Asking for a friend: Is Your Songwriting Dated?

Are you writing songs for you, your family and friends to hear? Or are you hoping to have a hit?

If it’s friends and family you’re writing for, no problem, write what you like nothing here applies to you. If your aspiration is for your creation to run the “A&R gauntlet” to a major label artist, there are many things that can knock your song out of contention.

One of those things is sounding dated. That can be in the writing itself, the subject matter, or the demo recording. it’s often the kiss of death if an A&R person is thinking, “This could have been a hit back in the 80’s”. But that happens… a lot.

Many writers get mentally entrenched in what was popular in their formative years, not realizing how much radio hits have changed over time.

The instruments change. The way records are mixed changes. Listen to 3 or 4 country hits from the 60’s, 70’s 80’s etc. on up to current hits. you’ll hear dramatic differences every 10 to 20 years.

Lyrics change. The culture changes. If your lyrics are conjuring up stereotypes from a decade or more ago, it’s not likely your song will get very far.

One thing to be very careful about is when you attempt to reference something familiar and universal in your song. If you reference a famous movie star, will the younger people who buy most of the records even know who you are talking about? Stadiums and teams get re-named. Products go out of production, stores go out of business. Slang and cliches fall out of favor and new terms take their place.

Review your catalog or have it reviewed by someone who won’t pull punches. Be sure your songs are similar in terms of lyric content and overall sound to what’s getting played on radio right now. If not, updating is in order.