We’ve created a playlist full of inspiring songs across different genres for broadening young people’s knowledge of popular music.  Have a listen and more information on each song is shown below.

Click here for the Spotify playlist

Click here for the YouTube playlist

POP

I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston (1974)

“I Will Always Love You” was originally written and recorded by Dolly Parton, who achieved commercial success with it, reaching the top spot of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart not once, but twice. She also wrote arguably her best known song, “Jolene”, on the same day. It is a traditional love song and the lyrics reflect that!

Whitney Houston’s version was recorded for the film “The Bodyguard” in 1992. It is considered to be a pop song with elements of soul and R&B music. The tempo is 134bpm and it is in the key of A major.

Love Story – Taylor Swift (2008)

“Love Story” was written and recorded by Taylor Swift, and she co-produced it with Nathan Chapman. It was the lead single from her second album. The song was inspired by the storyline of Romeo & Juliet but also a situation that Swift was in herself with a love interest and her family. She took inspiration from the plot of Romeo & Juliet but changed it to a happy ending, instead of the tragedy ending of the original.

It is one of the best-selling pop singles in the United States. The tempo is 120bpm and it is in the key of D major.

Thriller – Michael Jackson (1984)

“Thriller” is one of the best-selling singles of all time, and was written by English songwriter Rod Temperton. It has a very theatrical theme, as Jackson was a huge fan of film. It was originally titled “Starlight” but after some discussion with the production team (including Quincy Jones) the title eventually ended up being “Thriller”.

The closest genre is disco/funk. The tempo is 120bpm and it is in the key of C# minor.

Crazy in Love – Beyonce ft Jay-Z (2003)

“Crazy in Love” was written by Rich Harrison, Beyoncé Knowles, Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) and Eugene Record (included as a writer of the original song the song samples, “Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So)” by The Chi-Lites.

It is a pop song with elements of hip hop, funk and R&B. The tempo is a moderate 110bpm and it is in the key of F major and D minor (the relative minor of F major).

We Found Love – Calvin Harris ft Rihanna (2011)

“We Found Love” is a song recorded by Calvin Harris and Rihanna, but was written and produced solely by Calvin Harris. The song mainly revolves around the main hook “we found love in a hopeless place”, and Rihanna’s vocal is fairly relaxed, contrasting with the high energy beat.

It is considered to be in the electro house/pop genre. The tempo is 128bpm and it is in the key of F# major.

Shallow – Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper (2018)

“Shallow” was written as the lead single from the soundtrack to “A Star is Born”, which stars both Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. It was written by Lady Gaga, Andrew Wyatt (Miike Snow), Anthony Rossomando (Dirty Pretty Things) and Mark Ronson. It is a love song written about the relationship between the two leads in the film.

It is considered to be a pop/rock power ballad. The tempo is a moderate 96bpm and it is in the key of G major.

Leave Right Now – Will Young (2003)

“Leave Right Now” was written by Eg White (who has been on the judging panel for several Song Academy Young Songwriter competitions!) and performed by Will Young. It is reportedly written about unrequited love and was one of Will Young’s most successful songs.

It is considered a pop song. The tempo is 84bpm and it is in the key of F# major.

Bad guy – Billie Eilish (2019)

“Bad guy” was written by Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell. The theme of the song is Eilish talking to her partner and taunting him for being a ‘bad guy’. The lyrics are tongue in cheek and the vocal is almost spoken.

It is considered to be an electro pop song. The tempo of the first half is moderately fast at 132-138bpm and the second half slows down to 60bpm.

Losing You – Solange (2012)

“Losing You” is a song recorded by Solange Knowles (Beyoncé’s sister!) and written by Solange and Dev Hynes. The song is described by Knowles herself as “eclectic with ‘80s references and African percussion influences”. It received almost universally positive reviews from music critics and is Solange’s most popular tune to date.

It is considered to be a dance pop song. It is at a tempo of 114bpm and is in the key of C major.

Shape of You – Ed Sheeran (2017)

“Shape of You” is a song written by Ed Sheeran, Steve Mac and Johnny McDaid, but the original songwriters of “No Scrubs” by TLC are also credited due to certain similarities in the songs. It was the best selling song of both 2017 and the decade in the UK, and peaked at number one in 34 countries.

The song is considered to be pop with influences from dancehall and tropical house. It is at a moderate tempo of 96bpm and is in the key of C# minor.

Someone Like You – Adele (2011)

“Someone Like You” was written by Adele and Dan Wilson for Adele’s second studio album “21”. It is a song about heartbreak and the end of a relationship, and Adele’s coming to terms with it. The song contains only a piano and a vocal, and was critically acclaimed, especially after a performance at the Brit Awards that pushed the song to the number one spot in the UK.

It is considered a soul/pop ballad. It has a slow tempo of 68bpm and is in the key of A major.

Get Lucky – Daft Punk ft Pharrell Williams (2013)

“Get Lucky” is a song written by Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers and Pharrell Williams. It won “Record of the Year” and “Best Pop Duo/Group Performance” at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards and is one of the best selling singles of all time.

It is considered a disco/pop song, and it has a tempo of 116bpm, composed in the key of F# minor.

Round Round – Sugababes (2002)

“Round Round” is a song written by Sugababes (Keisha Buchanan, Mutya Buena, and Heidi Range), as well as one of our very own Young Songwriter competition judges Miranda Cooper, alongside Niara Scarlett, Brian Higgins, Tim Powell, Nick Coler, Shawn Lee, and Lisa Cowling. It also includes a sample from “Tango Forte” by Dublex Inc. who are also credited as writers.

It is regarded as one of the songs that changed the direction of British pop music, with “Sound of the Underground” by Girls Aloud (another Miranda Cooper co-write) sharing that accolade. It originally started with a drum track that Brian Higgins had that Miranda Cooper sung a chorus from one of her unreleased songs over.

It is considered to be a dance/pop song at a tempo of 127bpm, and written in the key of F# minor.

