Thursday, 19 May 2011

Guest Post: She Loves You? No. No. Well, Maybe A Little...

Paul McCartney: “Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs. And what's wrong with that, I'd like to know?”

“Plenty”, says Jeff Charreaux in this guest post for Beatles Songwriting Academy. He's been digging around the iTunes charts with some interesting results....

The Beatles Aren't Loved for Their Love Songs

Here are the ten most purchased Beatles songs from iTunes in the U.S.

1.  Here Comes the Sun
2.  Come Together 
3.  Let it Be
4.  In My Life
5.  Blackbird
6.  Something
7.  With a Little Help from My Friends
8.  Yesterday
9.  Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
10. Dear Prudence

Of the ten, only two are love songs. The most downloaded track in the UK, Hey Jude, didn't make the American top ten, but it isn't really a love song either.

K.A. Parker was a staff songwriter at Motown. She says that about 80-90% of the hit songs on the radio have always been  love songs, of which there are seven distinct types. The other types are character songs like Mr. Bojangles, message songs like Imagine, songs about music like Listen to the Music, and mental picture songs that are more poetic than literal. She used to teach mainly singer/songwriters to write better lyrics. Now, she teaches the Eleven Types of lyric writing at the Academy of New Musical Theatre.

Here are K.A. Parker's Seven Love Song Types (roughly):

1. Lonely
2. Tell Her How You Feel
3. Expectation
4. Honeymoon
5. Honeymoon is Over
6. Regret and Loss
7. Looking Back, Healed

You might say the top iTunes downloads don't represent true Beatles fans who already own the CDs and didn't need them to be on iTunes to have their favourites on their iPods. Yet, the most popular love song, at number six on the list, was Something - Frank Sinatra's "favourite Lennon & McCartney song" and at number eight, the one that started off as "Scrambled Eggs." So, what's the takeaway for songwriters?

If you are a Beatlesque band, all your songs should not be love songs because that is not what people want to hear.

Jeff Charreaux is the principal songwriter in Ultraviolet Eye. Their new CD entitled WAKE UP & DREAM consists entirely of Coming of Age songs inspired by the oeuvre of Ethan Hawke.

More Guest Posts!
Mark Altrogge on What Worship Songwriters Can Learn From The Beatles
Nicholas Tozier on Two Virgins


  1. Interesting points. People want love, but not always romantic love. I have always felt that myself. Not that there's anything wrong with romantic love. It just needs to be put into perspective even in the popularity of songs and music in general.

    P.S. Besides romantic love, sensual love, love of peace, the world, etc. What about pets? 'Me and You and A Dog Named Boo' and 'Wildfire' are a couple I can think about. Not that many.

  2. Good points Dan - I think the Beatles would score highly on the peace/world love too

    Pets? Awesome. What about Puppy Love? Hungry Like The Wolf?

  3. Pets -

    Paul Simon's Rene & Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War from the Hearts & Bones album?

  4. Ben by Michael Jackson of course (written by Don Black and Walter Scharfe)

  5. Re: Pets...

    Well there's "Pets" by Porno For Pyros about what good pets human would make for a superior alien intelligence.

    The other one that, bizarrely, springs to mind, is "Deller And The Dealer" (and a dog named Jake and a cat named Kalamazoo) which was on BBC Radio 2 a lot, which my parents listened to so I had to too, when I was 10.

  6. How about "Martha My Dear" about Paul's sheepdog?

  7. In My Life must count as a love song too, surely? The message in the lyrics is literally "out of all the people and places I've known, you are the one I love the most".

  8. @Matt Westcott - Jeff replied to your comment but he emailed it to me by mistake

    "Matt,You're right. 'In My Life' could also technically be called a love song. Even though it's sort of a nostalgia song with I love you more than all these sentimental memories at the end.'Penny Lane' and 'Strawberry Fields' could have become love songs if a line like 'I love you more' was added to them as well. I was waiting to see who would catch that. So 30 percent of the U.S. iTunes songs are love songs...Ooops".

    @Matt Westcott - I think Jeff has a point here. But for what it's worth I would say Dear Prudence is a love song...

    @Marv - good call - Ben is the creepiest love song to rat from a horror film that's ever been written. (what were they thinking?)

    Aren't some of the other songs are about pets rather than love songs to pets?

    @Geordie - didn't McCartney say somewhere MMD is not about his dog, but just sparked by her name in the same way Let It Be isn't really about his mum? I may be wrong.

    @Everyone. Thanks so much for the comments. It's kind of cool and bizarre that I got so many comments when we got onto love songs about pets. Maybe I should start a songwriting about pets blog?

  9. Ahem...let us not forget the sweet, tender, charming Muskrat Love.

  10. @Gary H. - was that the follow up to Puppy Love?