Transcript of Episode 006
Get inspired by the six most anticipated moments of every love story and use them to write powerful love songs.
[00:00:00] Hey, and welcome back to the Stories in Songs Podcast.
This is the podcast for musicians, songwriters, and storytellers who want to change lives and create meaning through the stories they tell and the songs they sing.
Yes, love songs.
It might bore you to write another love song because everything has been said already.
But has it?
Probably not because every one of us brings their own set of experiences and emotions into a song, but I can understand when you think that love songs have been sung a million, billion, zillion times - at least it seems like this.
And you feel some kind of resistance whenever it comes to writing another love song because there are just too many out there. And some are okay, while others are really great.
And some are the masterpieces that we can look at to learn how to write an amazing love song.
So, don’t feel intimidated by the big evergreens like I’d Do Anything for Love, I don’t wanna miss a thing, or I want to know what love is.
It might surprise you that when we tell someone a love story, there’s much more to that story than two people confessing their love to each other and living happily ever after, or, as we all know it: when they go through a breakup.
So I invite you to join me in this episode to get inspired about the six most important moments every great love story needs. I’ll provide you with lots of examples on the way.
And I promise you, those moments will provide you with lots of inspiration and ideas that you can start writing new and innovative love songs today.
So let’s get started.
[00:01:43] Now, the first question is: What is a love story?
The answer might seem obvious:
Two people fall in love like on Elvis Presley’s song Can’t Help Falling in Love with you and either have a happily ever after like with Westlife’s song I wanna Grow Old with You or they fall into despair and separate like in Nothing Compares 2U by Sinéad O’Connor.
But let’s go deeper than this.
Shawn Coyne, a longtime editor and creator of the Story Grid - the methodology I use for evaluating the storytelling in songs, describes the Love Genre as “centered on romance with the possibility of sexual intimacy.”
According to him,
“Love stories give us prescriptive and cautionary tales to navigate love’s emotional minefield.”
That means we can simply enjoy love stories or learn from them.
But most importantly, love stories touch our hearts.
And love songs have the same ability.
And if you want to write a love song for your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your spouse, or your crush, you know, it's not just the melody that hooks your audience.
And it doesn't matter if you're a beginner in songwriting or have already released some albums.
The lyrics of the love song are, next to the music, the most important and essential part of your love song.
No matter if you write a country love song, a rap song, or even a rock ballad, the principles of telling a captivating love story can be used in all music genres.
A great love song takes your audience back into a moment in time or lets them dream about something they'd love to experience again or wish to have.
Those songs let the listeners get over a sad, heartbreaking memory or make them fall in love all over again.
By listening to love songs, we want our hearts to beat faster, feel the romance, and be excited about the mystery of love without the real-life risks involved.
And people just can’t get enough of love songs, even if there are a billion of them.
Because if there’s one emotion, we can all connect with, no matter our age, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, status, or education, it’s love.
But how can you write an innovative love song that’s not something we’ve heard so many times before, and that is also powerful and captivating?
[00:04:10] We have to look at love stories for inspiration.
And then ask ourselves:
If we want to watch or read a great love story, what are the moments without which we can’t live? Which ones are the moments that we expect in a love story, or we feel cheated if they are missing?
Last year I did a huge analysis of all the albums and songs of the Irish Band Westlife.
I did this because I wanted to find out if the craft of great storytelling influences the sales of an album.
And it does, but that’s not the point now.
More importantly, I chose this band because they are dedicated to one single genre of storytelling.
They sing love songs, almost exclusively.
And when I analyzed all of their 137 original songs, they mostly sang either about the moment when the lovers broke up - which made up 30% of their singles and 23% of all their album songs.
And get this: 40% of all their single releases, 36% of all the songs of their albums and almost 50% of the songs they had covered were about the confession of love. (Writing a love song)
But this makes up only 2 of the 6 most important moments of every love story.
And it’s almost two-thirds of all the songs they have released.
They have missed innovating because they didn’t pay attention to the listeners’ expectations about great love stories. That’s also the reason why to this day, they have not yet released a love story concept album. Because those songs that deal with all the moments we need for a great love story are not complete.
So what are those other moments?
I’ll list them to you now. And stick with me, I’ll provide examples for each moment shortly.
Now those moments might sound pretty obvious but just look back at the Westlife example. They are devoted to singing love songs, yet they haven’t dug into the full potential of everything there is about great love stories.