Hands Up – Merk & Kremont ft DNCE (2018)

“Hands Up” is a song written by Young Songwriter competition judge Emily Phillips alongside Merk & Kremont, Simon Says!, Eugenio Maimone, Joe Jonas, BullySongs, Josh Record & Ant Whiting.

It features DNCE, with their singer Joe Jonas singing the song. It is an energetic and upbeat pop song with disco and rock elements and has been certified platinum.

It is considered a pop/rock song and has a tempo of 108bpm, written in the key of E minor.

Heal – Tom Odell (2013)

“Heal” was written by Tom Odell, one of the judges of the Young Songwriter competition. It is about wanting to heal from past experiences and needing someone (or something) else to take it away for you. It’s a heartfelt piano ballad.

It is considered to be a pop song at 110bpm, written in the key of Bb minor.

Happiness – McFly (2020)

“Happiness” is a song written by McFly (Danny Jones, Dougie Poynter, Harry Judd and Tom Fletcher) with Jason Perry, Jordan Cardy (aka Rat Boy) and Oberdan Oliveira.

It is an upbeat, happy sounding and soulful pop tune with a big chorus. The intro and chorus are built upon a bright sounding brass sample that reoccurs throughout the song, reinforcing the major, happy sound to the song.

It is considered a pop song. It has a tempo of 106bpm and is in the key of F major.

ROCK

Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye ft Kimbra (2011)

“Somebody That I Used to Know” was written by Wally de Backer (Gotye) and also credits Luiz Bonfá for the use of a sample from his 1967 song “Seville”. It also interpolates the first few notes from the nursery rhyme “Baa Baa Black Sheep”. Lyrically it is about becoming distant with a romantic partner that you used to be close with.

It is Gotye’s most successful song and has been certified multiplatinum in ten countries, having sold more than 13 million copies worldwide.

It is considered to be an art pop song. It has a tempo of 129bpm and is in the key of C major.

Tempted – Squeeze (1981)

“Tempted” is a song by the band Squeeze, written by Song Academy judge Chris Difford alongside Glenn Tilbrook. It has been synced in films, adverts, TV series and video games, including adverts for Heineken and Burger King as well as in the video game Rock Band.

Chris Difford wrote the lyrics to the song in a taxi on his way to the airport when he started to write down what he saw. It has been covered by many great artists and still receives airplay today.

It is considered a pop rock song, played at a tempo of 95bpm and in the key of F# minor.

Mr Brightside – The Killers (2003)

“Mr Brightside” is a song written by Brandon Flowers, Dave Keuning, Mark Stoermer and Ronnie Vannucci Jr. It was released in 2003 and was fairly successful, but its 2004 rerelease was when it really became popular.

Lyrically the song is about a paranoid man suspecting his partner of being unfaithful, and only has one verse that is repeated. In July 2019, the song had spent a combined total of 209 weeks in the top 100 chart, and it is a staple of many DJ and cover band sets across the world.

It is considered to be an alternative rock song. It has a tempo of 148bpm and is in the key of Db major.

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen (1975)

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is a song written by Freddie Mercury, it is considered by many to be the greatest rock song of all time and has been downloaded or streamed over 1.6 billion times.

It is unusual for a hit single as it doesn’t feature a chorus, and moves between contrasting sections that dip into several genres including progressive rock, opera inspired sections, hard rock and progressive pop.

It is considered to be a rock song. The tempo and key changes and modulates throughout.

Paranoid Android – Radiohead (1997)

“Paranoid Android” is a song written by the band Radiohead. The lyrics were written by the band’s singer Thom Yorke after a night he had spent in a Los Angeles bar.

It is comprised of four distinct sections that were edited together using tape, and the original version was over fourteen minutes long. It was eventually edited down to around six and a half minutes long after cutting out an organ solo.

It is often mentioned in lists of the best rock songs ever. It is considered to be an alternative rock song, both the tempo and the key changes throughout.

Counting Stars – One Republic (2013)

“Counting Stars” was written by Ryan Tedder whilst waiting for a studio session with Beyoncé. He said it was inspired by a song that had an “indigenous folk sound” that “struck him like lightning”. Lyrically the song is about the stresses of life and how to deal with them whilst laying awake at night.

It is considered to be a folk/pop song with the tempo starting at 104bpm before riding to 122bpm. It is written in the key of C# minor.

Friday I’m In Love – The Cure (1992)

“Friday I’m In Love” was written by Perry Bamonte, Boris Williams, Simon Gallup, Robert Smith and Porl Thompson.

It is upbeat and happy sounding despite starting as a slower song. After writing it, Robert Smith convinced himself that he had inadvertently stolen the chord progression and melody, so he called around and played the song to as many people he could, none of whom confirmed his suspicions, reassuring him that it was his own melody.

It is considered an indie/alternative rock song and has a tempo of 136bpm. It was recorded in D major, but the studio version sounds slightly higher after Robert Smith forgot to turn off the vari-speed on the tape.

The Chain – Fleetwood Mac (1977)

“The Chain” was written by Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, John McVie and Stevie Nicks, and is the only song on the Rumours album that credits every band member as a writer.

The song is made up of “previously rejected materials” and was spliced together from various other songs using tape during the recording process, which one of the reasons all of the members are credited as writers. Despite the method in which it was created, it still has a basic rock structure with distinct sections.

It is considered to be a folk/country/hard rock song. It has a tempo of 150bpm and is played in the key of E minor.

When Doves Cry – Prince (1984)

“When Doves Cry” was one of two songs written by Prince after being asked by the director of the “Purple Rain” film, Albert Magnoli, to write a song that would fit with a particular scene that dealt with parental difficulties and a love affair.

It was Prince’s first Billboard Hot 100 number one hit. The arrangement of the song is unique in that it does not feature a bass line.

It is considered to be an experimental pop/rock song. It has a tempo of 120bpm and is in the key of A minor.

Stuck in the Middle with You – Stealers Wheel (1973)

“Stuck in the Middle with You” was written by Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan, performed by their band Stealers Wheel.

It is written about a music industry cocktail party and is a parody of Bob Dylan’s musical style, it is often wrongly attributed to Dylan. The song was used in the 1992 Quentin Tarantino film “Reservoir Dogs”, which introduced the song to a whole new audience.

