Luke Bryan’s current single, “Light It Up,” is lighting up the country singles chart. Today, let’s take a look at some of the ways they built this song to be a Luke Bryan hit.
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Let’s look at some of the choices that Bryan and Old Dominion member, Brad Tursi, made when building “Light It Up.” Now, I wasn’t in the room with them, so I can only speculate at the thought process behind the end results. But as a professional songwriter myself, I can take an experienced and educated guess. So let’s dive in.
1. Stick to the brand.
Overall, this song is built to fit Luke’s brand of country. The lyric is young, hip and sexy. It’s a love song, and a desperate one at that (more on that in a second). The lyric sings “me to you,” which is more sexy and impactful. Luke is singing TO the female in the audience, pleading with her to light his phone up. The phrasing and production are also more progressive than traditional, which also fit’s Luke’s brand.
2. Speak to a large audience.
How many people can relate to desperately hoping someone will call, to the point where they obsessively check their phones? That’s a pretty universal thing, so that’s a large audience who can relate to it- especially Luke’s target of young listeners. Also, notice how the lyric doesn’t talk about how he checks his phone 100 times at work? (Has Luke EVER had a job in his songs?)
He keeps it young. Yet, he doesn’t talk about checking his phone at school, either. He sidesteps both and keeps the lyric open enough that both junior high school kids and young professionals can relate to it. Really, anyone missing someone can relate to it. It’s open and speaks to a large audience. But it isn’t vague, which leads me to…
3. Show me, don’t tell me.
There are a lot of images in the song, and it puts us in the moment. Right in the first line, we see him open his eyes and reach for his phone. We see him checking the phone right after his shower and almost wrecking his truck checking it. We see him unlock his screen, and we see her red lipstick picture. As I mentioned in my last point, it’s open enough for many, many listeners to relate, but it is not at all vague. He’s not just saying he misses her, he shows us how he checks his phone all throughout the day.
4. Focus the lyric’s emotion.
The story is one of tension and desperation, bordering on obsession. The lyric is relentless in painting the picture of the guy whose whole world is wrapped up in waiting on her to call. Notice how many times they repeat “I check it” throughout the song. The repetition is intentional. Not only is it real and relatable, it builds the sense of obsession and angst.
Also, they keep the song “in the moment.” Luke doesn’t sing about how he kept checking his phone after their fight in the past. No, we follow along throughout his day as he checks his phone, checks his phone, and checks his phone. It’s immediate. It’s “right now.” And it adds to the sense of tension and desperation.
The writers know the emotional button they’re pushing, and they keep pressing it. They don’t get sidetracked with other emotions- they don’t “muddy the waters” of the song. They know what they want the listener to feel, and they focus on that. They keep it simple. And there’s power in that simplicity.
Okay, those are four areas in which Luke Bryan and Brad Tursi built “Light It Up” to be a hit song. Of course, those aren’t the only elements that make “Light It Up” a hit, but they’re four important ones. If YOU want to discover even more of the elements of building a hit song, I have an awesome opportunity for you.
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God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,
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, a #1 in Canada & a top 10 in Texas… so far.