This is going to be a weird one, but I wanted to start a little list of the things I like about music, and what I think makes a good song. I think the definitions are somewhat objective in the sense that the qualities all need to be there for it to be fully “great,” but subjective in as far as whether people understand or are attracted to it. Let me explain: To have a good (objectively good, not “good” in the sense that everyone will like it, even if they should) song, you need these qualities:
Originality (stand on the shoulders of your heroes, pick a new fruit off of the tree)
Honesty (this is a tricky one; there’s a thin line between fabricating a loss or a break-up just to have something to whine about and to have an excuse to front a black-haired band, and using an example of it to speak some universal truth about loss, even if it didn’t necessarily happen to you. It all rests in motivation, and since You Never Can Tell what people mean when they say what they say, or what their reasons are behind it, you have to sometimes either suspend disbelief in order to enjoy a song, or built a sort of relationship with the songwriter based on whether they’ve been honest in the past. Does that make sense? Earn my trust!)
Catchiness (sounds superficial, but what I mean is, it’s got to have substance, something that makes it stands out and helps the song grab the attention of the ear. Great songs don’t always do this on the first listen, sometimes it takes 3 or 4 or 5 or more listens to pick up on it)
Self-Serving (written for the song-writer, not an audience; meaning, you would write the song for yourself, even if no one else was around to hear it. The best musicians love to make music, and I know that sounds silly, but there are so many bands out there who seemed to be motiviated by everything but actually creating a decent instance of music).
Finally, there has to be the willingness of the listener to meet the song halfway. What I mean is, everyone loves the Blue Album from Weezer- why? Because the songs on that album are so great and also so catchy, the listener has to do very little to meet those songs and appreciate them. Those songs practically come to your doorstep and make out with your mom. And you dad LOVES it. He sings along! Meanwhile, there are far less The French Kicks fans than Weezer fans (at least in the US) because The French Kicks are definitely a band you have to meet more than halfway. You’re at least going to have to drive to the midway point, which happens to always objectively be Ceresco, Nebraska. It just is. Then, finally, there are bands like Sigur Ros. Now, I am still on my way to meet this band. I can see them off in the distance, and let me tell you, they are shredding. I can see that they are good. But they are so far away, and I keep getting sidetracked by Nada Surf and Superdrag, who are in the car with me, singing songs I learned on the second listen. So while it’s not impossible to go all the way to meet Sigur Ros, it’s tougher because they are farther away on the “originality” side of the spectrum, and it takes actual effort to get to them. Meanwhile, “Say It Ain’t So” is still making out with my mom.
HOWIE- Please do your best to comment/add to this, if you have anything: I would love to hear what you say on the matter. I remember one time we were talking about someone who believes a song is an objectively “bad” song arguing with someone who likes this “bad” song, and how they are arguing past each other. Maybe expand? It’s a profound concept that I didn’t get at first, but leave it to Baby Beaver!