Finding Good Song Topics

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A good plot is the backbone of a good song. The plot is the story of your song. Or the setting. In this article, Allihoopa.com shows you how to come up with some good song ideas in no time. It is important here that listeners can relate to the situation. With these tips, it shouldn’t be hard for you to write such songs soon. By the way, we have also published an article that will help you find good song topics by first looking at the target audience for your song. 

Finding good song ideas

“In The Ghetto” by Mac Davis (sung by Elvis Presley) is about a boy being born in the problem neighborhood of Chicago. His mother has many children and can already barely feed them. So the boy grows up hungry and starts stealing and fighting. He eventually buys a gun and steals a car, getting shot at the moment his own son is born.

YOUTUBE: Search Elvis Presley – In The Ghetto on YouTube

ITUNES: Elvis Presley – In The Ghetto on iTunes

SPOTIFY: Elvis Presley – In The Ghetto on Spotify

This tragic story carries within it a call to do something about social injustice and help people in troubled neighborhoods break out of this vicious cycle. The song caused a comeback of Elvis at the end of the 1960s.

Or “Killing my Softly” which is about a concertgoer who feels caught by the song the singer is singing on stage and has such a strong relationship with it that he even believes the singer has read his diaries/letters.

YOUTUBE: Search Roberta Flack – Killing Me Softly on YouTube

ITUNES: Roberta Flack – Killing Me Softly on iTunes

SPOTIFY: Roberta Flack – Killing Me Softly on Spotify

In this article we present a simple way to construct different song plots. On the one hand, this can help you overcome writer’s block, and on the other hand, of course, it can serve as a tool to come up with creative ideas for song stories. If you really want to master the field of songwriting, don’t be afraid to write one (or more) song(s) for each of these song concepts. Not only does this exercise your skills and help you expand and diversify your lyric writing abilities from different perspectives, but it can also simply ensure that one or more songs are included that have hit potential and would never have been created otherwise.

Song Ideas: Good Stories for Songs

A vast universe of song stories opens up to us if we understand how to unite primary and secondary plot frames. The primary plot frame is the topic we write about (sex, love, friendship, …). The secondary plot frame, on the other hand, is an emotion that we associate with the first plot frame.

Roughly speaking, if we look for a story that combines the theme of friendship with the emotion of hate, we open up completely different possibilities. What do we have then? A story about disappointment. Or a story about betrayal. A plot about friendship that’s too close, where at some point you’re just annoyed with each other, and so on. Combining friendship with love, on the other hand, could lead to other stories. For example, “My friend is as close to me as my brother” or “How mere friendship became love.” So let’s start by setting up secondary plot frames and then dive into the primary plot frames.

Secondary Plot Frames

These are the emotions. Such as the following:

  • Love
  • Hate
  • Joy
  • happiness
  • Poverty
  • Envy
  • Sadness
  • Pain
  • jealousy
  • Passion
  • Anxiety
  • Confidence
  • Trust
  • Rue
  • Insight
  • Forgiveness (passive/active)
  • unfulfillment
  • fulfillment
  • Wish
  • Dream
  • Hope

Primary Plot Frames

Sex

A perennial classic is sex. From describing lovemaking in rather vague phrases (“Nights in White Satin”) to explicit metaphors (“Candyshop” – “I let you lick the lollypop”), sex sells. We can call “sex” everything that is not directly related to the theme of “love”. In other words, sex is the materialized, physical form of expression of love based on animal instincts.

This includes as primary plot frames:

  • Attraction to another person (focusing on beauty and aesthetics)
  • Sexual attraction of another person (finding someone sexually attractive and appealing)
  • Lust (the description of desire and joyful anticipation of sex)
  • Sexual interaction (usually dressed up in juvenile and ambiguous words)
  • Sex against the backdrop of the big picture (i.e., the aftermath of sex, after the sexual act)

All these situations can shape our song story. Let’s take as an example the eyes of a beautiful woman or man. Of course, it may be that you immediately fall in love with them. Just as well, the fire in them can make you want more and awaken your imagination. And already we have a story for a song. Appropriately titled, “How Your Eyes Make Me Want More.”