It is considered to be a country/folk rock song. It has a tempo of 124bpm and is in the key of G major.

Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd (1979)

“Comfortably Numb” is a song written by David Gilmour and Roger Waters for their band, Pink Floyd. It is one of their best known songs, in particular for its two guitar solos.

The lyrics are part of the concept of the album, The Wall, and are about an embittered and alienated rockstar who is being medicated in order to perform at a show, inspired by Waters’ experience during a Pink Floyd show in 1977.

It is considered to be a progressive rock song. It has a tempo of 127bpm. The verses are in the key of B minor, whilst the chorus has been described as using a modal interchange of that key’s relative major, D major, and Mixolydian of D.

Wonderwall – Oasis (1995)

“Wonderwall” is a song written by Noel Gallagher for his band Oasis. It is arguably the band’s most popular song and according to Noel “it’s a song about an imaginary friend who’s gonna come and save you from yourself”.

It was recorded at the iconic Rockfield Studios in Wales, Liam Gallagher sings the lead vocal.

It is considered an alternative/pop rock song. It has a tempo of 87bpm and is in the key of F# minor.

If We Were Vampires – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

“If We Were Vampires” is a song written by Jason Isbell.

He wrote it after his wife convinced him to stop watching TV and write a song, as he was due to go into the studio soon. He said he knew the song would be very moving for people when he realised how moving it was for himself the first few times he tried to play it to people.

It is considered an alternative country/Americana song. It has a tempo of 97bpm and is in the key of F Major.

When the Sun Goes Down – Arctic Monkeys (2006)

“When the Sun Goes Down” is a song written by Alex Turner for his band Arctic Monkeys. It starts off with a simple guitar and vocal arrangement and suddenly develops into a harder rock full band sound, before reverting back to the guitar and vocal arrangement of the intro for the song’s outro.

The lyrics address difficulties of the people living in a deprived area of Sheffield, and reference the song “Roxanne” by The Police.

It is considered to be an indie rock song. It has a tempo of 168bpm and is in the key of B minor.

Johnny Got a Boom Boom – Imelda May (2009)

“Johnny Got a Boom Boom” is a song written by Young Songwriter competition judge Imelda May. It was the lead single from her second studio album “Love Tattoo”.

It launched Imelda May into mainstream success after a “Later… with Jools Holland” performance. Imelda May explained in an interview that the song was born out of boredom, and that she was in another band but wanted to write her own material.

The song is considered to be a rockabilly song. It has a tempo of 110bpm and is in the key of A minor.

Loner – Yungblud (2019)

“Loner” is a song written by Dominic Harrison (aka Yungblud) Karl Michael, Matt Schwartz and Robbie McDade. It has a very anthemic, alternative feel, and showcases Yungblud’s grungey yet pop sensibilities, with huge hooks and a confident, snarling vocal performance.

It has a traditional band sound with modern production, it utilises distortion and big drum sounds to bring energy and fullness to the song.

It is considered to be an alternative/indie song. It has a tempo of 99bpm and is in the key of Db major

HIP HOP/RAP

Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio ft L.V. (1995)

“Gangsta’s Paradise” is a song written by Artis Ivey, Jr., Larry Sanders and Doug Rasheed, but Stevie Wonder is also credited for the use of a sample from his song “Pastime Paradise” from “Songs in the Key of Life”.

The song has various religious overtones including Bible passages and choral vocals. The first few lines of the lyrics were freestyled by Coolio, and he said the rest came very quickly in one sitting. He also claims that divine intervention played a part and he was a vessel for the song.

It is considered to be a hip hop/gangsta rap song. It has a tempo of 80bpm and is in the key of Ab major.

Own It – Stormzy ft Ed Sheeran & Burna Boy (2019)

“Own It” is a song written by Michael Omari (aka Stormzy), Ed Sheeran, Fred Gibson and Damini Ogulu. It is the second collaboration between Stormzy and Ed Sheeran after their song “Take Me Back to London”.

The lyrical themes revolve around “empowering and uplifting a female love interest” using wordplay and the production has a dancehall feel.

It is considered to be a hip hop/rap song. It has a tempo of 104bpm and is in the key of G major.

Man Don’t Care – JME ft Giggs (2015)

“Man Don’t Care” is a song written by JME and Giggs, it utilises impressive wordplay and rhythm to deliver the vocal over a simple beat that loops throughout.

The lyrical theme revolves around being successful and being the best at what you do, effectively taunting any opposition.

It is considered to be a grime song. It has a tempo of 140bpm and is in the key of E major.

One Dance – Drake ft Wizkid & Kyla (2016)

“One Dance” is a song written by Aubrey Graham (aka Drake), Paul Jefferies, Ayodeji Balogun, Noah Shebib, Errol Reid, Luke Reid, Kyla Smith, Corey Johnson and Logan Sama. This includes writers on the original song “Do You Mind (Crazy Cousinz Remix)” that was sampled by producer Nineteen85 for the bridge of “One Dance”.

It is Drake’s first dancehall single as a lead artist, following his feature on the single “Work” with Rihanna. The lyrical theme is about love and relationships in the context of being in a club or dancing with a love interest, with the vocalists each singing from a different perspective.

It is considered to be a dancehall song. It has a tempo of 104bpm and is in the key of Bb minor.

Down with the Trumpets – Rizzle Kicks (2011)

“Down with the Trumpets” is a song written by Jordan Stephens, Harley Alexander-Sule (a Song Academy judge!), Dag Nabbit, Darren Lewis, Iyiola Babalola and Will Davies.

The song utilises a bed of samples and beats supporting a strong rapped lyric for the verses and a simple repeated hook for the chorus.

It is considered to be a hip hop/rap song. It has a tempo of 115bpm and is in the key of E minor.

Milkshake – Kelis (2003)

“Milkshake” is a song written by Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams, otherwise known as The Neptunes. It is Kelis’ highest charting single to date and the lyrics utilise euphemism and playground style wordplay along with a simple, catchy melody to bring the whole song together.

