Videos

In a Broken Dream

It was my mate who convinced me to do it. He ran a car showroom, and he said, ‘I’ve got this group come from Australia, but the singer’s not very good. Can you do a demo for me?’ I said, ‘What do I get?’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t have any money. I’ll give you a set of carpets.’ That was 1969″

                                                                                                                         Rod Stewart

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Summertime Sadness: the shape of words

If you’re thinking of writing a song in English, choose words for their shape as well as their meaning. Meaning can float in the air (“I am the Walrus?”) but the shape of English words in song must align with the feeling of your music.

Think of Lana Del Rey’s Summertime Sadness. From the title to the chorus it’s a masterful mix of sound shapes. Summertime: soft, warm and measureless. Sadness: deep and hazy. Together, each intensifies the other. I’ve chosen Miley Cyrus’ cover version, from BBC Live Lounge. You can see how Miley shapes her mouth and where she breathes, to allow each word its languorous character:

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The Weeping Song

Weeping is an ancient English word. Its sound and shape are crafted to speak directly to the human heart. We feel it; we don’t think it:

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Hocus Pocus

It’s funny because I studied a lot of classical piano, organ and flute, but I never studied yodelling. And it made me famous throughout the world. It’s really funny.”

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Lorde: Yellow Flicker Beat, live at the BBC

There’s a point at which all the conscious thought and preparation for a song composts down into pure energy. The singer lives the song and the song lives in them. It’s a privilege to watch alchemy in action:

© Sing Better English, 2016