Songwriting Prompt Three: Kick the Bucket
Genre is a method of file management. It’s marketing. It’s not writing. And yet, you might think of yourself as a specialist in one, to the exclusion of others. You may have conjured a barbed wire fence that separates “pop” and “R&B” in your mind. By now, you’ve even adapted to the surrealism of Spotify’s utility-based playlisting, and see yourself more as “Morning Coffeehouse,” but probably not “Evening Coffeehouse.”
You’ve been trained to find your lane. Your brand. That word, “brand”—it makes you sound like you’re expressing a personal style, but are you? Or are you expressing the bucket you hope to be dropped into? I mean, let’s be honest: Getting on “Morning Coffeehouse” or “Caviar Bedtime Toothbrushing Ritual” or whatever means you go from >1000 streams to 500k overnight. So what do you do? You write for the bucket. The bucket starts writing your songs.
Is the bucket writing your songs?
The most maligned track I’ve ever played in class, by a long stretch, is “Meant to Be,” by Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line. The song spent a year on the charts, but that did not impress. Together, we watched the video through tears of laughter: she’d never work in a roadside diner; she’d never hitchhike in four pounds of makeup; she’d never hitchhike anywhere, ever. She’d ping an Uber or summon her helicopter, and poof. End of country-pop nightmare.
Consider this: Bebe was down for the challenge of writing outside her pop specialty, and Florida Georgia Line pulled from outside of their country specialty. It’s almost as if “specialization” is not genre-based at all. It’s almost as if that genre-bucket is actually a prison, and writing is the skeleton key that gifts you the freedom to go anywhere you want.
So: Overthrow the tyranny of premature specialization. Write outside of your “genre.” Go “off-brand.” (Yes, I’m using air-quotes to provoke you.) A pro doesn’t always win, but they do rise to a challenge.