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Popular Songs Are NOT The Same As Good Songs

Sep 04, 2021

Popular songs are not the same as good songs.

Just because something is playing on every radio station doesn’t mean it isn’t total garbage. 

Don’t believe me? 

Then I guess you also think that McDonald’s makes the best burgers.

McDonald’s is far and away the biggest fast-food chain in the United States. In 2017, the company generated $37.5 billion in system-wide sales from about 14,000 restaurants. 

Subway, which was No. 2 in sales in 2017, was way behind at $10.8 billion and needed about 26,000 restaurants to do it. 

What do you think the best selling burger is?

Burger King’s Whopper. 

So that’s the best burger, right? Just like that new single by The Weeknd is the best song. 

Oh, wait. Nope, that’s not what that means at all.

Why is the Whopper best selling burger? Why is McDonald’s the most popular food joint?

Is it the best burger? Is it the best restaurant?

No. But they are the most widely available. When you’re going on a trip and don’t know where to stop, McDonald’s is there. 

Wherever there are rest areas, trusty Mickey D’s is there to pump out the same food they do in your hometown.

It’s accessible. You may complain about the taste but, admit it, you kinda like the garbage. No matter what, there’s something there for you to eat. 

You know it’s not the best burger. You wouldn’t even dream of comparing it to the best burger. 

But McDonald’s is there, while The Thurman Cafe is not. 

And, like pop music, it’s easy to enjoy. It’s greasy and fatty and basic enough to attract the masses. Sure, it’s not high quality and you can’t get eggs and BBQ sauce on it, but you can still have a good old American burger. 

Pop music is often fast and simple. Largely likable to the masses. It’s catchy enough, but not too complicated or overly long and has a simple hook people can sing along to.

Vanilla isn’t the best ice cream flavor. Nor is pop music the best music.

But wait, creative arts are different from food!

So the most popular movies have to be the best, most high-quality art movies, right? 

Let’s take a look at the most profitable movies of all time:

Hm. I love Star Wars, but not a single one of the above movies is a movie I’d consider one of the best films of all time. Even the Pixar film that made it on there is one of the most disappointing Pixar movies in my opinion. Sorry, Incredibles 2. 

Some of these movies I’d even call total garbage.


But, since you still want to write a pop song, let’s look at the high quality art present on the top 20 songs of 2019.

What a high-quality pieces of art, right?

Old Town Road speaks to souls. Such brilliant lyrics. 

7 rings is quality too, isn’t it? Basically a whole song bragging about how much money Ariana has.

Literally, this is the chorus:

I want it, I got it, I want it, I got it (yeah)

I want it, I got it, I want it, I got it (oh yeah, yeah)

You like my hair? Gee, thanks, just bought it

I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it (yeah)


 Holy mother of all things good, that is a giant heap of garbage. 

Most people’s first songs are at least twice as good as that. Probably more like ten times.

So don’t tell me a song is good because it’s popular. 

No, a ton of the most popular stuff is total garbage. There’s maybe 2 songs on that whole list I’d call “good”. 

Stop pursuing “popular”. Write something good that you can feel good about

I’m not saying you shouldn’t want to be popular. It’s just not the main goal.

Would you rather have a million listeners and only be able to release artistic garbage or have 10,000 listeners and release something you feel has meaning?

If your answer is the first one, Songwriter Theory isn’t for you.

If your answer is the second one, thank you. You are the reason our world will never be devoid of quality music. 

I can’t wait to teach you every single week. I’m proud of you already.

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