Take A Cliche Moment And Make It A Hit Moment

Man vs Row

Every time you use a cliche in your song, you miss an opportunity to do something great.

Cliches get used so much because they’re so easy. They are the first things that come to mind when we want to communicate certain things.

For example, it’s a lot easier to just say we’re “raising hell” or “painting the town” than it is to dig deeper and say we’re “filling Friday night full of empty cans” or “trying to make the Barhopper’s Hall of Fame.”

The cliche gives the listener information, but it’s forgettable because the listener has heard it a thousand times. There’s no emotion left in it. (Unless you somehow set up the cliche in a way that makes it fresh.)

When you go beyond the cliche, you have a chance to wow the listener with something they haven’t heard before.

A great example of this is “Summertime,” recorded by Kenny Chesney and written by Craig Wiseman and Steve McEwen. It’s about being young in the summertime, and there’s a part in the chorus where they reference driving around.

Young + summertime + driving = radio up + window down. Right? Yes, and that’s why it’s a worn out cliche. Sure, it’s true- we’ve all lived that line many times. But there’s nothing memorable or “wow” about it.

Instead, these hit writers reference a Yoohoo bottle on the floorboard. So much better!

It’s believable- I can totally picture young guys leaving a Yoohoo on the floorboard.

It’s fresh- I’ve never “seen” that image in a song before.

Bonus: It provides a fun melodic moment when Chesney sings, “Yoohoo!”

The writers took a cliche moment and made it a hit moment. It’s our job to do the same.

Dig Deeper

What do you think? What’s your take on this topic? I’d love to hear your comments. And if there are some lyrics where the songwriter make a cliche moment a hit moment, share those in the comments, too!

Knowing simple things like this is how you write stronger songs- and market-smart songs (songs that have a competitive advantage in the market).  If you want to  learn more about how to write market-smart songs, check out my ebook, “Cut/able: Lessons In Market Smart Songwriting.”  Click on the image below or click here to write market-smart songs.

God Bless,

Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.

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9 thoughts on “Take A Cliche Moment And Make It A Hit Moment”

  1. I laughed when you wrote summertime cause I knew you were going to the Yoohoo bottle. The first song of mine you listened to a few years ago you were like heard it heard it heard it. Then you talked about summertime and staying away from cliches. You just dusted off a memory. (Sounds like that could be a song unless you heard it already…lol)

  2. Chris Janson’s new single, “Buy Me a Boat,” reminds me of this post & others about imagery. He could have just said “it’ll buy me a cooler of beers and blah blah blah” but he says “it’ll buy me a Yeti 110 iced down with some silver bullets.” It’s essentially the same thing but by naming a type of cooler, alluding to Coors Light, & the image of those beers on ice makes it feel much more personal, like, I know something about the singer rather than just some guy. He does use some cliches (“money can’t buy everything”) but I think that’s a case of a well-timed cliche. It’s kind of the point of the whole song &, though cliches can be forgettable, in the right context they can make the lyrics easier to remember. Thanks for the post! Always good to be reminded of these things – makes me want to go back a tweak some of my lyrics 😉

  3. Thanks for calling me out on this one! I got a song with the big powerful line setting up the hook at the end of the chorus… That is probably too cliche.

    Hey, that’s OK, thanks for the tip and have a nice day!

  4. So true, man! I consciously, purposefully, intentionally, and vehemently search deeper and broader into immersed roots of my very own buried treasures of cliche’s..that I most often don’t even know out of what timeless chasm they lie dormant in.

  5. I always avoid a cliche when writing songs unless it’s a clever twist of one. I have found that a cliche leaves you with nothing new.

  6. Your post made me stop and think about some of the lyrics I’ve been writing and how I can take them and bring them to a whole new level by just removing the cliches and digging deeper. I was mowing the lawn yesterday after work and as I drove along on that riding mower your post was going through my mind and I thought about describing a kiss in a fresh new way and these words came to me. “A kiss that will make your senses wonder why they never felt, conviction like the Sunday thunder of a sermon from the Bible Belt”. Thanks for the lesson coach!!

  7. I think a great unknown example of this is in a song called “Invisible” by Taylor Swift and I believe Liz Rose wrote it with Swit (from the first album). The song’s title isn’t that insanely clever to say the least, however in the bridge she says “like shadows in the faded light, we’re invisible.” I think that’s a well-written line.
    Also, on the Red album, Taylor wrote a song called State of Grace (by herself), and she has a line “mosaic broken hearts.” Love that line too.

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