Monday, 23 February 2015

Love Your Selfie, an original song by Shira Katz & Gordon Gow, copyright February 23, 2015

“This coming week’s challenge is issued by multi-platinum award-winning producer/songwriter Rob Wells who has worked with Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, Matt Dusk, Divine Brown, Cyndi Lauper and many more top artists.  Here is his challenge:”  

“I'm looking for strong female based Pop/Top 40 songs.  Think Selena Gomez.  Think Demi Lovato.  Think big.  Think hits.  Think target audience of 13-18 years old.  If you're writing a global, universal, and (a little bit) quirky smash song with an interesting title, I'm interested.  If you can sing your explosive chorus a thousand times and not be sick of it, I'm interested.  Trim the fat.  No unnecessary sections or long intros.  Take me on a journey.  Make every lyric count and funnel towards a great chorus payoff.  Maximum 3:30 in length.  Good luck!”

This week’s plan of action consisted of the following approach:

  1. Research the artists, especially ones that I am less familiar with:
Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. Listen to their song hits, look at their song structures.
  1. Research on teens, what are the issues for them today? Why do these songs appeal to them? Do the songs have anything in common?
  2. Brainstorm song titles, themes, ideas, song lines.
  3. Start writing and singing. Think of a hook & a title.
  4. Compose music, write some more, rewrite & get feedback.
  5. Rewrite, making sure it follows a song structure
  6. Get more feedback
  7. Rewrite using METER: drum loops are very important to keep the words going with the beat
  8. Trim the fat: the less words, the better
  9. Get more feedback
  10. Repeat the process, rewrite
  11. Discover that SYNCing a backtrack with voice is not easy!
  12. Continue to learn!
  13. Laugh & enjoy!
And here is the evolution of  the song “Love Your Selfie” (Shira Katz & Gordon Gow, and gratitude to Martin Clarke, Mark Alexander and James Linderman for tips on improving the song structure and the meter).

When I first got this challenge, I started to research the music of artists such as Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. I started to familiarize myself with their music. I also researched teenage themes such as bullying, pregnancy, suicide, etc. I could not find popular hits on those subjects that are not in some way uplifting for the 13-to-18-year old female crowd. It’s as if this genre of music was there to validate feelings without getting into details. I love “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper.

After several discussions about the challenge with my friend, Martin Clarke, I remembered that self-esteem issues were very big for me in high school.

Martin had a song title idea about someone that loves themselves too much. I  immediately wrote a song called “mirror, mirror, mirror,” but then I thought about how the main mirror people use nowadays are selfies.

 I was thinking about the prevalent use of technology and cell phones and texting and cyberbullying. With the Grammy Awards coming up on the weekend, I remembered how the “selfie” was a big part of last year’s awards show. Then it hit me, “Love Your Selfie” as a song title! I wrote some lyrics, came up with a melody for the chorus, modulating between major and minor keys on a keyboard.

Martin Clarke took a listen, and suggested that the meter was all over the place. How quickly I forgot some details from last year’s songwriting class with Pat Pattison!

Using James Linderman’s great advice, to use a song as a reference in the DAW, I tried to use a song structure as a blueprint or reference for just for writing the song. I chose “Let It Go” (Demi Levato) as a guideline to rewrite the song.

I also realized I would need some drum loops to keep a good meter going. Mark Alexander stepped in with advice on where to find them online. I finally figured out how to make my own very basic loop in Audacity, and used 4/4 time to cut out many of the words to make it fit the beat! Martin Clarke had a listen, and said it was a big improvement, and he was working on another song, so he left me to work it out for the challenge.

In comes the supremely talented Gordon Gow! He listened to my song (sang a capella with a few keyboard notes thrown in), and used his genius to make a backtrack for it. He kept the tonal centre in the backtrack, which was great! He also sent info on the measures and where they change, very helpful for a vocalist!

Still, I had to rewrite the song again to fit the new backtrack, because words were not fitting in. I kept “trimming the fat”, cutting out so many words, rearranging some parts of the song. I also realized that my second verse had to sound more like the first verse, putting emphasis on vowels that sounded similar. It brought back to memory everything I learned about in songwriting class!

Trying to mix the song was nearly impossible, I am not a production person. I tried to separate the audio track and the vocals, put reverb on the vocals, but was unable to achieve a mix that I could save as an .mp3 given this deadline and my lack of skills with Audacity.

I really enjoyed singing the song, I was dancing to it and getting into the groove, never feeling tired of it, I could sing it a million times. I started whistling it, and decided to include whistling in the song, just as they do in the Rock Mafia song, “The Big Bang”.
I am definitely not a DAW production person, but I am learning very quickly that you are only as good as your DAW!
Gordon Gow mentioned that the song would have been way better had my vocals were properly mixed with the soundtrack in a good DAW. He wanted me to mention that the music bed is a combination of Apple loops and original keyboard parts.  

I really hope you enjoy the song, and that if it gets a good response, I will find a way to remix it and make it even better!

Thank you and enjoy it!