It is considered to be an R&B/dance song. It has a tempo of 113bpm and is in the key of C# minor.

Take What You Want – Post Malone ft Ozzy Osbourne & Travis Scott (2019)

“Take What You Want” is a song written by Austin Post (aka Post Malone), John Osbourne (aka Ozzy Osbourne), Jacques Webster (aka Travis Scott), Louis Bell, Andrew Watt and Billy Walsh.

It is a fusion of modern trap style music and guitar based rock, reminiscent of the sounds of Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne’s band. The lyrics explore a relationship where one person has let the other person down, and describes the resulting feeling of defeat and sadness.

It is considered to be a trap/rock/hip hop/rap song. It has a tempo of 140bpm and is in the key of C# minor.

It’s Like That – Mariah Carey ft Jermaine Dupri & Fatman Scoop (2005)

“It’s Like That” is a song written by Mariah Carey, Jermaine Dupri, Manuel Seal and Johntá Austin, with additional credits going to Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels and Jason Mizell for the use of a Run-DMC sample.

Lyrically, the song is about wanting to relax and have a good time, without giving into stress or hard times. It combines ad libs and rap sections with Carey’s sung vocals.

It is considered to be a hip hop song. It has a tempo of 86bpm and is in the key of Ab minor.

Jump Around – House of Pain (1992)

“Jump Around” is a song written by Lawrence Muggerud and Erik Schrody. The beat was originally produced for Cypress Hill, but rapper B-Real didn’t want to record it at that time, Ice Cube was also offered the beat but turned it down, before it was finally taken by House of Pain.

One of the most recognisable parts of the song is the “squealing” noise that occurs in almost every bar. The exact origin of the sample has not been confirmed but there are rumours as to where it came from.

The song is considered to be hip hop. It has a tempo of 107bpm and is in the key of E minor.

Old Town Road – Remix – Lil Nas X ft Billy Ray Cyrus (2019)

“Old Town Road” is a song written by Montero Hill (aka Lil Nas X) and Klowa Roukema (aka YoungKlo). It features a prominent sample of a banjo from the Nine Inch Nails song “34 Ghosts IV”, resulting in a writing credit for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Billy Ray Cyrus collaborated with Lil Nas X on the remix after Lil Nas X tweeted saying he wanted Cyrus on the song.

It is considered to be a country rap song. It has a tempo of 68bpm and is in the key of G# minor.

Yeah – Usher ft Lil John & Ludracris (2004)

“Yeah” is a song written by Christopher Bridges (aka Ludacris), James Phillips (aka LRoc), Jonathan Smith (aka Lil Jon), LaMarquis Jefferson, Patrick Smith and Sean Garrett.

It is considered the first song to mix mainstream R&B with southern crunk music, with lyrics revolving around clubbing and nightlife, the simple hook underlines an undeniable chorus.

It is considered to be an R&B/crunk song. It has a tempo of 105bpm and is in the key of G minor.

Stop Killing the Mandem – Novelist (2018)

“Stop Killing the Mandem” is a song written by Kojo Kankam (aka Novelist). It is very politically motivated and describes the struggles faced by black people through an epidemic of violence on London’s streets. The title came from a sign that Novelist had painted for a Black Lives Matter march.

It is considered to be a grime song. It has a tempo of 140bpm and is in the key of Db major.

Intergalactic – The Beastie Boys (1998)

“Intergalactic” is a song written by The Beastie Boys (Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz and Adam Yauch) alongside producer Mario Caldato, Jr.

The song received a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 1999, and reached number 5 in the UK charts. It is a good example of The Beastie Boys’ trademark style of hooks mixed with rapped verses where each member takes turns to do their own verse.

It is considered to be a hip hop/rap song. It has a tempo of 104bpm and is in the key of E minor.

Doo Wop (That Thing) – Lauryn Hill (1998)

“Doo Wop (That Thing)” is a song written by Lauryn Hill. It was her debut single, and has received widespread critical acclaim. Lyrically, the song is said to serve as a warning to African-American men and women who are caught in “the struggle”. The lyrics also promote egalitarianism between the sexes.

The musical style is heavily influenced by the soul and doo-wop genres.

The song is considered to be a hip hop/doo-wop/R&B song. It has a tempo of 100bpm and is in the key of A major.


If you know any musical & creative young people who’d like to develop their songwriting talent and connect to kindred spirits, ask them to check out our online songwriting clubs running from 14th September.

We’re calling creative & musical young people to join our online songwriting workshops this August! With 11 years experience developing songwriting programmes, these workshops are perfect for those wanting to write their first song or those already developing an album of original songs.  Develop your songwriting skills and collaborate with kindred spirits.

Choose from 3 types of workshops, to develop your lyric writing, melody improvising, composition and production skills:

3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th August
Group songwriting workshops (groups of 8) writing a song together over 3 hours.
– Songwriting workshops (groups of 4) writing an individual song over two days (3 hours per day).

10th, 11th, 12th & 14th August
Production/Songwriting workshops (groups of 4) getting feedback on a song you’ve already written and having help developing the production of your song over two days (3 hours per day).

Workshops are tailored for different age groups (8-10, 11-12, 13-15 & 16-18 year olds) and different levels of songwriting experience.

Please share with all the young songwriters & musicians you know.

Don’t miss out!  Book a place.

Sadie Mustoe is 16 years old from Melbourne, Australia and her song ‘A Million Hours’was selected as a top 40 song in The Song Academy Young Songwriter 2020 competition International category.  We caught up with Sadie recently to talk about all things songwriting!

What inspired you to write your song?  The song ‘A Million Hours’ was inspired by an experience in my life with a guy who was not good at expressing his feelings. This was something that I could not stop thinking about, so I chose to write it down as a song.

The song ‘Shimmering Blue’ is about the ocean. The ocean is what connects our entire world and the people in it and it inspired me to write this song.

‘Bedroom Window’ was inspired by school life, being a sixteen year old at high school there is a lot of drama that comes with it, whether you like it or not. So this song is a way of telling all my friends and everyone at this age to try and forget about it and not let the “drama” influence your entire life and keep stressing you out.

