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Now that 2019 is here, it's time to look back at the new and exciting things that happened in songwriting in 2018. So join me, as we countdown the top songwriting trends of the past year, how they affected songwriting, the ones you should look at using in your next songs, and how they might evolve in 2019.
2018 saw an increase in chord diversity. Ellie Goulding’s “Close To Me" and Panic! At The Disco’s “High Hopes” (particularly the pre-chorus!) are perfect examples of this motion. We're starting to move away from the standard I-V-Vi-IV (1-5-6-4) chord progression into different surprising combinations.
New chords are a great way to introduce little twists and turns in the harmonies of your songwriting. Even Ariana Grande's "thank u, next" is an example of this new trend going mainstream. I definitely see this continuing into 2019 as newer songs start dominating the charts. So if you're looking to spice things up, try using more interesting chords and building more intricate chord progressions.
2018 also saw an uptick in the number of songs that included contrasting melodies. "The Middle" by Zedd, Maren Morris, Grey is a fantastic example of that. Particularly from a rhythm perspective, there's some nice contrast happening as we move from the verse to the pre-chorus and then into the chorus. Another song that saw its release in 2018 and is filled with some incredible contrast is Celine Dion's "Ashes" from Deadpool 2. The melody pitches change, so does the melody placement, phrase length, amount of space... Also, give Charlie Puth's "The Way I Am" a listen for the same.
Contrasting melodies make these songs feel like they're moving somewhere as they progress from section to section, which keeps people glued and interested in hearing more. If you want to work on adding more contrast to your own songs, check out how to keep your melodies interesting.
One of the more exciting musical developments of 2018 has been the gradual disappearance of two iconic melodic licks. Of course, I'm talking about the Millennial Whoop which we've heard everywhere, from Katy Perry to Frank Ocean. The highly overused "oh-oh-oh" alternating between the 5-3-5 became a staple of some of the greatest hits of the past 5 years. Another one of those staples has been what I call the "indie group heys." It's that group yelling "Hey!"—think the Lumineers “Hey Ho.” As cute and original as that sound was in 2012, it quickly became overused and ended up in dozens of charts over the past years.
Thankfully, this past year has seen a large decrease in the use of both the Millenial Whoop and the Indie Group Heys. So if you've been dreading writing songs that include them, looks like times-are-a-changing, meaning you can easily skip them and create some great interesting melodies without them in your next songs!
This year we've seen artists start moving away from bland generic lyric writing into the world of good storytelling. Lyrics can really help grab your audience's attention and keep them listening to find out more. Kacey Musgraves, Hannah Ellis, Kelsea Ballerini, Calum Scott, and Dua Lipa are all great examples of artists who started incorporating more interesting lyrics into their songs. And this is a trend that has started to be embraced across different song genres. I'm excited to see even more songs in 2019 to be written with good stories at their core. Looking to give your lyrics that extra content? Check out the secret to vivid song lyrics.
These are some of the more interesting musical songwriting trends of 2018 which I'm definitely inspired to see continue into 2019. Is there anything that got you particularly musically excited this past year? Use it as inspiration for your next song!
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