The main influence on my songwriting

Over the 15 years I’ve been writing music, who has had the biggest influence over my songwriting? Good question. There are intangible and tangible links between the different styles of songs I write and other musicians, but there is one artist on whom I focus time and time again when actually putting words down on paper.

Britney Spears. Surprised? No, you probably saw the photo. But welcome to my brain.

The time that she released her first single, Hit Me Baby One More Time, was around about when I started writing songs more seriously. There’s a lot to like about Hit Me Baby One More Time, but the chorus really got to me. In a bad way.

From memory, it goes like this:

This loneliness is killing me,
I must admit, I still believe.
When you’re not with me I lose my mind.
Give me a sign,
Hit me baybay one more time.

What the fuck? So many problems. Put aside the weird abusive relationship overtones and just look at the rhyme scheme.

Me doesn’t rhyme with believe. Mind, sign, and time? Are you kidding me? It’s not as if there isn’t a rhyming scheme, because non-rhyming songs can work out fine. This is aiming for, and spectacularly missing, very basic rhymes. Five lines, and none of them rhyme with any other. Is it intentionally bad poetry?

But considering she doesn’t enunciate properly when singing, and is almost gurgling through forcing her voice to sound as young and sultry as possible, nobody notices how fundamentally flawed the chorus really is.

And anyone who does notice doesn’t care, because they’re really just looking at her tits.

I don’t think about Britney as a sex object… actually I do. But I don’t think about her with sexual desire, only about the fact that she was very successful because of her sex appeal. Her song writing skills (or those of whoever wrote her songs) didn’t need to be anything great, as the pop production, music videos, dance choreography, publicity machine and sex appeal could make up for it.

I don’t have the benefit of sex appeal and dance moves and publicity. The majority of my songs are just me and a guitar, or me and a piano, with no pop production to make people tap their feet. My songs stand or fall on the merits of the lyrics in exactly the way that Britney’s don’t.

Why is why, whenever I have two lines that almost rhyme, and I think, “Line and find are close enough, right?” I immediately hum “Hit me baybay one more time” and rewrite the lyric until it’s good enough. Good enough for me. Not good enough for sexy Britney; good enough for someone with no belly button on display.

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