If you think about writing a love story concept album, then knowing all six moments and including them in your songs on your album is very important. Because in a love story, we expect those 6 moments to happen. If those obligatory moments are not in the story, we don’t get what was promised to enjoy a full love story.
But remember, a song does not need to have all the obligatory moments for telling a complete love story.
It’s too short for that.
Consider your song to be a chapter taken out of a novel, or a scene from a movie. We don’t have to tell the entire story, and we shouldn’t.
The beauty of songs is that we can dive into one particular moment, one emotion, and explore it to the fullest with all our hearts.
But also consider, if at least one moment of a love story is included in your love song, we get a better sense of what the love song is about.
Sometimes we can even tell at the beginning of the song what stage of their relationship the lovers are in.
If you include a hint to what the song is about right in the beginning, you set up expectations in your listener. He knows what the song will be about and he can focus on the character in your song and what he’s dealing with right from the beginning which is a huge help so that the listeners can invest themselves into the storytelling as quickly as possible without missing out on anything because they have to settle into the song first.
Okay, so let’s talk about each of those most wanted moments of a love story.
I’ll explain that moment and talk about the character in the song, and mention examples to give you some songs to study, or that serve for a first inspiration before you start yourself writing your next love song.
[00:09:10] You may call the first moment the lovers meet scene, or refer to it as we know it from Hollywood terms as the Meet Cute Scene.
Don’t tread this scene lightly.
It is not a given.
Yes, it is obvious that two people have to meet first in order to fall in love.
But a story has to start somewhere, and this moment - meeting someone who upends the life as you know it, is a wonderful way to reel in your listeners. Who doesn’t dream of meeting someone who will become the love of their life?
And this doesn’t mean it has to be love at first sight.
You don’t need to start with a cliche.
There is the song Just in Time by Dean Martin. And it starts right by telling the listener that it is about that love story moment. He sings:
“Just in time, I found you just in time.”
What makes the song great is that we get a glimpse of what the life of the character had been like before he met her. He says:
“I was lost, the losing dice were tossed.
My bridges all were crossed, nowhere to go.”
So meeting her is the turning point for his life. It’s an unexpected event that turns his life for the better. And change belongs to every story or it doesn’t work.
And this song turns from a negative state of existence to suddenly having found meaning.
“For love came just in time, you found me just in time.
And changed my lonely life that lucky day.”
Another great example is Madonna’s song: Crazy for You.
In contrast to Dean Martin’s song in which we got a sense that this love will be about commitment, Madonna’s song is entirely about passion - longing for someone on a sexual level.
“I see you through the smokey air
Can't you feel the weight of my stare
You're so close but still a world away
What I'm dying to say, is that
I'm crazy for you
Touch me once and you'll know it's true.”
And this song continues to be about kissing and dancing close to each other.
There are other songs that you can look up to for further reference:
So the lover’s meet scene is an indispensable part of every love story and should be considered as a wonderful way to start telling a story about love.
With this moment, the magic begins.
So if you consider writing about how the character in your song first met his one and only, be honest.
There doesn’t need to be rose-colored glasses. You can sing about the troubles that encounter has caused. The uproar. The rollercoaster of emotions. The inner resistance to accepting that this person, someone might not even like, can’t be forgotten.
If you want me to recommend a short story you should read that is primarily about the lover’s first meet scene and that is everything else but cliche.
Then I’d say it’s On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning by Haruki Murakami.
I’ll provide you a link to read this story for free in the show notes of this episode.
[00:14:04] Let’s continue with the second moment we can’t wait to experience in a love story. It’s the moment of the first kiss or the first intimate connection.
Once again, a first kiss is the first thing we think of that shows an intimate connection. And this moment is pretty obvious as well because it’s the first kiss after all.
But there are also other ways to show that the connection between the two lovers in your story has reached a new, more intimate level. And I don’t refer to sex.
This moment could be the first time they hold hands or when a married couple finally makes progress toward emotional intimacy.
Let’s look at Pride and Prejudice again because it is a masterwork.
And I like to use masterworks because many people are familiar with them.
So in Pride and Prejudice, at least in the book by Jane Austen, Darcy and Elizabeth never share the first kiss. Nonetheless, there’s an intimate connection between the two. It’s the moment when they both start teasing each other by having those discussions that show how smart they are. It’s something that they only do with one another and with no one else. That’s why it’s something special. It’s how they start liking each other. They are each other’s challenges and sets them apart from every other love story in that book.