What got you into writing songs?  When I was really little my family and I started going along to music festivals or folk festivals to see live performances and songwriters. My first performance was with a band that a few of my friends created which was asked to play at one of these festivals and every since then I have wanted to perform and songwrite. The thing about folk festivals is that everyone who performs at them are great songwriters, so since I was nine I have been surrounded by amazing songs and that is what inspired me to start writing as well. It has also come from my passion for music and singing, this was nurtured by my primary school music teacher who introduced my family to folk festivals and helped me develop my skills as a musician. I am also a classically trained violinist as well as playing a range of other instruments, so I have always been around music and so I guess my first song came from some random playing or humming when I was nine and so I started writing them down.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process?  My favourite part of the songwriting process is when the full structure of a song, verse/chorus and however the song goes is finished but the lyrics are only at around 70%. Though the best feeling is when I know the song is going to be a good one, so I work and work on it for ages. I just get to sing the song over and over again, developing it and working on the lyrics to make it a 100% finished song and once it’s done, it’s the best feeling.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS20 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I normally write all of my songs in one of my many notebooks. I have so many of them filled to the max with songs, good and very bad. The songs I entered in #SAYS20 started in a notebook but they evolved as I sang them to audiences, recorded them at home or even just played them to my parents. When the song has a good shape and most of the words I like asking for others opinions, you get the best outcome that way.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I usually start a song by finding some nice chords and then just writing down the first thing that comes into my head. Sometimes I won’t even know what I am writing about until I’ve finished the first chorus but I will finally choose a topic, write the rest of the song and come back to the lyrics to fix them and make them connect to the topic I have chosen to write about. I mostly write about experiences in my life or ones that I see on TV as well as problems which I strongly believe in and are happening around the world and to my friends. Sometimes a tune or lyrics just jump into my mind and I have to quickly write them down or record them!

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?My dream artist to collaborate with would be Taylor Swift as she is an extraordinary storyteller and an amazing musician and there would be so much we could all learn from her. As well as Kate Bush, as her songwriting is so unusual but incredible and overall very unique, though I would also really like to work with Orbital, maybe singing on a track or two! Though my favourite artist at the moment is AURORA and it would be a dream to collaborate with her.

What made you enter #SAYS20? How did you hear about it?  I heard about #SAYS20 through FaceBook, my mum and I both saw ads popping up about the competition and as soon as I read it I wanted to enter! It’s a chance to get my music out there, which is always a good thing as well as a chance to hear other incredible young artists who love doing what I do.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  Do it! There is no harm in trying and you never know where that might get you. A tip from me is to submit as many songs as possible, the more you submit, the most chances you have. Submit your best songs but ones you love singing and you loved writing and don’t worry about what kind of music and songs other people are putting up, just submit your own personal best work.

What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the other entrants (it doesn’t have to be a finalist!) would you like to collaborate with?  Jordyn/Jo Mackenzie

There are so many insane songwriters but in particular I loved all of Jo Mackenzie’s songs which are upbeat but produced really well in a cool style. As well as Morena La Vecchia Galan who’s song Drama Master is amazing.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like that the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition is allowing young artists to compete together but also listen to each other’s music. The competition is inclusive, including kids ages 8-18 which I love because there is not a set age that people start writing songs. 9 year old’s can write music and they have a chance to showcase their songs too. It’s an awesome chance for young people to get our music out there!

I also love how the Song Academy Young Songwriters competition has an International category. It was really interesting to listen to the other applicants and get to hear how different their music was to mine, because of different cultures. It was so cool hearing songs in different languages and people singing in different accents.

Make sure you hear the latest Young Songwriter 2020 news first by following our social media channels – Instagram, Facebook  and Twitter.

 

Naomi Vosika is 17 years old from Idaho Falls, USA and her song ‘We Won The War, Dear’ was selected as a top 10 song in The Song Academy Young Songwriter 2020 competition International category.  We caught up with Naomi recently to talk about all things songwriting!

What inspired you to write your song?  I didn’t necessarily write “We Won the War, Dear” based on personal experience, but I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that in stories of war, just because they won, it doesn’t mean they didn’t lose something in the process. And this song is the process of that healing, changing for the good, and finding peace. When I introduced the song to my family they all related to it in very different ways. One saw it as a sad love song, one saw it as a personal war, and so forth.

What got you into writing songs?  I’ve been doing music for ten years and have been surrounded by it my whole life. My biggest passion is music and I’ve been doing creative writing for years, and thought about writing my own music, but resisted the idea, thinking I wanted to keep my writing and music separate from each other, saying that I’ll just play other peoples songs. But after writing a poem for a poetry contest a few years ago, I sat down at the piano and was playing around putting a Melody to the poem, it turned out to be a decent song. After that I realized that songwriting wasn’t as daunting as I had assumed it to be, and I started writing more songs, and it has been developing since then.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process?  It’s probably after I’ve written the base lyrics and I start revising it, and it all starts to come together.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS20 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I used a pen, paper, and my guitar. Then I put it in a word document to put it all together.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  It definitely depends. A lot of times my ideas come from an interesting line I see or hear. Or mess around on the guitar and improvise lyrics with a recorder in front of me.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?Billie Eilish, I like her more ballad like songs (like her song Six Feet Under) and some of my music has been inspired by hers.

What made you enter #SAYS20? How did you hear about it?  I have entered in a previous year and didn’t make it past the first round, but I feel like I have grown as a songwriter, so I decided to give it another shot! And my dad is the one who told me about it in the first place.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  Just give it a go! You don’t really know how you’ll do until you try!

What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the other entrants (it doesn’t have to be a finalist!) would you like to collaborate with?  I really like “10” by Jordyn, and “Missing in Action”  by Pip Lewis.

And I think it would be fun to work with any of the entrants!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  It brings together young songwriters from around the world to listen to and support each other’s work.

 

Make sure you hear the latest Young Songwriter 2020 news first by following our social media channels – Instagram, Facebook  and Twitter.

