If you haven’t heard Maisie Peter’s song “John Hughes Movie”, you should definitely listen to that before reading this. The surprise twist at the end of the Chorus is an enjoyable experience, and the way she crafted it is really clever and remarkable. Here’s how she set up the surprise, and how you can write one in your next song.
Plays on assumptions of the cliches in the scenario
This song starts off with the main character at a dance being obviously snubbed by her romantic interest. In these lines, we assume this character is upset and confused by the situation:
This wasn’t how it’s supposed to go
I should be the one you’re dancing with
Spinning with a vodka Coke
Everybody at my fingertips
I was gonna get my coat
And baby, you were meant to follow me
And I was gonna act surprised
Even though I’d know you wanted me
This continues in the Chorus, but changes attitude halfway through:
‘Cause this ain’t no John Hughes movie
Where the girl gets the guy
You look right through me
Every time you walk by
I keep waiting for the heartbreak music
That’s never gonna come
We are still mostly assuming the character is upset by the situation, but in the last two lines, here is where the surprise hits us:
‘Cause if you don’t want me
Then you’re not the one
In a cliched version of events, we would assume that the character would feel terrible because the love interest must be the one. By twisting that around, we now have an entirely new and interesting version of events—as well as a reason to keep listening.
Put the surprise at the very end of the Chorus
The last line of the Chorus is a perfect place to put a little twist in the story. It’s long enough that you have a proper understanding of the scene through the Verse, Pre-Chorus and Chorus and we’re waiting in anticipation for the inevitable. When the inevitable doesn’t hit, that’s where the surprise comes.
Didn’t give it away in the title
The title of the song “John Hughes Movie” is a great way to sum up the song without giving too much away. It’s placed right at the beginning of the movie so it’s in a prominent place, even though we mostly associate the title/hook line with a sense of resolution. The title is also so striking that the last line of the Chorus doesn’t stand out as much.
Many stories have been told in one way or another. If you can begin a song and lead the listener through a story we think we know the ending to, this is the perfect type of song to add a surprise. Doing the opposite of what we think will happen really excites us, as well as making the song feel unique.