What makes a song? I’ve been listening to the R U Talkin’ REM Re: Me? podcast as they assess REM’s entire back catalogue. They judged Out of Time and found it wanting: one of the Scotts went so far as to say that a couple of the songs weren’t really songs at all.
But why? They use musical instruments, vocals, melody, harmony. My songs - and I’m talking about the ones I’m predominantly responsible for, rather than Gaby’s - have those things. They also have a verse, chorus and bridge in various appropriate, hopefully pleasing and balanced combinations, tonic relief, and solid (if unadventurous) rhythm. Surely you can pick 'n mix from anything on that list and claim to have a song.
So why do my songs often feel like a musical Pinocchio: they want to be real songs but somehow they aren’t?
It might be the execution. I was lucky enough to have one of my songs covered by a friend. It was transformed from a simple and jaunty guitar tune to a sweeping, piano-powered delight. It didn’t hurt that she’s a wonderful artist.
Another friend and collaborator said that’s just how it is: there’s little perspective on your own work, get used to it.
For now, I’ll keep an eye out for Jiminy Cricket.