Good ideas for songs – from two plot frames

The mere description of the sexual act can be good for a romantic song (we light the candles, spread rose petals on the bed, an ice cube, champagne, passionate kisses, …), as well as for a rhythmic more club or rap song based on the act of copulation.

Combined with secondary plot frames, we would have, for example: the unfulfillment (secondary plot frame) combined with the sexual attraction of another person (primary plot frame) that could lead to a plot that is about a person who finds another person so sexually attractive, but for some reason this desire remains in unfulfillment or is not fulfilling despite everything. We have a plot as soon as we define the reason for the unfulfillment or “not fulfilling”. For example, “I don’t feel attractive enough”, “I don’t have self-confidence”, “You are too beautiful for me” or “I don’t know why I don’t dare” (all reasons why the desire remains unfulfilled) would come into question. Or in the case where sexual attraction is not fulfilling, issues like, “You’re not into me,” “You don’t love me, you only love my body,” or “You don’t feel into me enough.”

Conversely, we could also just randomly combine lust (primary plot frame) with trust (secondary plot frame) and have, for example, the plot for a story where someone can only really let go and give in to their lust in the arms of that particular person.

Songs that deal with the theme of sex include:

  • What’s Love Got To Do With It β†’ Listen
  • I Want Your Sex β†’ Listen
  • Let’s Talk About Sex Baby β†’ Listen
  • Hey Mister Important β†’ Listen
  • Sexual Healing β†’ Listen

The “Listen” links open YouTube in a new window with the song title in the search box. Simply click on one of the results there. There possibly preceding advertising goes in favor of the uploader / song owner, not music knowledge.

Love

One of the most common themes in songs was, is and remains love. At the same time, love can take on very different meanings. Because the feeling of being in love is again different than the love between two partners who have been in a relationship for decades. And that, again, is a different love relationship than the one that exists between family members or close friends.

Primary Plot Frames:

  • Falling in love/ having a crush (having butterflies in the stomach)
  • Feeling love for a child (or other relative)
  • Noticing that you already really love someone, even though you didn’t consciously realize it.

Again, the choice of secondary plot frame is virtually free. Almost anything goes: falling in love + fear, having butterflies in the stomach and envy / jealousy, loving someone + trust. And so on… all super initial plots.

Songs that deal with the theme of love include:

  • Just The Way You Are β†’ Listen
  • Love Hurts β†’ Listen
  • She Loves You β†’ Listen
  • Love And Marriage β†’ Listen
  • The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face β†’ Listen

The “Listen” links open YouTube in a new window with the song title in the search box. Simply click on one of the results there. There possibly preceding advertising goes in favor of the uploader / song owner, not music knowledge.

The urge to be self-actualized

The urge to self-actualize and stand independently with both feet in life needs reinforcement from time to time. What would fit better than a song?

As secondary plot frames, wishes, dreams, hopes are just as suitable as disappointment, fear, confidence, trust, unfulfillment or fulfillment. Songs that focus on the urge for self-reliance can be about how someone wants to achieve self-reliance, how self-reliance has been taken away from someone, how someone has realized the self-reliance of their life and is now claiming it, or how someone is working to make the urge for self-reliance a reality.

Examples of these plot frames:

  • It’s My Life β†’ Listen
  • I Will Survive β†’ Listen
  • Everybody Says Don’t β†’ Listen
  • You’re Gonna Hear From Me β†’ Listen

The “Listen” links open YouTube in a new window with the song title in the search box. Simply click on one of the results there. There possibly preceding advertising goes in favor of the uploader / song owner, not music knowledge.

Interruption or termination of a thing

Mostly, of course, this thing is about relationships, namely love relationships. It is not essential for the songwriter to talk about his or her own experience. It may well be based on what another person has experienced, or it may be completely made up. However, it is important to draw the audience into the song. So the audience must be able to identify with the song in some way.

