Welcome to the first edition ever of Why It Sucks! This will be a similar format to my Metal Monday weekly posts, but less consistent and frequent. I will post a song I heard in the last week, and then explain not only my opinion on why it sucks, but at a music theory level why it is badly written music.
At the time of this post, this song is number 1 on the billboard overall charts. Let that sink in for a second, if aliens landed on earth, and asked the lords of our music industry to play the best song in current pop culture, it would be this.
As saddening as this is to me, it is a perfect representation of everything that is wrong with the creative process in our music industry.
This is where you can take the opportunity to read my post about song structure.
The song follows the exact formula you are comfortable listening to. It makes no effort to try anything new or unexpected, and it uses a 4 bar 1 chord-per-bar repeating chord progression the entire time.
2 4 bar phrases, 2 different 4 bar phrases, then the magic 4 chord progression for the chorus. Then it repeats this exact same thing, but with different words (not even a different melody) sometimes. Then a bridge then the chorus one more time.
So basically, the song is over after the first 30 seconds, yet drags on for 3:37. This is my gripe with this “Creative” process that is all too common. There are only a total of 4 different musical phrases in the whole song, and they are each the same length, key, and time signature. I understand the importance of repetition, I understand making a song catchy so that people will like it on the first listen (because sometimes that’s all you get), but the amount of work that was done to actually come up with the ideas in this song, is way below the amount of work put in by the producer to make it sound good. The formula they have come up with gives as little room for creativity as possible and puts all the control of what actual content is being released into the hands of the record label.
Hopefully that’s almost the last time I’ll hit on that point. My problem with this song in particular aside from my problems with every song, is the artificial emotional content.
I have no idea if this song is about something that actually happened to Miley, but considering the only piece of the song the artist typically writes is the lyrics, I can assume that it is. The lyrics in the song suggest that the protagonist of the story enters a relationship with a heavy adversity towards actually entering a relationship. She wanted to keep it casual and fun, but then of course develops feelings for the other person. This person then leaves her because they want something real, not something casual and fun. At this point the protagonist reveals to them that they actually did have feelings, despite what they said. Now the protagonist is remorseful of their reckless behavior and wishing they could have the other person back in a real relationship.
OK Miley, I get it, we have all been in this situation/know someone who has. The reason this song is so easy to relate to on a personal level, is because of how vague it is. Nothing is said about the gender of either party (although one could infer), the age, there are no personal events in the story, basically the song lends itself to make you imagine that it is about you. No details are shared that would make the song ACTUALLY personal and heartfelt, so that the listeners can put the pieces together in their head and remember their feelings when it happened to them. It’s an artificial emotional impact perceived by each individual listener that drove this song to the top of the chart, not talent, creative ability, or production value.
I’m not saying writing a song about a relationship is bad song writing, most people would agree that our relationships with other people are the largest source of emotions for us as humans. The problem is that it isn’t personal at all, which removes the actual emotional content from the song. I have said before, I don’t care what you sing about, as long as you sing what you mean and sing it like you mean it. I’m not asking for a/s/l of the people the song is about, just make it your own. Give it character. The single metaphor of a person being an emotional wrecking ball isn’t enough. Tell me how you feel, why you feel it. What makes your song different from the hundreds of other songs about the same thing? If you are going to write all of your songs in the same methodology, at least add your own personal touch to it.
…and that is why Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus SUCKS