There once was a time when bands and artists wrote their own songs. Lennon and McCartney composed “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” Miles Davis wrote the tunes for “Kind of Blue” and Andre 3000 came up with his own verses for Outkast.
It seems that pop music has reached a new era. No longer do pop artists write their own radio hits. The singers are performers, a voice for someone else’s thoughts and nothing more.
Before we get too nostalgic for the good old days, let’s ask a simple question: does songwriting matter? More specifically, does songwriting matter in popular music?
A couple weeks ago, Meek Mill started an online discussion on this topic when he called out Drake for not writing his own verses. All over Twitter, YouTube and blogs, the music fans of the world chimed in.
Obviously, it can be disappointing to find out that an artist you like isn’t writing their own songs. Lyrics that at one time seemed so personal and relatable lose their value.
But does it really matter if Drake wrote “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late?” I wouldn’t say so. I like Drake, but I could care less if Drake himself or Sir Francis Drake wrote the lyrics. I don’t listen to Drake because of his technical ability or the quality of his lyrics, because if I judged him on his skill as a rapper, I would never listen to him! The redundant lyrics about drugs, girls, money and haters don’t excite me. Hell – I could probably write a better song than him. What actually matters when I listen to Drake is the delivery of the lyrics: the melodies, the inflections and accents in his voice and the beat that goes on underneath. I don’t hope to find some deep personal insight when I listen to any pop music. It simply isn’t a soul-searching experience, and it shouldn’t be.
Pop music has one purpose – to be fun! It should be catchy and get stuck in my head. It should be a song that I can blast in my room and dance around to blow off steam. So personally, I don’t care who writes the lyrics. As long as the lyrics and the beat create a fun song, I’m alright with that.
Today’s hits are not poetic, and many of today’s most influential artists are not even all that talented as songwriters. But songwriting is only one piece of the puzzle, one step in the process and as long as the artists perform their songs well, I will listen.