The secondary plot frames can help us contextualize the interruption or termination emotionally here. The interruption (primary plot frame) could be due to hate, jealousy but possibly also love or a commitment (all secondary plot frames).

For example, a theme involving the secondary plot frame of joy would be a song about how happy you are to get back together after a breakup (say, after a day at work). As another example, consider a song about a soldier who has to separate from his lover to go to war. Or, as another example, the situation in which a former pair of lovers now have nothing more to say to each other and therefore draw the consequences.

Example of songs of this theme:

  • You Don’t Bring Me Flowers β†’ Listen
  • Breaking Up Is Hard to Do β†’ Listen
  • How Am I Supposed to Live Without You β†’ Listen
  • Where Do You Start β†’ Listen
  • Last Night When We Were Young β†’ Listen

The “Listen” links open YouTube in a new window with the song title in the search box. Simply click on one of the results there. There possibly preceding advertising goes in favor of the uploader / song owner, not music knowledge.

Infidelity

Infidelity is also a primary plot frame. Through the secondary plot frame, we can use the emotions: Hate, Jealousy, Amazement, Love or Hurt into the primary plot frame.

Examples here would be catching your partner in flagrante delicto or being affected because you didn’t notice the infidelity for so long. Another example would be the pure hatred that has arisen because of the partner’s infidelity or the love that is still present despite the infidelity.

The feeling of jealousy and the fear of infidelity most people know very well. Therefore, chances are relatively good that they will show empathy for the song and feel addressed by it.

Among the songs that deal with the topic of infidelity are:

  • Stranger in My House β†’ Listen
  • Cheatin’ On Me β†’ Listen
  • Talkin in Your Sleep β†’ Listen
  • Me and Mrs Jones β†’ Listen

The “Listen” links open YouTube in a new window with the song title in the search box. Simply click on one of the results there. There possibly preceding advertising goes in favor of the uploader / song owner, not music knowledge.

Reunion

Reunion is also a good primary plot frame. Suitable secondary plot frames include joy, forgiveness, or distrust. So the story boils down to putting something back together that was separate. What is most likely to interest the listener now is the question of motivation: why is reunited? Under what conditions and premises is reunification taking place? What are the emotions and reasons that lead to reunification? Another secondary plot frame to this theme could be hope. For example, a song could be about the protagonist hoping or asking for reunification.

Reunion is dealt with in these songs, among others:

  • Just One More Chance β†’ Listen
  • Come Back to Me β†’ Listen
  • Love Will Lead You Back β†’ Listen
  • Don’t Give Up On Us β†’ Listen
  • Reunited β†’ Listen

The “Listen” links open YouTube in a new window with the song title in the search box. Simply click on one of the results there. There possibly preceding advertising goes in favor of the uploader / song owner, not music knowledge.

Parent-Child Relationship

The parent-child relationship makes a good primary plot frame. On the one hand, it offers the chance for conflicts (secondary plot frame: hatred, ingratitude, forgiveness, …). On the other hand, it is also ideally suited for more cohesive plots, such as gratitude, love, or insight. Since all listeners are in some way in a parent-child relationship, it can be assumed that there is a high level of empathy.

Examples of songs that address the parent-child relationship:

The “Listen” links open YouTube in a new window with the song title in the search box. Simply click on one of the results there. There possibly preceding advertising goes in favor of the uploader / song owner, not music knowledge.

Friendship

Friendship is also a very good primary plot frame. In conjunction with secondary plot frames like joy, the positive of a friendship can be highlighted. Hate and disappointment can also generate interesting songs about broken friendships and disappointed trust in the context of the friendship plot frame. If one uses the secondary plot frame of love, a story could emerge in which love grew out of a friendly relationship. Whether or not this was reciprocated could be included in the song through another secondary plot frame such as fulfillment or disappointment. Friendship is also a very general, universal theme for which many listeners are empathetic.

