First featured in Flypaper by Soundfly!
Most of the time, a song title is directly taken from the chorus or hook. It can often be an afterthought, leaving songs untitled as needed. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with this, but if you want to be writing songs that are impactful, grab your listeners and unique, you need to think about your song titles. Why do song titles matter?
If you write songs in popular genres, clarity of your song’s meaning matters. The hook is almost always the song title and it needs to fully represent your song’s main ideas. Some pop genres will also state that each line of the verse should be able to seamlessly flow into your hook, and therefore, your song title.
When people listen to music, especially if they are using it as background to another task, they probably won’t be giving the song their full attention. If your song title is clear as your hook, they won’t hesitate to play your song during a workout. Your hook will be the thing that is the most memorable part of what your song is all about.
Look at “Good Life” by OneRepublic. It isn’t the most original title, but it isn’t as common as a title like “Stay” or “For You”. When we read “Good Life”, it is immediately clear what the song is about and what kind of context we would likely listen to it. A more original title is “when was it over?” by Sasha Sloan and Sam Hunt, which immediately reads as a heartfelt ballad.
There are so many songs being released every day that your song title will be the advertising headline for your project. It will be the first thing people see when they come across your social media posts or ad. Not everyone is going to want to listen to your song, but you definitely want to pique your demographic’s curiosity and click.
Intriguing song titles are fantastic. Maybe try extending the title to expand on the topic, like Rhys Lewis does on his album, “Things I Chose to Remember.” Even the album title is relatable and gives us an immediate idea of what these songs will be about. “I’m Not Pretty” by JESSIA is relatable just by the title. Alternatively, try writing a ridiculous title, like Clinton Kane does with his song, “CHICKEN TENDIES.” The song is not about chicken tendies, but it certainly is attention-grabbing.
People say that originality is dead, and for good reason. It seems like everything has been said and done, and while self-expression is important, there is something to be said about twisting cliches and surprising your listeners. Your song title sets up an expectation about how the song will progress. While you don’t want to completely trick your listener—song clarity still matters, your gym buddy doesn’t want to hear a song called “Work It” when it’s actually a ballad about a breakup—you can surprise them.
For example, “Happier” by Ed Sheeran literally has the word “happy” in the title, but is quite the opposite. By the slight shift in the word, we as the listener can find the title ambiguous enough to accept this isn’t a song to play at a party, but we wouldn’t have expected the song to be this sad.
You can also surprise your listener by setting up the song that makes them think they know exactly what it’s about. Make the theme of your song about a breakup where you’re talking about the flaws of the relationship in the verse, only to turn it around and blame yourself in the chorus. Make your listener think, “Oh, I haven’t heard this song title in this context and that’s actually quite clever and original.”
Maisie Peters likes to do this, particularly in her song “Worst of You”. It’s a great title for a song and implies from the beginning that the song is about a poor love interest—only to have her turn it around in the chorus and reveal that she’s still devoted to them.
In writing better song titles, ask yourself: How much thought do you give to your song titles before you’re writing your song? Could you change your song title, just shifting lyrics around here and there until it’s a little more intriguing? What can you do with your song titles to present something more original to your audience?