The Test of a Good Melody
My sister writes songs. When she can’t think of a lyric, she sings fannies. Fanny, fan-fan; fanny, fan-fan.
Since my daughter and I co-write, we have a similar method. For the most part, my daughter writes the melodies and I write the lyrics. It’s not a rule of ours; we tinker outside of our respective realms. But this is how we work, for the most part.
So she’ll send me a melody with nah-nah-nahs or do-do-dos. It could be fannies, I suppose. But the point is, when you hear a song this way, the melody is totally unobstructed. You can hear whether it fits with the message of a song, and you can hear the lyrics working or not. There are no words to drive the song, except the ones in your head.
It’s also a good test of how strong a melody is. How many times do you have to listen to remember it? Do you still want to sing it, even with nonsense?
The example I’d use is the love song, “H.O.L.Y.” by Florida Georgia Line (top of the Hot Country Songs Billboard chart, No. 14 on the Top 40 Singles Chart this week.)
When I first heard this song, I didn’t really care for the reference to holiness. Not that love isn’t sacred or that it can’t be holy, but your loving someone does not by itself make someone holy. It might make the person seem like an angel from heaven, but holy is a stretch. Think of all the once angelic people you may have dated who later became louses.
I realize that sounds terribly cynical, but there’s another point here; love is not a measure of another person’s goodness. It’s more a measure of your giving of your own heart. You don’t love because of goodness or what someone’s done; often you love despite it. It’s not cause and effect. If it weren’t so, we couldn’t love devils (though we might wish we did not) as well as angels. Yet I believe most of us have.
But I digress. Back to the song. I found myself singing it. It starts out with simple guitar picking, joined in a few measures by piano chords, which give it real power. The lyrics also use long vowel sounds, which tend to be melodic: Holy, high, you.
So it’s a love song with sweet words. But it’s the strength of the melody that drives it. Even without the words, it meets a simple but fundamental test: You can sing fannies with it, and still feel the message.
Pick your lyric for the chorus and just sing. Nah-nah-nah, do-do-do or this: “Fan-fanny, fanny, fanny, fanny-fan, high on lovin’ you, high on lovin’ you.”