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Songwriting competiton: The Judgement

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Ignar Hillström
(@ignar-hillstrom)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5349
Topic starter  

Okay, it's has been some time now so I guess it's best to have each judge post their feedback independantly, we'll just average all the scores at the end for the 'final winner'. Too much in the judgement-process is based on taste anyway so I guess it's best if each contestant gets three independant reviews instead of one 'general' one. Note: these are my opinions and absolutely nothing more. The quality of songs was *much* higher then I expected, espescially given the discussion that followed about whether or not it should be put to music or not. I think I can safely say that each of you should stop hiding in the songwriter's forum and venture into the 'hear here' forum, and if possible frequently. As people might know I'm pretty nasty when in comes to feedback, I don't do compliments out of politeness, espescially not on the internet against people thousands of miles away. Let me just summarize my feelings about this little competition: these songs deserve to be heared, and from what I hear I'm pretty sure each of you can come up with more songs. Do yourself a favor and record them. Post them online, find an open-mic. I'm not kidding, you all rock.

All songs can be heared here.


   
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Ignar Hillström
(@ignar-hillstrom)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5349
Topic starter  

Embrace the Darkness - Life Story

This entry by Peter "Embrace the Darkness" would be best described as a 'troubadour' song. Like most lengthy storytelling-songs the general structure is kept fairly simple to make remembering the whole tune easier. On itself that's no problem, it works, but it doesn't score a whole lot of points in the originality or creativity department.

The actual lyrics, which are ofcourse the most important part of a song like this, work pretty well. There's not too much use of imagery and analogies while the why the story is put isn't too dry either, which makes for an 'honest' feel, in a sense. The music really is there to support the lyrics, there's not a whole lot of variation happening at all. Personally I'd like some breaks in between with some new ideas or variations upon the theme as it gets kinda repetitive after a while.

The way the lyrics are put to the music is, in general, sufficiently good. Some parts don't seem to flow that well but in general the way it's sung works. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any kind of 'progess' in the song, it kinda ends on the same pace and 'feel' as it starts, with not much change in the middle section either. Given that this is a fairly long song it does create a rather 'flat' vibe to the song.

However, you have to take things in perspective: songs like these are rarely filled with variety and spice, it's more a form of story telling with music to support it. As such it works better then the above 'review' might suggest.
Originality and creativity 04 points.
Lyrical imagery/lyrical flow 07 points.
Music - chord structure, melody 04 points.
Dynamics - phrasing, tempo, overall song 05 points.
The Whole Thing 07 points
------------------------------------------------------------------------ +
Total 27 points
Final score (27 + 5)/5=6.4


   
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Ignar Hillström
(@ignar-hillstrom)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5349
Topic starter  

Robert "bobw" Wiegers - Don't pray for me

Robert offers us a terribly, terribly depressing song so the happy-gp-lucky people might want to look (or listen) another way. Those who chose to listen will be rewarded with a song that's as powerfull as it's short. While it's always hard to judge originality and creativity this song definitely has a 'feel' of it's own, which is what I look for most.

The lyrics themselves are pretty strong, it doesn't require too much imagination to picture yourself the sad and depressive scenes as each verse gives a slightly better view on what's going on. The question of whether the lyrics actually work or not is best answered by looking how it affects me, as a listener. In that sense we've got a winner here: this song is painfull in the most positive meaning of the word. The music is fairly basic but supports the lyrics wonderfully well: it's catchy, each section builds up nicely and the melody fits right in. It's downright catchy and after hearing it once you can't help but sing along.

As for the dynamics part: there isn't too much happening with actual dynamics, but the phrasing and presentation is more then sufficient. In a way the song is, IMHO, too short to really build up so the way it is now is probably best for a song like this. When it comes to the Magic and Mysterious Mojo this song succeeds easily. It's simply a good, no, even great, song. I wish I had written this.
Originality and creativity 07 points.
Lyrical imagery/lyrical flow 08 points.
Music - chord structure, melody 08 points.
Dynamics - phrasing, tempo, overall song 07 points.
The Whole Thing 08 points
------------------------------------------------------------------------ +
Total 38 points
Final score (38 + 5)/5=8.6


   
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Ignar Hillström
(@ignar-hillstrom)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5349
Topic starter  

Coleclark - The Mindgame

Coleclark offers us some straightforward modern American poprock in the style of bands like Green Day and such. Originality is not that high because of that but this song still has plenty of original aspects to score decently on this aspect.

The lyrics of songs like these are, IMHO ofcourse, often, well, pants. This particular song actually is better then most of this kind of music I hear on the radio. The flow is very, very good, all the syllables sit precisely where they should be, emphasis is correct throughout and the general meaning/feeling of the song shines through. Bravo for that, I'd say.

The music is somewhat 'standard', I constantly feel I've heared it before, but it fits the lyrics well, it's well executed, the melody is catchy and appropriate. So while it's not veryoriginal music, it is well-made and obviously some thought went into the song as a whole. That's important, because the better you can envision the music the better you can write the lyrics.

