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Reflections on Soundcheck's Songwriting Contest

Friday, October 10, 2008 - 01:19 PM

It really did seem like a good idea at the time. Invite listeners to write lyrics, pick a winner out of the handful or couple of dozen entries, have a band perform the song in the studio… everyone has fun, no one gets hurt, everybody goes home happy.

That was the theory. The reality got a bit blurry after I had slogged through lyric submission #309, and saw that I was still at least a hundred entries from being done. My job was to narrow the entries to a manageable list for our judge, the Grammy-winning songwriter Jesse Harris, and I couldn’t help thinking, where are all these songwriters coming from? Is everyone out there penning lyrics in their spare time? Don’t get me wrong, I’m impressed. When I was in college I wrote songs on the guitar all the time – but they’d always turn out to be instrumentals because I could never come up with lyrics that weren’t either stupid or embarrassing. And sure enough, there were plenty of lyrics submitted to the contest that were stupid and/or embarrassing, but there were some that were charming and weird and unexpected and a few that made me laugh. So on the one hand, I wonder just how hard it is to write a decent song lyric, and on the other hand completely sympathize with folks who try and fall short.

You can see some of our faves (the band, One Ring Zero; the judge, Jesse; and me) on the website; they’re a pretty diverse bunch. But my big takeaway from this is to marvel at how much pent up creativity there seems to be out there. Plus I think I need stronger glasses now.

When you listen to a song, what strikes you first, the music or the lyrics? What do you look for in song lyrics?


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Comments [6]


"just..." Agreed. Very unfortunate for all involved. I hope Noah & family are getting the help they seem to need.

Oct. 15 2008 02:32 PM

Wouldn't it have been far better, though, "on-air grace" aside, to have chosen a deserving winner? I feel sorry for those other 399 people who took their time and energy to write lyrics for this contest. (Disclaimer: I was not one of them)

Oct. 13 2008 03:16 PM

Gosh, "just..." Harsh! I was thinking more about how I don't quite know how JS does it, even before creating a songwriting contest. And then the on-air grace with which he, the judge & band that played "Jeans" extemporaneously navigated a very challenging child-persona, in Noah.

Oct. 12 2008 09:50 PM

Your official explanation took no real responsibility at all for this incident. Obviously, you had to say that the song would be disqualified, but you also tried to dodge all the criticism from your listeners. Double shame on you!

Oct. 10 2008 11:43 PM

Next time do the world a favor and don't edit the list for your guest judge. Let him do it. Jeans alone shows you all don't have a clue. You probably edited out a lot of really good entries that Harris may have liked. Entries that don't involve plagiarism. Shame on you!

Oct. 10 2008 03:12 PM
Cartoon Network attorney

If I were judging lyrics, I'd be looking for something that wasn't stolen!

Oct. 10 2008 03:08 PM

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