There are lots of references you can take from movies or books about how this scene has already been innovated - like the upside-down kiss in Spiderman or kissing a Vampire in Twilight.
Or if you’re a fan of the TV Series Killing Eve, there’s a first kiss scene between the detective and a serial killer psychopath that they share in the middle of a fight, and it is followed by a head bump.
So, again. You don’t have to think of cliches to make this moment work in your song.
A beautiful song that takes the first kiss all the way up to marriage is the song Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not by Thompson Square.
“We were sittin' up there on your momma's roof
Talkin' 'bout everything under the moon
Oh, but you were so shy, so was I
Maybe that's why it was so hard to believe
When you smiled and said to me
Are you gonna kiss me or not?
Are we gonna do this or what?”
A song about that intimate connection is She will be Loved by Maroon 5.
Those two people are not yet in a relationship, but he’s always there for her, and he’s the only one she can count on - which is a way of showing the connection that they share.
I like to read some lines from this song, too, because they are so well done.
“Tap on my window, knock on my door, I
Want to make you feel beautiful
I know I tend to get so insecure
It doesn't matter anymore
It's not always rainbows and butterflies
It's compromise that moves us along yeah
My heart is full, and my door's always open
You can come anytime you want yeah”
The line about - that’s it’s not always rainbows and butterflies - shows that the character of that song is very mature. And that is a very important trait for a character in a love song who knows what he wants. A character who knows what he wants is someone who would fight for the person he loves - no matter what because he does not doubt his love.
Other songs about the first kiss are, for example,
[00:18:12] Let’s move on to the one moment that is one of the most popular ones in songs: The Confession of Love.
Interestingly to know, when we look at love stories, the confession of love moment is usually when one of the lovers confesses his/her love too soon and creates an obstacle in the relationship.
This is often the turning point complication of the story, or it is integrated into the climax, sometimes even the event that leads to the couple breaking up because they are not ready yet for a committed relationship.
In love songs, the confession of love is mostly a beautiful and poetic way to say how much that other person means to the character in the song.
But there’s also a huge variety that goes all the way from super romantic to borderline creepy.
And there are probably a dozen that pop into your mind right now.
So let’s mention a few:
You probably recognize these lines:
“I don't wanna close my eyes
I don't wanna fall asleep
'Cause I'd miss you, baby
And I don't wanna miss a thing”
I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing by Aerosmith is a huge declaration of love. It’s a masterpiece.
Unconditionally by Katy Perry goes like this:
“Come just as you are to me
Don't need apologies
Know that you are all worthy
I'll take your bad days with your good
Walk through this storm I would
I'd do it all because I love you”
This song is a clear confession of love using those three magic words of I love you. Another beautiful song is A Thousand Years by Christina Perri.
But a love confession can also be funny like in the popular song I’m gonna be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers.
“I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door.”
Or the confession can be hidden between the lines because you’re not daring to say out loud what you feel - like in Green Day’s song Church on Sunday.
“If I promise to go to church on Sunday
Will you go with me on Friday night?
If you live with me, I'll die for you
And this compromise”
And it can be somehow bittersweet like in one of my favorite songs of The Smiths. It’s called There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.
And they sing:
“And if a double-decker bus
Crashes into us
To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die
And if a ten-ton truck
Kills the both of us
To die by your side
Well, the pleasure - the privilege is mine”
But there are also stories or songs that don’t want a happily ever after. They are dominated by passion or even obsession.
I don’t know how you think about Every Breath You Take by the Police, but I think it’s creepy.
“Oh, can't you see you belong to me
How my poor heart aches with every step you take
Every move you make, and every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I'll be watching you”
If you’ve seen the Netflix TV Series YOU, you know this song fits perfectly with the main character of Joe Goldberg.
If you haven’t seen this show already, I highly recommend it.
You can probably come up with many more songs, and there are many more ways how you can confess your love in a song, but let’s move over to another popular moment in love stories.
[00:22:16] Number 4 of the six most-wanted moments of every love story is when the lovers breakup or when they are forced to separate.
But we’ve all been through it, and that’s why the breakup moment is another important and often used theme for love songs because a breakup turns a story.
And a story is only a story if there is a conflict which forces a change in one or both of the lovers. They must learn the hard way and survive a breakup or fail.
Again, there are probably so many songs playing in your head right now that deal with a breakup.
