What Songwriters Can Learn From Jason Aldean & “Lights Come On”

 Jason Aldean has a new single out, called, “Lights Come On.”  If you’ve heard it, you know it’s not exactly an artistic stretch for him.  It might be easy for you to write it off as “just another Aldean song,” but that would be a mistake.  You see, there’s always something to learn from a successful song.  After all, this song is on the radio.  Is yours?

I don’t know the backstory of why he cut this song  (written by Tyler Hubbard, Brian Kelley, Jimmy Robbins, Jordan Schmidt, Brad Warren, and Brett Warren).  I’m not in his inner circle, but here are some elements of the song which probably made it appealing to him…

1. The song sings to the listener.

Aldean gets to sing directly to his audience- and he identifies them as HIS audience.  That’s a good way to build your relationship with them and their loyalty to you.  Fans want to connect with the artist, and the artist wants to connect with this fans.  Talking to them through the lyrics is a good way to do this.

2. The listener is the hero.

Not only does Aldean talk directly to the listener, he’s complimenting them.  They’re the hero of the story.  The listener is the hardworking guy or the cool girl who deserves a good time.  he makes them feel good about themselves, which of course, makes them feel good about the singer.  (Don’t we all tend to like people who compliment us?)

3. The singer is Yoda.

Complimenting the listener automatically casts a positive light on the singer, but the song doesn’t stop there.  It’s not just “you deserve a good time.”  No, it also says, “and I’m the guy that’s hosting the party!”  The listener is Luke Skywalker, and Jason Aldean is Yoda.  The listener is the hero, and the singer is the hero’s helper.

4. The song fits the brand.

The song perfectly fits Aldean’s image as a rocking, partying good-time loving country boy.  Sonically, it fits right in with what he’s done time and again.  Lyrically, it definitely fits his artistic voice.  If the Florida Georgia Line guys (Tyler and Brian) hadn’t been writers on this, I’d have sworn it was written specifically for Jason.

5. It’s built for “live.”

Most artists make their money by selling tickets.  And this song is a three-minute commercial selling you on coming to a Jason Aldean concert.  It’s positive, fun, and loud.  It’s something to get the crowd pumped, let them know they’re in for a good night… and hopefully, get them to the merch table.

6. The power of imagery.

When Aldean is telling the male listeners that they are awesome, hardworking men, he doesn’t just say, “you’re an awesome, hardworking man.”  No, he paints the picture of strong coffee, a power stroke diesel engine, backhoe, etc.  And he doesn’t just say, “you’re coming to a show,” he shows them hanging speakers over the crowd.  That kind of imagery makes the lyric a LOT more interesting.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  What do you think we can learn from this song?  Maybe you disagree completely and think there’s nothing to learn.  Either way, please leave a comment!

If you want to become a songwriting pro (in how you think, write songs, and do business), then a great place to start is RIGHT HERE.  I want to help you on your songwriting journey.  I’ve been in the music business for years, and I’m here to help you get the cuts – and avoid the bruises.  CLICK HERE TO TAKE YOUR SONGWRITING TO THE NEXT LEVEL.

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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.

12 thoughts on “What Songwriters Can Learn From Jason Aldean & “Lights Come On””

  1. Yeah it’s a rock’n song. Typical Jason Aldean. I like it. As you say there are a lot of images however it’s loaded with cliches and overused imagery as well. Point taken that it is a song he would live. The groove is a rock groove. Not very country but that is typical of what Alean will do. It’s his style. I don’t have a problem with that either. The song is so typical of what is coming out of Nashville today. Not surprising for the writers that are on this song. It’s a party harty song in the Bro country pocket.

  2. He cut it because of those big writers? It gets back to my original thinking that Nashville is never gonna cut a song like that from someone that doesn’t live there and is published or writing with a published writer.

