can be rich ground for song material. Turn your lemons into lemonade and write about that cheating so and so. Taylor Swift is the queen of “outing” old loves that did her wrong. Get your payback on the radio and at the mailbox with those checks! “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” is a cool approach to this idea. There was an old song called “Another Done Somebody Wrong Song”. There are millions of things to write about with this concept. Brainstorm some that seem authentic to your experience and others will share that emotion!
5) Not knowing if someone loves you back or not. We’ve ALL wondered at some point in our life if someone that we liked liked us back. This can be a great common emotion to dig into. Write about that feeling as you have experienced it. George Strait had a monster hit years ago with “Check Yes or No” that dealt with this topic in a masterful way.
There you have it! 5 ways other than the obvious way to write songs about love. I haven’t even scratched the surface. There are many more ways to look at love in song. Try these on for size and then see if you can come up with some new ones of your own.
Write on! ~Marty
Co-Founder SongTown/6-time #1 Songwriter