 

Laura Davidson is 16 years old from Berkshire and her song ‘Yeah. Ok. Bye’ was selected as a top 60 song in The Song Academy Young Songwriter 2020 competition 13-18 year old UK/Ireland category.  We caught up with Laura recently to talk about all things songwriting!

What inspired you to write your song?  To help others and myself let go of toxic people.

What got you into writing songs?  I started writing songs when I was 10 years old and was inspired by participating in VIAM surrounded by thousands of people singing and having fun and also singing in the glorious setting of St Paul’s cathedral in London.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process? My favourite part of the process is finding a positive and encouraging message that I can spread in my songs.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS20 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?   I used pen, paper and my guitar.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I don’t have a songwriting formula, however, I write notes throughout the process drawing on my experiences and the lyrics tend to come first for me.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?Dua Lipa

What made you enter #SAYS20? How did you hear about it?  I entered the competition because it gave me the opportunity to consider my song as a whole and not individual parts. I heard about the competition from ICMP London.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  I would say write from the heart, make sure that you have a catchy hook and most of all, have fun!

What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the other entrants (it doesn’t have to be a finalist!) would you like to collaborate with?  Favourite tracks are Issac Kennedy with Hardly Know You and Max Elliott with Waiting on You, and I would chose to collaborate with Max Elliott.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? The competition is inspiring and engaging, and gives young songwriters the opportunity of having their songs uniquely heard by industry professionals.

Make sure you hear the latest Young Songwriter 2020 news first by following our social media channels – Instagram, Facebook  and Twitter.

 

We’re super excited that Gus Harrower has joined our Young Ambassadors Board.  Gus is a brilliant singer songwriter from Scotland and won The Young Songwriter 2016 competition and has gone on from strength to strength.

What got you into music? Did you immediately start writing it or were you a fan for a bit first? I used to be involved with musical theatre so I was always into performing and was especially interested in the music side. I’ve also been playing piano from an early age but didn’t start actually writing music until I was around 13/14. I had my first gig but was going to be performing a set full of covers so wanted an original song in there too.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process? I can take ages to write a song. Ideas that I had months ago will reappear in my voice memos or pop back into my head at random times but my favourite part of the writing process is when you can see a song, or these ideas become a bigger thing. Its like when you’re baking a cake and you start with the mixture but it doesn’t really look like a cake until it’s baked and all it needs is decorated. If that even makes sense.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? It can start in different ways. Sometimes it starts with a lyric (with or without music) or sometimes with a chord structure. It can really depend. I’ll occasionally start a song with a title too, that can be fun. For me, I don’t think I know a song is good until it’s all finished and I can hear it in it’s entirety.

What achievement are you most proud of? I’m proud of getting recognised for my songwriting. Of course, winning the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition back in 2016 was incredible and getting to perform my song at Wembley Arena was mental and something I won’t forget. Recently, I was a finalist in BBC Radio Scotlands singer/songwriter award which was also a fantastic experience.

Which of your songs do you think is your best work and why? Ooh this is a tough one. One of my favourite songs of mine is one called ‘Where We Were’ and I just think lyrically its the strongest. I released that on a self-produced EP a couple of years ago alongside a track called ‘Rosie’ which again is a song close to my heart.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Gary Barlow

Do you feel like you’ve mastered your craft or are you still learning? If you’re still learning, what’s your next milestone? I’m always learning! Even by listening to new music, going to see a gig etc. all of that plays into what you write and if I was to say ‘I have mastered it’ I’d be so wrong. And I’d hope someone would tell me that!

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about writing songs but hasn’t started yet? Or do you have any tips for 8-18 year old songwriters who are already writing? Songwriting is just like writing a poem or a story. There’s no right way to do it so don’t be scared to dive in and get started. And to be people already writing, I think the most important thing is to be honest, to yourself and to the music. For a while I tried to force music onto a page and I didn’t get anywhere with it.

Favourites round! Don’t think about it, just say what first comes to mind. Who/what is your favourite:

Artist? Bon Iver

Songwriter? Justin Currie

Song? Vincent by Don McLean.

Album? 22, A Million

Chord? Anything with a major 7th and added 9th.

Gig you’ve been to? Take That

Lyric? “Tell her something in my heart.  Needs her more than even clowns need the laughter of the crowd” from Tell Her This by Del Amitri

Genre? Pop

Catchphrase? “S’all Good man”

Fruit? Apples

What’s your instrument of choice? Is there an instrument you would like to learn? I want to learn the drums.

Do you have any hidden talents or party tricks? I can make a snake with my hands. Not that impressive.

What are you non-musical hobbies? I like watching films, playing video games, and I went bouldering once so I’ll class that as a hobby!

What do you think matters most to 8-18 year olds? Being happy, creative and confident.

What do you like about Song Academy? It’s a unique platform to showcase young songwriters and gives them a chance to meet and collaborate with other musicians.

Aged 8-18? Written your own original songs?
Then enter The Young Songwriter 2020 competition before the 31st March 2020!

Sophia is 12 years old, from Dubai.  Her song ‘Anxiety’ made the Top 30 in The Young Songwriter 2019 competition International Category.  Congratulations!  Here’s a bit about Sophia and her songwriting.

What inspired you to write your SAYS19 Top 30 song: I wrote the song as a way to express how I was feeling about becoming a teenager and how outside influences can impact how you feel about yourself. Writing is a great way to tell a story, without the listener really knowing if it is something you have personally experienced or not.

How long have you been writing songs?  6 months

How did you get into songwriting? If I ever feel pressured, anxious or even upset, I  feel relieved that I can just let my feelings out in the form of a song.

What does songwriting allow you to explore and achieve? Songwriting  allows you to explore deep feelings and emotions. You can literally grab a notepad and write down what you are experiencing or thinking at that moment.

What’s your favourite part of the songwriting process?  In all honesty, completing it. I’m not saying the entire process is not enjoyable.  I find it rewarding to have the final product complete and be able to listen to it.

What’s the most difficult part of the creative process of songwriting for you?  The lyrics can be stressful if you’re not feeling particularly inspired at the time.

