Songwriter's Corner|

Photo: Diane Warren (Facebook) | By David Pogue, CBS Sunday Morning | What makes a perfect love song? Is it slow and sad, like “My Funny Valentine”? Or upbeat and poppy, like “Uptown Girl”? Or maybe it’s sultry and bluesy (“Let’s Get It On!”)? There are a million ways to write a love song; what are the key factors to creating a timeless song about a timeless emotion?

It’s not an idle question; more people listen to music at Valentine’s Day than any other time except Christmas.

As the editorial director of the music service Spotify, Sulinna Ong is in a perfect position to observe the latest trends in love songs. “Over 105 million users create their own playlists every Valentine’s Day,” she said. “One of the main themes is vintage sound. So, it’s the real appetite for ’50s and ’60s music.

“And the other trend that we see is what we call anti-Valentine,” said Ong, “ranging from, ‘God, I can’t believe I went out with that person,’ to ‘I’m happy being single and living my best life.'”

Nate Sloan, who teaches musicology at USC’s Thornton School of Music, says that 70% of all hit songs are about love and relationships. Sloan’s specialty is the history of pop and jazz, and when it comes to love songs, there’s a lot of history.

USC’s Baroque Sinfonia performed, for “Sunday Morning,” a Spanish song that is 500 years old, in which the singer says he’s in love with three different girls. “Very little has changed,” said Sloan. “These are very universal and sort of timeless emotions that people tap into for a love song.”

You might think that the Elvis hit “Can’t Help Falling in Love” was written in the 1960s:

It actually dates back to 1784! “It’s a French love song called ‘Plaisir D’Amour,’ that Elvis and his collaborators reworked into the pop standard we know today,” said Sloan.

So, what are some golden rules for creating the perfect love song?

Golden Rule 1: Say something fresh.
“I think it’s imperative that songwriters come up with a new way to say, ‘I love you’ in every song,” said Sloan.

Few songwriters have found more fresh ways to say “I love you” than Grammy-winner and 14-time Oscar-nominee Diane Warren. Thirty of her songs have hit the Top 10, and 29 of them are about love and relationships.

“Who knew?” Warren laughed. “Since I know nothing about them!”

“Are you saying that you write these songs not really having experienced much of what you’re writing about?” asked Pogue.

“Not to the extent of some of my songs,” she replied. “You know, I can write, ‘I could stay awake just to hear you breathing,’ but I don’t want anybody to stay awake hearing me breathe!”
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Go here to read the rest of the story, the hints, and to watch amazing videos:

Story produced by Gabriel Falcon. Editor: Joseph Frandino.

Photo: Diane Warren

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