We’ve all been there. You’re minding your business when a song slips into your mind – but only the catchy part that plays over and over again. You may even find yourself putting a song on repeat. But how do you write catchy lyrics?
Here’s how to write catchy lyrics and hook your listeners:
If you’ve ever looked up “the catchiest songs of all time” you’ll find that a lot of these songs have one thing in common: repetition. When we hear certain lyrics repeat, we are more likely to recognize when they are about to return. This makes you anticipate the catchy part of the song. That’s what makes you want to play catchy songs over and over.
In songs like Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off,” we often find repetition in the chorus of the song:
“Players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake”
Repeating lyrics are not only catchy, but also make songs much easier to sing (there aren’t many words to remember!). This leads us onto our next point:
Keep the Lines Short and the Words Simple
A lot of catchy songs have high singability, that is, they are easy to sing along to. So the easier the words, and the less lyrics there are in a line, the easier it is to sing.
Let’s take a look at BTS’s “Dynamite.” The first two lines from the chorus are:
“’Cause I-I-I’m in the stars tonight
So watch me bring the fire and set the night alight”
The lyrics are simple and easy to understand. Complicated words can confuse the listener. Long lines can hurt with the flow of the song. Therefore, if you want something catchy – try and go for something straightforward.
Furthemore, a good portion of the lyrics in “Dynamite” are “Dy-na-na-na.” Short, Simple, Singable.
Use Interesting Patterns for Your Hook
You want your hook to get stuck in your listeners’ heads, so try and play around with fun lyrical patterns. One example is Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” where during the chorus, she sings “Under my umbrella-ella-ella-eh-eh-eh.” This is an important hook to this song as it’s not only catchy, but it also reinforces the title of the song.
Another common lyrical pattern is spelling out words. It’s been done for decades, such in Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”, because it works. The word is spelled out, then revealed in a later part of the song in order to give a sense of closure.
Keep the Rhyme and Rhythm in Mind
It’s easier for us to remember things if they rhyme and fall in rhythm. This is especially important for rappers, as raps utilize both of these elements.
If we think back to the time when Nicki Manaj’s “Super Bass” first came out, chances are you may know at least one person who memorized the first verse. Nicki Manaj heavily relies on rhymes in these verses. Each line either is a perfect or a half rhyme with the next so that they make pairs. If we were to inspect some of the lines themselves, we even find that there are internal rhymes within one single line. You can learn here about different types of rhymes.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that the rhythmic meter is felt in multiples of two. We are inclined to feel in patterns of two, four, or eight when it comes to songs. This also means that if you’ve been using similar rhythms every two lines, you can use one odd line to capture the attention of your listener.
Use Unconventional Lyrics
While catchy lyrics settle in the more you listen to them, you want something to rope in your listener right away. Sometimes, this can be using unconventional lyrics for shock factor. If your listener hears something they don’t expect, they may stick around long enough for the catchy lyrics to start working their magic.
Ariana Grande’s song, “God is a Woman” sparked interest and controversy with its title alone. Even before listening to the song, seeing the words “God is a Woman” may pique your interest enough for you to check out the song to see what it’s all about.
If you decide not to have the unconventional lyrics in the title, there are songs like Billie Eillish’s “Bury a Friend.” The lyrics are bizarre and unsettling, and they pull the listener in with each line as they sit in suspense.
By using unusual lyrics, you play with the listener’s expectation. If you know what people begin to expect of you, see if you can avert it every once in a while to keep them on their toes.
Knowing how to write catchy lyrics will bring the best out of your song. Writing compelling lyrics can be as easy as going with what would hook you in. So start there, and you may find that you naturally use any one of these tips. From there, see how you can capitalize on these and make your song even catchier!