Monday, November 24, 2014

Bonus Content: My Writing Process

Thank you for reading this here exciting exclusive bonus content not available anywhere else on the Internet!  I call this here exciting exclusive bonus content not available anywhere else on the Internet, "My Writing Process."

I want to be clear that I'm not attempting to write "songs" here.  I can read and write words.  I cannot read and write music.  I do not have the tools to create original or compelling melodies, rhythms, or beats.  I have the looks for radio, but not the voice.  I do not play an instrument.  I cannot perform.  For these limitations, I cannot really even call my pieces lyrics.  They are poems.  At best they are poems that wish they could be called lyrics.  They are not songs.  If I slip up and call any of these pieces "songs," hopefully the "word guys" will fix that in what they call "editing."

As I was making my way through Taylor Swift's discography, I came across these "Voice Memos," where she talked about HER writing process.  I thought that was awesome sauce!  It actually inspired "Leap of Faith," which I believe is much better than the earlier version, "Wear Your Safety Helmet," which itself was better than, "Stump Them All," which I'm not even going to bother discussing (to save space on the Internet -- oh, Lord, what will we do if the Internet ever runs out of space?!).

Some of you may be wonderin' and worryin' about what goes on in my brain.  I thought it would be fun to talk about MY writing process here.  That's why I call this here exciting exclusive bonus content not available anywhere else on the Internet, "My Writing Process."  I'm going to discuss "Leap of Faith" and "Wear Your Safety Helmet," then later I will share even more exciting exclusive bonus content not available anywhere else on the Internet about "Hey Stephen" and "Dear John."

My take on "Jump Then Fall" is that this is basically a song about "trust falls" and, of course, "personal relationships."  It took me a whole day to come up with the idea for "Leap of Faith," which is about offering support and encouragement to Taylor Swift, making her move from Nashville to New York, and from country to pop.

See, most songs are generally one person talking to the whole world, what you call your basic "Universal Theme."  "Leap of Faith" is the whole world talking to one person in particular: Taylor Swift.  What I do in "Leap of Faith" is have all the folks IN the world who wish Taylor Swift well, wishing her well.  I call that narrative shift, "The Ol' Switcheroo."  I invented it so I get to name it.

That's why the narrative voice very subtly switches from "I" to "we".  This is not me talking to Taylor Swift, this is lots of folks joining together to say, "Hey, good luck with your move!  You're taking a big step, but you can do it.  You go, girl!  You are the Audrey Hepburn of your generation.  No pressure, though!"

Now "Jump Then Fall" came out in 2009 or 2010.  You may be wondering how I knew back then that Taylor Swift would be moving to New York in 2014, or for that matter, how I knew that Stephen Colbert would be moving from basic cable television to broadcast network television in 2015?!  I'm sorry, I can't reveal all my secrets.  Just sit back, relax, and let the magic happen, folks.

The idea behind "Wear Your Safety Helmet" was: I hate you, I hate your guts, I wouldn't lift a finger to help you, so if you want to survive in this world, you should wear your safety helmet.  But, really, secretly I LOVE YOU, and I just can't bear the thought that anything bad might happen to you and I wasn't there, or able, for whatever reason, to protect you or save you.   Like, if you got a paper cut, I would just DIE!  So, please, please, please, PLEASE, baby-BABY-BABY, please, please, Wear. Your. Safety Helmet!  I call that the "I-Want-You-to-THINK-I-Hate-You-But-Secretly-I-Love-You Twist."  I invented it so I get to name it.  I couldn't pull that one off.  My reject pile is not empty, folks.

Keep reading the next sentence after this one for even more exciting exclusive bonus content not available anywhere else on the Internet (and the next sentence after that, and so on)!

Here's some more exciting exclusive bonus content not available anywhere else on the Internet about "Hey Stephen" and "Dear John." 

I have a dream that one day Taylor Swift will NOT perform her version of "Hey Stephen" on The Stephen Colbert Show because she is laughing so hard about my version of "Hey Stephen."  But my dream is not a simple dream!  No, my dream is complex and multi-layered, like the movie "Inception."  My dream actually goes on to have a dream of its own!  My dream has a dream that in the future, Taylor Swift fans at Taylor Swift concerts will request "Hey Stephen" by screaming, "'Stephen Colbert Song!'  'Stephen Colbert Song!'"  Then my dream's dream goes on to dream that one day, Stephen Colbert will be my real-life bro... So, if you DON'T see Taylor Swift on The Stephen Colbert Show perform "Hey Stephen," you'll know that dreams do come true...

By the way, you may be wondering if there's an app for your phone that can tell you about the next time Taylor Smith and I will be appearing together at like a movie premiere or an awards show.  But... Blaylor.  Taise.  Not gonna happen.  I'm sorry, Tay-Tay.  It's not you.  It's me.  I can't really tell you why, but I'm sure you've heard the expression, "Don't Taise me, bro."