Do you start with lyrics or melodies/chords?  I start with lyrics before I begin the song. I grab a notebook and write down anything I am feeling at the time and once the songwriting process is finished, I start with the melodies.

What do you like about The Young Songwriter competition?  ?   I like the Young Songwriter competition, as it gives young people a platform to showcase their work and show their potential to people who know the industry

Who are your three favourite artists/songs?  Billie Eilish: ilomilo, Clairo: Bubblegum, Khalid: Lovely

10 years from now you will be… Writing songs for top artists as well as myself. My dream would be to write and perform at Music Midtown or Coachella. I love the idea of having my songs heard at huge music festivals.

What’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not writing songs?  I enjoy photography and playing piano when I’m not writing songs.

The top 10 finalists will be announced on the 3rd May.  Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to hear the announcement first! #SAYS19 #songwriting #newmusic #expressyourself #beheard

The Young Songwriter 2019 showcase & 10th anniversary of Song Academy celebration will be on Saturday 22nd June at 7pm at The Tabernacle, Notting Hill, London.

Star Judges include Tom Odell, Imelda May, Chris Difford, Rumer,

Eg White, Emily Phillips, Dan Gillespie Sells, Miranda Cooper & Nigel Elderton.

Now in it’s 8th exciting year, the prestigious Song Academy Young Songwriter Competition 2019 is open for entries until 31st March 2019 from young people aged 8-18 across the UK & Ireland and internationally.

The Young Songwriter 2019 competition is a supportive and inspiring platform for young songwriters to get their original songs heard and connect to their peers & key players in the music industry. This unique competition focuses on songwriting rather than singing/performance. Songs will be judged on their originality, lyrics, melody, composition, and potential to be a smash hit!

We believe that it is more important than ever, in this fast-paced, competitive and technological world, for young people to believe in themselves and be inspired by their future. Songwriting is an antidote to the pressures on young minds and allows young people to express themselves creatively and gain clarity on what’s going on in their heads and the world outside. Each year, The Young Songwriter competition brings together young songwriters who listen to each other’s stories, feel a sense of togetherness and unite in a vibrant songwriting community.  Please help us reach young songwriters aged 8-18 across the world.

There are many reasons to enter The Young Songwriter 2019 competition:

  • Get noticed by some of the best songwriters & key players in the Music Industry
  • Have your songs heard and stand out from the crowd
  • Get connected to our vibrant community of young songwriters
  • Record your winning song with a top producer in London
  • Win prizes: a professional music video & photos from the recording session, a home studio setup from Focusrite , KRK & sE Electronics, a Casio Music CT-x5000 portable keyboard, a signed Tom Odell ‘Jubilee Road’ Album, a signed copy of songwriter Carole King‘s book ‘A Natural Woman’
  • Perform in The Young Songwriter 2019 showcase at The Tabernacle, London

This competition will be separately judged for UK & Ireland 8-12 year olds, UK & Ireland 13-18 year olds and international entries. Enter online at www.songacademy.co.uk/says19 Include songs’ lyrics on your entry forms and an audio recording in MP3 format (or send your audio recording via SoundCloud).

Schools entering 20+ songs will have the opportunity of winning a Casio CT-x700 portable keyboard.

This year’s panel of award winning judges includes:

Singer songwriters/producers Tom Odell, Imelda May, Chris Difford, Rumer, Dan Gillespie Sells, Eg White (Adele, Duffy, Take That, Pink), Emily Philips (Rizzlekicks, John Newman, Maddison Beer, SOAK), Miranda Cooper (Girls Aloud, Sugababes, Pet Shop Boys, Alesha Dixon), James Walsh, Tim Laws (Gabrielle, Lighthouse Family), Jessica Sharman (Ward Thomas), Nicky Cox (editor, First News) and Nigel Elderton (Chairman, PRS for Music).

Get your songs ready!

Take advantage of our song feedback service where we provide insightful comments on the three areas of lyrics, melodies/composition and production.

Quotes from The Young Songwriter competition judges:

Tom Odell, Singer Songwriter, says “When I was 13 years old I started writing songs, and over the following years I became more and more obsessed with it. But the thing that always kept me awake at night was how to get them out there for people to hear them. This is why I think the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition is a great way to inspire and help through this process, and its something I wish had been around when I was starting out. I can’t wait to hear the songs!”

Imelda May, Singer Songwriter, says “I’m very glad to be part of The Song Academy Young Songwriter 2018 judging panel. Good songwriting is the foundation of all good music. This competition is also simply a great way for songwriters to meet other like minded people and I’m happy to encourage anyone to connect and excel in this beautifully expressive art form and cannot wait to hear the songs.”

Naughty Boy, producer & songwriter, says “Young songwriters are the future of music. A great song will always stand the test of time far beyond our years. I think this competition is important because every songwriter I’ve worked with was always waiting to be discovered.”

Guy Chambers, producer & songwriter, says “It was a great pleasure to judge The Young Songwriter 2018 competition this year.  I was incredibly impressed by the level of songwriting and musicianship among these young individuals”.

Myles Keller, PRS for Music, says “PRS for Music is delighted to be supporting the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition once again.  This wonderful competition empowers young songwriters, enabling them to showcase their talent and offering them a ‘one of a kind’ opportunity to gain crucial feedback from some of the very best songwriters.  In the early stages of a career, this kind of help is like gold dust and really enables industry newcomers to build strong, sustainable careers.”

Simon Barber & Brian O’Connor, founders of Sodajerker says “Judging the 2018 Young Songwriter competition was a fascinating experience, not only because of the wonderful breadth of talented writers who submitted work, but also because of the incredible range of responses that the songs elicited from the judges. It was heartening to see each judge devote such a great deal of time and attention to thinking about the qualities of each song, and whatever the outcome, all finalists should be proud to have reached that stage of the competition. We are delighted to play a small role in such a fantastic scheme led by such a generous organisation. The opportunity that it offers young songwriters to be heard by leading figures in the music industries is second to none.”

