A Good Song Crying From a Song Gone Bad – Bad Song! Part IV

I hope you’ve enjoyed my thread on the joys of bad song writing. I’ve introduced the bad song exercise, as a solo, co-write, or group exercise; and the Gallery of Horrors pages for your Songwriter Toolkit.

I always like to teach things I’ve tried, and try things I’ve taught. (There’s an example of a rhetorical device called chiasmus, which is another exercise!)

So I thought I’d share one piece of creative work with you, that came out of a self-challenge that came to me for my own writing as I wrestled with the idea of bad song writing. I like to push my writing forward by setting myself challenges, then trying to write them. I sometimes make the challenges fiendishly difficult: failing is fun, when what you set out to do was outlandishly unlikely in the first place.

I love songs about songs (I call them “meta-songs”), particularly songs where a song itself is personified in some way—even the very song being sung. As I was polishing up my bad song exercise, I thought about what it would be like to be a bad song. Would the bad song know it was bad? Would it think it was good? As I played around with the concept, I switched the point of view. How about a good song trapped inside a bad song? How would that song feel about its bad-song “environs” not to mention the lout that cooked up the mess in the first place? I had my concept.

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The Gallery of Horrors – Bad Song! Part III

In Part I of this thread, I introduced a “Bad Song!” exercise you can use as an ice-breaker or warm-up. In Part II, I gave some examples of great bad songs from the media, and pointed out that a talent for bad song writing is not such a bad professional skill to have in your toolkit. Here I return to the theme of using badness as a way of opening up your creative work. I guess you could call this “I’m bad and I’m proud…” or “I wrote it bad, and hey!—that’s good…”

Taking ourselves too damn seriously can definitely get us stuck.

Supposedly, late in his career, the composer Leonard Bernstein became creatively paralyzed. When he sat down at the piano he felt whatever he came up with needed to be “worthy of Leonard Bernstein.”

Now, I’m no Leonard Bernstein. But at times I “Simos freak myself out” in a similar way. I become the victim of my steadily rising standards, if not abilities. So there’s a specific tool I use to counteract the “Bernstein effect. When I come up with a real howler—a spectacularly terrible line—instead of throwing it away and trying to forget I ever wrote it, I collect it in an ongoing list I call my Gallery of Horrors.

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Bad Song! The Professional Possibilities of Bad-dom (Ba-dum?!) Part II

In my first “Bad Song!” post, I shared a “Bad Song” exercise I’ve developed that can be used in solo writing, as an ice-breaker or warm-up in co-writing, and as a classroom or workshop exercise. The spirit of this exercise is about letting go of professional aspirations for the resulting song. Otherwise it turns into “work” and you lose the point of the exercise.

That being said…

Since I first developed the exercise, the universe has been presenting me with a steady progression of great examples of “bad song writing” (not to be confused with “bad songwriting”!) that truly are professional opportunities.

First off, there are countless TV shows, like Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Frazier, 30 Rock, and the like, where bad songs are integral to the story lines. Some of these songs are side-splittingly funny, like the episode of 30 Rock (Season 5, Episode 12, “Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning”) where Jack Donaghy decides to pre-record disaster relief benefit shows for disasters that haven’t happened yet. Jenna Maroney winds up singing: “Help the people the thing that happened happened to…”—which would be funny, even if she weren’t singing about “Mayhem in Mago” and the wreckage of Mel Gibson’s sex jacuzzi.

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