I’m thinking of
Just to name a few.
The interesting part is that there are about 8 different stages when you go through a breakup. And when you’re writing a breakup song, you can use those stages and think about what has led to each and every moment in between.
Have you heard of the concept of the Kübler-Ross Change Curve?
It’s a curve that shows how people deal with grief.
Even though the concept has received some criticism, it’s still relevant for storytelling. Kübler-Ross labeled these stages to reflect on how people cope with illness and death.
And a relationship breakup is also about losing a person. That’s why we can use those stages to inspire you with all the possibilities of what a song about a breakup can be about.
The stages move from Shock to Denial to Frustration to Negotiating to Depression to Experiment to Decision and lastly to Integration.
Let’s look at those stages a little closer.
The first stage is shock. This is when you are surprised or shocked about the breakup because you didn’t see it coming.
An amazing song that pulls you right into the confusion of not understanding what’s going on when someone is breaking up with you is the song: “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap.
“Where are we?
What the hell is going on?
The dust has only just begun to form
Crop circles in the carpet
Spin me around again
And rub my eyes
This can't be happening”
The second stage is denial. You are in disbelief. And looking for reasons why the break up can’t be true.
Here are a couple of lines from the song I Don't Want to Get Over You by the Magnetic Fields:
“I don't want to get over you
I guess I could take a sleeping pill
And sleep at will
And not have to go through what I go through
I could leave this agony behind
Which is just what I'd do
If I wanted to
But I don't want to get over you
'Cause I don't want to get over love
I could listen to my therapist
Pretend you don't exist
And not have to dream of what I dream of
I could listen to all my friends
And go out again
And pretend it's enough
But I don't want to get over you”
After denial, frustration hits. It’s when you slowly realize that things have changed.
A good example of this stage is I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near) by Michael McDonald.
“I keep forgettin' we're not in love anymore
I keep forgettin' things will never be the same again
I keep forgettin' how you made that so clear”
After the frustration stage, there’s the phase of negotiating. That’s when we try to convince the other one to come back.
The song I’ll Be There for You by Bon Jovi starts with the breakup.
“I guess this time you're really leaving
I heard your suitcase say goodbye”
And as the character realizes what has happened, he’s willing to change. He’s saying, or better negotiating:
“I'll be there for you, these five words I swear to you
When you breathe, I want to be the air for you
I'll be there for you
I'd live and I'd die for you
I'd steal the sun from the sky for you
Words can't say what love can do
I'll be there for you”
In the stage when the character is at his lowest low, it’s when he hits Depression. That’s when he starts to accept the breakup.
Against All Odds (Take a Look At Me Now) by Phil Collins is a perfect example of this stage.
“Ooh, take a look at me now
Well there's just an empty space
And you coming back to me is against the odds
And that's what I've got to face”
When you’re at the sixth stage, you’re in the experimental phase. That means you’re slowly coming to terms with the new situation.
In How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, Al Green asks the question
“And how can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?
How can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again”
The 7th stage is the decision. It’s when you’re accepting the new situation and make the best of it.
In I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor is singing:
“At first I was afraid, I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side
But then I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong
And I grew strong
And I learned how to get along”
The last stage is integration and refers to being ready for something new. And basically, this is every song that shows the protagonist fall in love again.
[00:29:33] After all this heartache, let’s move on to the most anticipated moment of every love story.
So far, the confession of one’s love and the moment when a couple breaks up are the most used themes when we think of love songs.
But whenever we tell a love story, there’s so much more to a story about love than saying ‘I love you’ in any poetic or non-poetic way or about the hardship of a breakup.
In fact, the moment that is the single most important moment of every love story - also referred to as the core event - is the Proof of Love Scene.
The proof of love scene is the reason why we enjoy love stories because it reveals what true love is. It’s the moment when one person sacrifices for another without expecting to get anything in return, including winning them back.
That's the proof you need to have certainty.
This is very important to understand: A true proof of love is doing something for the other person without expecting to win them back. It’s what a character does because he loves that one person so much that all they want is the other person’s happiness. And if this means letting them go, then this is what you are willing to do for the person you love.
If you’ve seen Bridget Jones Diary, you may know that Darcy’s proof of love was to let Bridget do an exclusive interview with his clients even though Bridget was known for messing up. But he gave her a chance that was so important for her career without expecting anything in return. He even put his career in harm's way - just for her.
