I was asked to write a motivational song. Easy enough. There is not much trickery to it. I just have to write something about how great things will turn out if you keep on believing in yourself.
As homework, I decided to do a bit of song analysis. Let's see what song forms other popular motivational songs take on and see if there is something in these songs that made them popular. It is not difficult to find motivational songs. There has been many of them throughout the history of pop music. To choose the songs to analyze, I googled for inspirational songs, and came up with 13 songs, many from the list at lifehacks.
You may come up with a list of your own favorite inspirational songs. Feel free to add your list and analysis in the comments below.
Looking at the song form, one thing became very clear, i.e. each song is structured a bit different, but there is no definite thing in the song form that will make an inspirational song different than any other pop song. Most songs in my analysis has the standard verse-chorus plus bridge structure. Louis Armstrong's What a wonderful world is the only song in this list that broke away from that form with the AABA song form.
Many of the songs have an anthem section, either as the chorus, or part of the chorus, or, as in the case of Don't stop believing, an anthem added as a bridge part at the end.
The theme of the lyrics are also diverse. There are a few run-of-the-mill love songs, a few breakup songs, a few general-life inspirational songs, and even a few protest songs. The one thing common amongst them all are the positive inspirational message, usually sung as the chorus or anthem.
Here is my list of the13 popular inspirational songs:
Purple rain by Prince
It is the epic performance by Prince and the production of this song that makes it stand out. It is in essence a standard love song with a standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus (ABABCB) song form, with a fairly extended add lib section at the end. The chorus is in an anthem style.
Stronger by Kelly Clarkson
This is a great modern pop song with a ABABCB form and the first break-up song on the list. The first verse gives the backstory - rather sad and down in mood. The chorus immediately changes the mood to an inspiration song with a possitive message in an anthem style. The second verse moves the story forward into the present with a 'take that, you bastard' type message. The bridge moves the story line further forward into the future, with the last chorus and add lib to re-inforce the anthem.
Don't stop believing by Journey
This is a classc in every way. The song form is a standard verse-chorus song with a bridge (ABABC). It is different from the previous two songs in that it does not return to the chorus at the end, and the bridge forms the anthem part of the song. Typically of many 80's pop songs, this one has pretty impressive instrumental breaks in between.
Ain't no mountain high enough by Marvin Gaye
This song is from an era before bridge sections were common in songs. The song form is very standard verse-chorus form with a variation in form by starting the song with the chorus, and repeat the chorus at the end, making it a BABABABB form. The theme is a standard love song, with every verse giving the same message in different words. The chorus is in an anthem style.
Save the world tonight by Swedish house mafia
This is the first protest song on my list with a very strong message. The song is made even more memorable with a very cute music video of the doggy gang saving the world. Song form is plain ABAB (verse-chorus-verse-chorus). The anthem is mostly pointless oohs at the end of the chorus, in my view spoiling what would otherwise have been a great song.
Skyscraper by Demi Levato
Another break-up song in standard ABABCB form. The verses starts with a backstory, then moves the song into the present, with the bridge giving a conclusion to the story line. The songwriting team of Gad, Koiv and Robbins did a great job of following a very standard format. Even though the message is very possitive, Demi's performance gives the whole song a very sad mood. This is the first song on my list that lacks an anthem section.
Get up, stand up by Bob Marley
Another political protest song. The song form is identical to Gaye's song above, i.e. chorus-3x(verse-chorus)+chorus (BABABABB). It is the chant-like chorus / anthem that makes this song memorable.
It's my life by Bon Jovi
Another 80's pop song, with everything that makes Bon Jovi's songs popular. Another ABABCB song form with an almost-over-the-top anthem style chorus. The lyrical theme is a general-life inspirational theme.
Where is the love by Black eyed peas
Another protest song with a standard 3x verse-chorus form (ABABAB). The chorus consist of three parts, with a pre-chorus, anthem and chorus.
What a wonderful world by Louis Armstrong
This is another general-life inspiration feel-good song. It is unique in that it is the only AABA song form on my list, with added BA sections and a simple refrain at the end. The song does not really have an anthem section, other than the refrain.
Stand by me by Ben E. King
Another love song in the verse-chorus form (ABABB). A classic in its simplicity with the chorus as the anthem.
Lovely day by Bill Withers
Another love song in the 3x verse-chorus form (ABABAB). Beautiful song, but nothing special. Not much of an anthem.
Beautiful day by U2
Before I go on, let me make something very clear. These guys are infinitely more successfull than I could ever dream to be and this song sold infinitely more than any of my songs. I respect these guys and have no right to critisize them, but can merely state my opinion, which, in this case I will withold.