Songwriting skills – possession obsession

How to create listener intimacy by invoking ownership

Demonstrative article. There, I said it. It’s by no means a sexy term but a useful one for songwriters to know and understand especially if they want to create intimacy with their audience. A demonstrative article is a fancy way to describe the ubiquitous word “the”. A demonstrative article tells us “which” thing (or things) we’re talking about. The car. The house. The voices. The songs. Other demonstrative articles include: that, those, they, this, a, etc. They come naturally to us and we use them without thinking.

I want you to start looking out for demonstrative articles in your lyrics, because you can create a much more personal lyric by switching them with possessive determiners. (What did he say? “Possessive determiners?” What are those?)

Possessive determiners are “articles” that create possession. Words like: “my”, “your”, “our” and “their”.

We typically do that with physical features and emotions.

Think about these two phrases: “I love to look into your eyes” and “You make my heart skip a beat”.

Notice how it would sound funky to say: “I love to look into the eyes.”

Here are some great lyrical examples of possessive determiners. I’m going to write out each original lyric and then substitute the demonstrative articles in a couple extra examples. Notice how the “demonstrative versions” seem distant and impersonal.

Everybody Talks by Neon Trees

Hey baby won’t you look my way, I can be your new addiction

Hey baby won’t you look this way, I can be a new addiction

Hey baby won’t you look this way, I can be that new addiction

 

Hey honey you could be my drug, you could be my new prescription

Hey honey you could be a drug, you could be the new prescription

Hey honey you could be the drug, you could be that new prescription

Everybody Talks: Neon Trees

Royals by Lorde

And we’ll never be royals, it don’t run in our blood

And we’ll never be royals, it don’t run in the blood

And we’ll never be royals, it don’t run in this blood

 

Let me be your ruler, you can call me queen bee

Let me be the ruler, you can call me queen bee

Let me be a ruler, you can call me queen bee

 Royals: Lorde

Shake It Out by Florence and the Machine

Regrets collect like old friends, here to relive your darkest moments

Regrets collect like old friends, here to relive the darkest moments

Regrets collect like old friends, here to relive those darkest moments

I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t, so here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of my road

I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t, so here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of the road

I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t, so here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of that road

Shake it out: Florence

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together by Taylor Swift

And you would hide away and find your peace of mind with some indie record that’s much cooler than mine

And you would hide away and find some peace of mind with some indie record that’s much cooler than mine

And you would hide away and find that peace of mind with some indie record that’s much cooler than mine

We are never getting back together: Taylor Swift

Spectrum by Zedd

Breathing you in when I want you out, finding our truth in a hope of doubt

Breathing you in when I want you out, finding the truth in a hope of doubt

Breathing you in when I want you out, finding some truth in a hope of doubt

 

Lying inside our quiet drama

Lying inside the quiet drama

Lying inside that quiet drama

 

Wearing your heart like a stolen dream, opening skies with your broken keys

Wearing a heart like a stolen dream, opening skies with the broken keys

Wearing that heart like a stolen dream, opening skies with these broken keys.

Spectrum: Zedd

Using possessive articles makes your lyric more personal, it feels like you are reaching out to your listener. (Compare that previous sentence with: Using possessive articles makes a lyric feel more personal, it feels like you are reaching out to the listener). The stakes of an object is heightened not because your attention is drawn toward it, but because it is owned.


Shane Adams is a twice Grammy nominated music educator (non-self-nominated), award-winning producer, composer, and songwriter. Shane is president of Artist Accelerator and is a founding lyric/songwriting instructor for Berklee Online. Shane is a featured songwriter and instructor for the Taylor Swift Education Center at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, they honored him with their TOP TEN HITMAKER award for 2014. He is recognised internationally as a groundbreaking songwriting lecturer and music production panelist. Current projects include developing two songwriting apps for the iPad platform and Shane is in pre-production as co-host/co-producer for Studio Soundtrack, a songwriting radio program/podcast for National Public Radio. artistaccelerator.com


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