I just wrote a song called ‘Buttercup’ where I drop the f-bomb four times. I’ve only ever dropped the f-bomb into a song once before and I took it out when I came to recording it. The reason I took it out was because the song was, essentially, a children’s song about a hare – so I used the word ‘furry’ instead. This new song though, is a grown up song so the f***s are staying.
As a songwriter who’s quite particular about the words I use, I don’t just throw them into songs willy-nilly or use them gratuitously. They have to contribute. Words can do that in a number of ways and I’m comfortable keeping these expletives in the song for a few reasons.
Buttercup is quite a rhythmic song that benefits from a punchy, beat driven delivery and the f-bomb is a plosive knuckle duster – powerful punctuation.
Buttercup has four verses and the f-bomb drops in at the exact same place in each verse, three syllables before the end of the second line. This isn’t necessarily something that most people would pick up on but, as a bit of a songwriting nerd, this is the kind of thing that makes me happy.
Buttercup is a grown up, messed up love song. Slang and colloquialism seem perfectly appropriate here.
I reckon the word in question is now in such common usage that it is unlikely to offend. I hear the word being used in presentations and much more frequently on TV etc. I’m not completely happy about this because I think it’s good for language to have edgy bits but this does now feel slightly de-fanged and it’s not such a big deal now to use it.
You’ll no doubt have noticed that I’ve shied away from using the actual word here in this very defence of using it.
I expect all songwriters have different processes, routines and techniques of putting songs together. I even have different processes, routines and techniques to myself. I don’t write songs the same way I did two years ago. I don’t even feel that I write songs the same way that I wrote my last one. I’m now contemplating getting started on a bunch of songs for release this year and I’m finding that I don’t know quite how to approach them. I’ve a few things that I’ve started writing recently that I’ve stopped because I felt myself falling into forms and themes that felt too familiar. The more I write, the more I become aware of patterns emerging in what I do – and the more I try to step away from them into new territory.
I’m aware there’s a growing risk of me falling into a verse, verse, chorus, verse, instrumental, chorus, verse, playout format. It’s okay to have the odd one among several songs having that structure but I want more. I also want to explore different themes in my songs and not just write maudlin reflections on our place in the universe. I want to break out of the strict metre cage I’ve built around my lyrics and use blank verse instead. I’ve followed a very narrative form in my lyrics. I now want them to be more of a snapshot – less concerned with the beginning, middle and end. Also, I want to have a few upbeat tunes rather than my usual aching, post-folk meanderings.
I’ve always written songs that are quite personal but I might try writing songs about other people. I like songs that are provocative. I might try to be a bit more gobby. Might stop trying to be deep and clever and try to be cool. I might stop writing when I’ve got a handful of good words and just work with them, rather than forcing myself to write more and end up with a whole that’s just alright.
But before I try any of that, I really need to get myself and my guitar to sit down with that pen and that notebook. I need to focus and I need to concentrate. As we embark on year 2 of lockdown my friends, that is my biggest obstacle.