Rowena Atkins, Founder of Song Academy, says: “Song Academy inspires young people to express themselves, celebrate their individuality & get heard.   By connecting them to a vibrant community of their peers who all love writing songs, as well as exposing their songs to key players in the Music Industry, we help to build young people’s confidence, self-belief and drive to achieve their potential.”

Azi Eftekhari, Head of Music Partnerships in the UK, YouTube, says: “It’s so important to nurture young songwriters, helping them harness their creative energy, express themselves, and be part of a community. YouTube Music is proud to support the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition and we can’t wait to see how these talented songwriters grow through this truly impactful programme.”

Quotes from past The Young Songwriter finalists:

Laura, Young Songwriter Finalist, says “Being a self confessed bedroom musician the Young Songwriter competition has given me the opportunity to take my songs into the real world.”

Roman, Young Songwriter Finalist, says “It encourages young people to believe in themselves.”

Sam, Young Songwriter Finalist, says “I like how it is focused on songwriting and not particularly vocal or instrumental talent, especially in this day and age, where that’s a critical factor for success. But if you can write a hit, it’s arguably more impressive than if you can sing one, and I think this competition shows that.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Who are we? A Song Academy overview

Founded 10 years ago, Song Academy inspires and nurtures the next generation of songwriters & creative leaders.   We are a unique platform for young people (aged 8-18) to express themselves, be heard and be part of an exciting community.

Our uniqueness is that we focus on the creative process of songwriting – writing powerful lyrics and composing interesting melodies & instrumental parts. We develop songwriters’ skills to write a song that touches, moves and inspires people – either hit songs with mass appeal or for a niche audience. In young people’s demanding, fast-paced and technological lives, Song Academy offers a refreshing space where they can express their thoughts, fears, excitements, disappointments, and opinions in a safe, encouraging environment.  A space where they feel listened to and can contribute to others, enabling them to build a strong mental health and create their own future.

Song Academy runs after-school clubs, holiday workshops, school workshops, birthday parties and an annual international Young Songwriter competition. As a result of our programmes, we have seen a direct correlation in the increase and advancement of confidence, self-esteem, creativity, motivation, well-being and technical songwriting ability of our members.

 

 

Our Young Songwriter 2018 competition is open for entries until the 8th April.

If your pupils are new to songwriting here are a few top tips to be heard above the noise…

  1. Pick an interesting title
    Even if you are talking about a mundane, everyday occasion or feeling, make it interesting. Compare a heartbeat to a flashing light or the feeling of losing fear by roaring it away – the more inventive the concept around the ordinary, the better. Think of recent hits Dark Horse, Wrecking Ball, Pompeii – interesting titles and concepts talking about everyday feelings to do with fear, love and empowerment.
  2. Make the first four lines agree with your title
    The great songwriter Ralph Murphy says it very well in his books on the laws of songwriting – if the first four lines of your first verse can link back to your title then you’re onto a winner. Take for example Roar:

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly
Agreed politely
.. Now you’re gonna hear me roar

You create an expectation, and then you fulfil it. By doing this, you never lose sight of the message of your song, you keep in mind what you’re trying to say by always referring back to the title, thus never losing your listeners’ attention or the concept you’re expressing in your song.

  1. Playing around with a major or minor scale for new melodies
    Everyone know the monotonous sound of a scale being practised up and down and up and down – but if you’re stuck for melodies, why not try and take notes out of the scale and use those to bounce ideas off?

For example, if we take the c major scale of CDEFGABC, why not try picking out certain notes and changing the order; CDGCDFCB.  Play around with different combinations until your find the melody you’re looking for? You can choose any scale you like in major or minor.

  1. Hooks
    It has been said that the most successful ABBA songs have 5 hooks in each of their songs. A hook is a musical idea, melodic instrumental part, rhythmic phrase or a vowel/consonant sound or word repeated, that catches the ear of the listener to draw them into the song and helps to create its ‘catchiness’. According to popular commercial music today, the more hooks you can introduce throughout the song, the catchier it will be, because it’s constantly enticing the listener and, most importantly, keeping them interested. Listen to the start of Dancing Queen and the vocal ahhs and piano part before the hooky first line of the chorus, or Jessie J’s Price Tag (It’s all about the money, money, money/We don’t need your money, money, money) and try and think about hooks for your own song, either lyrically, repeating the main message of the song (e.g. Roar or Burn) or melodically, on an instrument or vocal oohs or aahs.
  2. Detail
    If you are listening to a song and the singer sings

You wore that shirt
In spring
In the sunshine

that’s all well and good. But if they were to add a bit more detail, you’d instantly have a much clearer vision of the setting which the singer is remembering and sharing with you, the listener:

You wore that dark blue shirt
On April 5th
In the warm spring sunshine

Instantly, there is context, there is detail, there is a picture in your mind and you can see what you are hearing. Imagery in songs is hugely powerful because once there is a description being sung to you, you can imagine it and therefore feel more involved in the song itself. And that’s what songs do, they connect people, they provide solace for people to know that they are not the only ones who feel or think a certain way, and all of these emotions and thoughts are translated to the masses by the medium of songwriting.

So to sum up, our top tips for writing hits are – create an interesting title, make the first four lines agree with your title, play around with your melodies, create hooks and get descriptive!  Have a play and we’re looking forward to listening to your pupils’ songs.  Enter our Young Songwriter 2018 competition before the 8th April.

Calling creative lyricists, singers & musicians!

Join our vibrant groups of young songwriters and collaborate on writing, composing, producing & recording an original song from scratch with a performance at the end! For 8-11 yr olds and 12-16 yr olds. Unleash their creativity & develop their musicality with professional songwriters.

Songwriting workshops in West London, Winchester and Emsworth.  Check out the dates and book soon to guarantee a place.

“Lets their musical and creative side run free” – Jo, Mother
“It’s awesome creating a song from scratch with professional songwriters!” – Amy, 14 years old
“Inspirational” Charlotte, Mother
“Incredible value – building important life skills as well as writing fantastic songs!” Tanya, Mother

More info and entry form to book places