    I sometimes wonder for an outsider if the song they write is hands and feet above something else would it still get cut? I have a co writer who lives in town , with a song on Aldeans’ new album that this song is on. Its his first big cut. He wrote it with a couple younger guys and one of those writers has a new album (not a big seller) where Aldean is singing on it. Connections connections…

  3. It is most definitely about relationships, as it is in just about every other field where the “product” is graded on a very subjective scale. How many songs have we all heard of that were passed on by every A&R head in town, only to become a huge hit when the writer met the right person, at the right time, for the right artist? Tons.
    I have been around long enough to have seen a great song kick down a door that was more impenetrable than front gate at Fort Knox. It happens.
    Although usually you can play the Kevin Bacon / 6 Degrees of Separation game even with those, and find that it broke down the door because a relationship somewhere along its path to the top, had unlocked that door so the song could kick it in.

    I guess my point is, that things are really no different in that regard than they’ve ever been. I remember Jody Williams (who was my first writer’s rep at BMI back in 199?) flat out telling me during our first meeting, that I was going to need to be seen putting in the work before anybody was going to pay attention. At the time, I didn’t get that at all. I figured if my songs were competitive, I’d be in. But he said something really profound, and after all these years it makes even more sense to me.
    “Todd, not to burst your bubble, but there are writers here that have been playing writer’s nights, getting rejected, picking themselves up and doing it all over again, FOR YEARS. If you were one of them, and the people in the biz on Music Row had seen you take your licks and come back for more, and yet they handed the new kid in town a sweet deal, how would you feel about that?”

    Well, I have been one of those writers, and I would be highly agitated if some dude stepped off the Greyhound and walked in to a staff writer gig on potential… It’s part of the process, a rite of passage in a way.

    So I try to write better songs, every single day, and be kind to people I come in contact with. I try to do something for people who are higher up the food chain than I am, instead of seeing what they could do for me.
    And then I try to write better songs…
    Some things never change, and really, some things never should.

  4. Love the song, its makes me feel good which is your point. I’m a fan of Jason Aldean anyway and of rock and country rock.

  5. I haven’t listened to the song yet but I believe it’s being in the right place
    at the right time. There are so many good songwriters out there who
    aren’t heard and I say be yourself, write your own way . You don’t have to
    Style it like someone else.

  6. “After all, this song is on the radio. Is yours?”
    Aldean is cemented, with a built in audience, that would buy, and listen to anything he’s done. There are tons of cuts like this sitting in the round file….the above statement does not prove any point, other than his relationships have been in play for a long time; no offense. The quality of this music has declined to the least common denominator, take a listen to Isbell, Simpson, and Stapleton to see where songwriting should be headed. It is possible to write rocking songs, that have real creative depth (see those mentioned above).

    1. The “learning points” in this post, though, aren’t about “least common denominator.” You can write songs that 1) sing to the listener, where 2) the listener is the hero and 3) the singer is also in a good light and 4) the song fits the singer’s brand 5) goes over well live and 6) uses plenty of imagery – all without being lowest common denominator. Who says you can’t add depth in there? These are merely some points of a successful framework. Not that you have to use all of the points in every song (most hits don’t have all these points). However, framing your song with these points in mind will help its chances of being successful. Now, did THIS PARTICULAR song have a better chance of being cut because of who wrote it? Yes. They can get on the bus with Aldean and in the office with his producer. Most of us can’t. So JUST applying these framework points to a mediocre song is NOT a magic formula. But that doesn’t mean that these learning points aren’t valid. My challenge to you would be to take what points you can from this and write an even better song. That’s always the goal, anyway, right? Write better songs than the other guys?

    2. Yep…Love Sturgill and Jason…Thats the bar and/but of course we have to write the typical demographic nowadays which is 15-22 single female. Well …have to only if radio play is important.

  7. This is a great article.

    Building a song for live performance is a massive tip.

    Many songwriters could take a huge leap in their commercial songwriting skills by studying great live performance and the way a song needs to be structured to work live.

    I’d love to write with more co-writers who really get this. They’re very rare.

    I think it’s also very smart to study the hits of an artist who doesn’t write songs himself.

    Your chances of a cut are so much higher with an artist like that because even though the relationships and politics still exist the artist is always in the mindset of finding the best song that suits their persona regardless of where it comes from.

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