By: Barry DeVorzon
Some people think melody rules and others think it’s the lyrics and there are strong arguments that support both beliefs. I’ve been a songwriter all of my life and I am privileged to have been able to do what I love most and to be successful at it. I would have to say that melody came easier to me than lyrics and as a result, melody has served me well and is probably responsible for most of my hits. However in the songwriting process over the years, my lyrics continued to improve as I came to realize just how important they are if your goal is to write great songs. Songs that will touch the emotions in a way that can never be accomplished with just melody or with just lyrics.
On the other hand, if you put the art and the craft aside and just look at the odds, I would have to say the odds of getting a hit are in your favor when you have a great melody. One of the reasons is that melody grabs you immediately and is the path of least resistance to your emotions. Lyrics take time and repetition to sink in, but when they do, they go much deeper and create a more meaningful emotional reaction than just melody. That’s what hits are all about, a song that affects people emotionally is the definition of a hit. It doesn’t matter how well crafted a song is, if it doesn’t touch the emotions, there is no chance that it will be a hit song.
How we create a melody or a lyric that touches the emotions is the great mystery of being a songwriter, no one really knows. We don’t know where the inspiration comes from that give us that song but we do know it’s not available 24/7. It comes to us when it wants to and when it does, it’s that combination of inspiration and craft that are the necessary ingredients for a hit song. A lot of magic has to happen which is why hit songs are so elusive and hard to come by.
So back to our original question of what’s more important, the melody or the lyric? I suppose I’d have to say, melody has the edge, but if you want to write great songs that will be remembered, and when they’re remembered they just keep giving, you need both and they both have to be exceptional.