“Castle On The Hill” – Ed Sheeran (2017)

Posted: April 28, 2017 in 2017
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A favorite book I recently read is CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL SONGWRITER by Shelly Peiken. Shelly is a songwriter based in Los Angeles and has been writing professionally for over 30 years. Her songs have been recorded by a slew of successful artists and include top hits “What a Girl Wants” by Christina Aguilera and the Meredith Brooks’ Grammy-nominated song “Bitch” (1998). In the book, Shelley openly, and often hilariously, shares her perspective and experiences of how professional songwriting in the music industry has changed over the past few decades. Songs being written by one songwriter or a co-writing team have evolved into the common practice of inviting a roster of songwriters into the recording studio, having everyone present their ideas and only the best ideas are picked and used. Sometimes a songwriter will contribute only one line to song which clearly explains how some of today’s top charting songs have numerous writers credited to a finished track (sometimes over 10!.)

Growing up a fan and songwriting disciple of great writers like Bob Mould, Paul Westerberg, Tom Waits, Noel Gallagher, Linda Perry, Liz Phair, Robert Pollard, Adam Duritz and countless others, this new approach does seem to border on ruining the craft of songwriting. But I personally would never dislike a song for the sole reason of too many songwriters being involved in its creation. Now I admit I am guilty of how I have perceived some of the new popular artists – simply lumping them all together as radio-friendly musical acts who record songs formulated by ‘songwriting committees’ – excellent singers and performers but not ‘real’ songwriters. I can also admit when I am wrong. A few weeks ago I fell asleep watching Saturday Night Live and for the fifth time in my life was undeniably awakened by an incredible song playing live on TV (yes, sometimes great songs find me). The job of great songwriters is relate to and move people in a unique way through storied lyrics, memorable music, hooks and melodies. On the song “Castle On The Hill”, Ed Sheeran absolutely nails it. Sheeran co-wrote the track with Benjamin Levin (aka Benny Blanco), who has written top songs for Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Gwen Stefani and many others. The end result of achieving a great song is what matters most to me. Here’s proof that this modern-day formula of teaming talented people together to write meaningful music can work just fine.

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