Same with Bridget, who was very self-centered. In the end, she proves her love for Darcy by supporting a higher moral principle: Justice. It would be a loss for England if Darcy would go to the States.
Do you know those lines:
“You've got a way to keep me on your side,
You give me cause for love that I can't hide,
For you I know I'd even try to turn the tide,
Because you're mine, I walk the line.”
Yes, the last line tells you this song is I Walk the Line by Johnny Cash. His proof of love is that he will not lash out anymore but keep it together for the one he loves.
Another song that shows that someone gave his life for the one he loved is the song The Proof Of Your Love by for KING & COUNTRY.
In the chorus, they say:
“So let my life be the proof,
The proof of your love
Let my love look like You and what You're made of
How You lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love”
There aren’t that many songs about the most anticipated moment of every love story.
So there’s enough opportunity for you to write one love song that deals with how much a lover is willing to do for the one he loves without expecting anything in return.
[00:32:54] The last moment is when the lovers reunite after the breakup or separate forever.
One of my all-time favorite songs is I'd Come For You by Nickelback. This song made such a huge impact on me that it has become the theme song for a thriller that I wrote.
In Nickelback’s song, the character realizes the mistakes he had made that led to the couple breaking up. But now they meet again, and he has learned from his mistakes. And he knows that he wants her back. And the lyrics are so captivating.
“I was blindfolded, but now I'm seeing,
My mind was closing, now I'm believing
I finally know just what it means to let someone in,
To see the side of me that no one does, or ever will
So if you're ever lost and find yourself all alone,
I'd search forever just to bring you home,
Here and now, this I vow
By now you know that I'd come for you”
The beauty of this song is that they have combined the lovers reunite moment with the proof of love.
If you’re willing to sacrifice your own life for the person you love to protect them, then the proof of your love can’t get any stronger than that. This proof of love is often used in Action movies or thrillers with a redemption storyline.
In Nickelback’s song, the character is a true fighter.
“By now you know that I'd come for you
No one but you, yes, I'd come for you
But only if you told me to
And I'd fight for you
I'd lie, it's true
Give my life for you
You know I'd always come for you
No matter what gets in my way,
As long as there's still life in me
No matter what, remember, you know I'd always come for you”
Another song along those lines is What You Mean To Me by Sterling Knight.
This is a song out of the Disney movie Starstruck, underlining once again that no one is perfect and people do make mistakes, and if someone admits they made a mistake and are still fighting for the person they want, that shows that they love them.
Another wonderful and sad song about the lover’s reuniting is Adele’s song: Someone Like You. And she shares that moment with us:
“I hate to turn up out of the blue, uninvited
But I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it
I had hoped you'd see my face
And that you'd be reminded that for me, it isn't over”
So, sometimes the lovers meet again just to make the decision to part ways. That is also totally valid because sometimes it doesn’t work out.
Maybe you end up saying: I Will Always Love You as Whitney Houston did.
And what better way to sing about an unhappy ever after like Jimmy Ruffin did by saying: What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?
And so lover’s move on until one day Billie Joe Armstrong can’t even remember her name and wonders how whatsername has been, singing:
“And in the darkest night
If my memory serves me right
I'll never turn back time
Forgetting you, but not the time”
[00:36:08] Those are the six moments that every love story needs. They provide you with so many possibilities about the theme of your next love song.
So you can either write about
Of course, there’s much more to telling a captivating and powerful chapter or scene from a love story in a song. Especially when we look at the character in the song. For now, remember if you want to write about a love in which one of the lovers doesn’t doubt the love he feels - no matter what - then your character needs to be portrayed like he knows exactly what he wants.
Thank you for listening to this episode. I hope you feel inspired to dive into writing a new love song. If you and your song want to get featured on this show, write me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We play it in full, and then we’ll analyze the lyrical components, talking about what already works, and what could be improved to make the lyrics even stronger so that they have the potential to resonate even more with the audience.
And join me in the next episode, which will be a special episode.
I’m very glad to feature the first song of one of my listeners, who is a very dedicated musician called AMinuteForManny of whom we will hear more soon. He’s written a very emotional love song about a breakup that is moving from the stages of accepting a breakup to slowly coming to terms with the new situation. It’s done really great, and I’m looking forward to letting AMinuteForManny play this song to you.
So join me next time.
And remember: Change lives. Create meaning. And write powerful songs.
© Stories in Songs, Melanie Naumann
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