Examples of songs that have friendship as a theme:

  • That’s What Friends Are For β†’ Listen
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water β†’ Listen
  • Thank You for Being a Friend β†’ Listen

The “Listen” links open YouTube in a new window with the song title in the search box. Simply click on one of the results there. There possibly preceding advertising goes in favor of the uploader / song owner, not music knowledge.

Songs, music and dance

Music, songs and dancing are often used as metaphors. “The same old song” – “the same old song” in song lyrics, for example, usually stands not for a song, but for a situation that is often repeated and that is usually disappointing. The same applies, for example, to the song “Make Your Own Kind of Music” – Listen (Make your own kind of music/ Make music in your own style) sung by “The Mamas & The Papas” where of course not literally the music is meant, but rather metaphorically that you should live your life as you wish. George Michael with his song: “Careless Whisper” has described the situation in which he dances with a partner whom he fools and therefore feels guilty and never wants to dance again.

Apart from these songs, the words dance, music and songs can also animate in such songs that are meant to make the audience dance. Primary plot frames that can be considered are joy, love, hate and many others.

Possible storylines: the protagonist loves to dance, the protagonist hates to dance, a particular song always reminds the protagonist of a particular situation, and so on and so forth.

Examples of songs that are about songs, music or dance:

  • You Make Me Feel Like Dancing β†’ Listen
  • Dancing Queen β†’ Listen
  • Dance, Dance, Dance β†’ Listen
  • Save the Last Dance for Me β†’ Listen

The “Listen” links open YouTube in a new window with the song title in the search box. Simply click on one of the results there. There possibly preceding advertising goes in favor of the uploader / song owner, not music knowledge.

Escaping from everyday life

To escape from the dull, gray everyday life is another need of most people. Songs can help us do this. The secondary plot frame here is mostly the longing for freedom, joy or other positive emotions. The goal is to trigger a “vacation feeling” or a sense of freedom and self-realization in the listener.

Examples of songs that help to escape from everyday life:

  • Over the Rainbow β†’ Listen
  • Bacardi Feeling β†’ Listen
  • Sittin’ on The Dock Of the Bay β†’ Listen
  • Like Ice In The Sunshine β†’ Listen

The “Listen” links open YouTube in a new window with the song title in the search box. Simply click on one of the results there. There possibly preceding advertising goes in favor of the uploader / song owner, not music knowledge.

A portrait

Another plot frame is the musical drawing of a portrait. This can be, for example, a portrait about a famous personality or about existing clichΓ©s. Here you draw a picture of a person, so to speak. This person can exist in reality, be invented or be based on typical clichΓ©s.

The story that emerges and whether it is positive or negative is, of course, defined by the secondary plot frame. So, a portrait about the typical self-made millionaire who is already driving a Porsche in his mid-20s can be ironic through the secondary plot frame, be truthful, express the joy and happiness that the protagonist has achieved his goal, or have the protagonist fall deep into the pit within the song of a high-flying success man.
Examples of portraits:

  • Maneater (clichΓ©) β†’ Listen
  • Bad Bad Leroy Brown (ClichΓ©) β†’ Listen
  • Vincent (Portrait: Vincent van Gogh) β†’ Listen
  • Candle in the Wind (Portrait: Marilyn Monroe/ Lady Diana) β†’ Listen
  • Big Time (clichΓ©) β†’ Listen

The “Listen” links open YouTube in a new window with the song title in the search box. Simply click on one of the results there. There possibly preceding advertising goes in favor of the uploader / song owner, not music knowledge.

Find your own plot frames

Of course, the list of primary and secondary plot frames is not exhaustive. Find the situations people know and connect them to the emotions people know, and you already have two spicy basic ingredients for a good song story. Keep in mind that a song should only tell one storyline. Unlike, for example, a story that is told over several hundred pages in a novel or that you can spend 2 hours telling in a movie theater, in a song we have to get the story “to the man” within 3 minutes and within two to three verses. So a single emotion (secondary plot frame) and a single basic situation (primary plot frame) are quite enough to write good song lyrics that listeners can relate to. Remember to write down situations every day. If it’s hard at first, don’t worry: it will get easier with practice.