Now folks, Tay-Tay has such a deep... well of strength and resolve... that I'm sure she'll get over this latest... we'll call it a heartbreak.  Eventually.  Let's just give her a moment to collect herself.

Ok...

                                    Ok...

                                                                      Ok...
Now, let's move on...

But, really, I'm only mentioning "Hey Stephen" because when I realized that Taylor Swift wrote her version of "Hey Stephen" to Stephen Colbert, host of the Stephen Colbert Show, it helped me to come up with the idea to write my version of "Dear John" to John Stewart, host of "The Daily Show with John Stewart."

See, Taylor Swift's version of "Dear John" is an example of what literary types call a "Dear John Letter."  If I had invented it, I would have named it the "Dumping-You Letter."  I haven't worked out who Taylor Swift is talking to in that song.  I've narrowed it down to either the guy from Waltons or John F. Kennedy, Jr.  I wish she had just called it "Dear John-Boy" or "Dear John-John" so I could tell for sure which of the two it was!

My original idea was to do a gender-switch and write "Dear Jane."  To Jane Espenson.  She did a real good job on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," but since then, she's moved from show-to-show-to-show-to-show (and so on) 'til I just can't even keep up!  What are you up to, gal?  I don't even know!

However, I realized that as on-camera talent, John Stewart is much more famous than Jane Espenson.  See, on-air talent always get more love than the behind-the-scenes folks.  So, since John Stewart is more popular, a song to him would be much more UNIVERSAL.  So I dropped Jane Espenson like an ugly girl at the prom and moved on to John Stewart like a much prettier girl at the same prom.  (Except he's a dude.  Whatever.)  I'm not saying that it's fair, I just try to be realistic.

I'm sorry, Jane.  You're in the Friend Zone.  It's not you, Jane.  It's me.  But if you were to hire me as a "producer" on your next show...  Hey, you've DIRECTED, haven't you?  Have you ever been to North Carolina?

Back to "Dear John."  This poem is what you call a "hybrid," because the main stanzas are in what you call blank verse, and the chorus is like a real poem, with rhymes and such.

Let me tell you about the chorus first, because I'm so proud of the hook.  See, the hook is the most important part of the song -- if you can make a good HOOK, that's like money in the bank!

See, what I did was, I took the same word, and I rhymed it with itself two more times!  (Actually, I did all that with a whole SENTENCE, but that's beside the point.) 

Then, I took a whole another word, that rhymes with the first word (or the first three words, depending on how you look at it), and made what I call the "AY-AY-AY-YAY! Rhyming Structure."  I invented it, so I get to name it.  You got that?  "Tonight-Tonight-Tonight-All Right"  "AY-AY-AY-YAY! Rhyming Structure."  But, there's a little more to it than that...

See, I also added these 4 little starter lines just before each of these other rhyming lines.  I call one of those starter lines all by itself a "boom."  I invented it, so I get to name it.

So what you have here is
Boom-
    AY
Boom-
    AY
Boom-
   AY
Boom-
  YAY!

or what I call the "Boom-AY-Boom-AY-Boom-AY-Boom-YAY! Rhyming Structure."  I invented it, so I get to name it.  The acronym for that is "BAY-BAY-BAY-BYAY!"  But there's more to it than that...

The last line of the chorus in "Dear John" -- or the YAY! -- is actually a variation on that whole idea, because it ends with a question mark.  "All right?"  So I call that the "Boom-AY-Boom-AY-Boom-AY-Boom-YAY? Rhyming Structure."  I invented it so I get to name it.

Now look closer at the acronym for "Boom-AY-Boom-AY-Boom-AY-Boom-YAY!"  That's "BAY-BAY-BAY-BYAY!" Say it fast.  And peppy.  "BAY-BAY-BAY-BYAY!"

Now, say it 3 times, fast and peppy.

"BAY-BAY-BAY-BYAY!"
"BAY-BAY-BAY-BYAY!"
"BAY-BAY-BAY-BYAY!"

That's a hook, baby!  I call that the "BAY-BAY-BAY-BYAY! Hook." I invented it, so I get to name it.  If you put that hook in your song, you gotta pay me.  I'm a solid gold hook-er.  I'm not calling myself a hooker; I'm a do-er.  And what I done did is give the world two great hooks!  You're welcome, world!

Now, on to the main stanzas.  I chose to write the main stanzas in what literary types call "blank verse."  That's because as a "Dear John Letter," (or if you, like me, prefer, "Dumping-You Letter") "Dear John" comes across better if it seems like a letter.  Now you may be wondering, if there's no rhythm, meter, structure, or beat, how can this be a tune?

Look, if Dread Zeppelin can cover Led Zeppelin reggae-style with an Elvis impersonator belting out the words, there's a ditty here.  Don't worry.  Have a little faith.  The "sound guys" will fix it in what they call "post."

See, I'm trying to help John here.  John has some "ISSUES," and I'm trying to let him know about'em (through Art)... Help-me-help-John.  Just sit back, relax, and try to be supportive.

Well, that's what I come to tell you today.  Thank you.