The dynamics are fairly good. Again, the breaks and such are not very original but they do the job well and sound convincing. There's a good drive to the song which is not that easy given the fact we're dealing with just a guitar and vocals, I can only imagine how this would sound as a full electric rock song..

As for Mojo: it's not my favourite style of music but I have to admit: this is one well-made track. Everyone into contemporary US poprock should definitely check this out, and even those who don't normally care about it might want to give it a shot.
Originality and creativity 06 points.
Lyrical imagery/lyrical flow 08 points.
Music - chord structure, melody 08 points.
Dynamics - phrasing, tempo, overall song 08 points.
The Whole Thing 08 points
------------------------------------------------------------------------ +
Total 38 points
Final score (38 + 5)/5=8.6


   
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Ignar Hillström
(@ignar-hillstrom)
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Posts: 5349
Topic starter  

Neil "Chefie" Stuart - And so it goes

Neil Stuart's entry falls somewhat in line of the works of Simon & Garfunkel and is a typical singer/songwriter song. To start at the beginning: this song has a certain vibe to it that just feels original, even if I dont know why. The first three seconds I thought I was listening to 'Bookends' or such but after that the song kinda openend into a vibe of it's own.

The 'story', if I can call it it that, is great. I really liked lines like "And The lessons in life are on a need to know basis", this song really managed to say what we probably all know but in a different way. The rhythm is sometimes a bit 'mechanical' as if you're sturggling to fit it all in but so be it. The music is fairly basic but functional: the arpeggiated opening sounds really dreamy and the strummed second part adds the needed variation. Nothing too fancy but sufficient for this kind of music.

As for dynamics and such, not too much of that in this song. It kinda keeps a flat line as it continues, which might be boring to some and fitting to others. In a sense I guess it's both: more variation in dynamics and tempo would be nice but it does seem to support the feeling of 'acceptance' that just shines through every verse. This is not the song of a man who embarks on a great journey but of a man who just finished it, ended up somewhere totally different then planned. It sounds like acceptance and, in a way, understanding. If Coleclark's offering woul be described as 'youthfull and uncertain' this song would be mature and wise.

As for Mojo: hard to say. You have to appreciate the song for what it sets out to be, not critique it for what it's not. And I guess that in that sense this song succeeds.
Originality and creativity 06 points.
Lyrical imagery/lyrical flow 08 points.
Music - chord structure, melody 05 points.
Dynamics - phrasing, tempo, overall song 05 points.
The Whole Thing 06 points
------------------------------------------------------------------------ +
Total 30 points
Final score (30 + 5)/5=7.0


   
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Ignar Hillström
(@ignar-hillstrom)
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Posts: 5349
Topic starter  

Raytrack - Rest in Peace

This track is a fairly 'strong' accoustic song with a strong pulse and drive. Already in the beginning bonus points for originality are scored with some nifty things happening in the chord progression.

The lyrics itself is filled with all kinds of imagery, I think the story could best be descried as colorfull. At times the words seem a bit stretched out in order to fit them in, which sometimes conflicts a bit with the fast-paced drive of the accoustic guitar but it sits well mostly. Sidenote: the lyrics as sung dont always match the lyrics you wrote down, which is kinda odd.

The music is very nice: I really like the chord progression, the instrumental break adds a lot to the vibe of the song, the drive is pretty strong and powerfull. The only thing I am not entirely enthousiastic about is the vocal line, which sometimes seems a bit uncertain and 'meandering' in a way.

The song is also, esepscially for it's kind, pretty varied and 'spicy'. Just prior to the break things were about to get a bit stale but that is quickly solved, the basic progression is nice and the little details put in really add flavour the whole song. In short this is a good track, although the vocals sometimes dont seem to sit well with the music, or not as well as they could.
Originality and creativity 07 points.
Lyrical imagery/lyrical flow 08 points.
Music - chord structure, melody 08 points.
Dynamics - phrasing, tempo, overall song 07 points.
The Whole Thing 06 points
------------------------------------------------------------------------ +
Total 36 points
Final score (36 + 5)/5=8.2


   
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Ignar Hillström
(@ignar-hillstrom)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5349
Topic starter  

Blueline - Paint it Blue

This track by Blueline is probably best described as hopeless, and I mean that positively. Probably will have to fight Robert's entry for 'most depressing song', even though both songs are very different from each other. Originality points are scored by all kinds of things, from the chord progression, the vocal harmonies at the end.

The lyrics are good but are at times a bit too vague, it's more about a general feeling then really telling a story. As for the presentation of the lyrics there's very little to whine about, the lyrics fit perfectly, wouldn't have a single suggestion on what to change at all.

The music is very nice and fit the feeling or mood of the song really well. Some really nice progressions, a pretty catchy chorus, good melodies and even some vocal dubbing at the end. While there's isnt too much happening tempo/dynamaic wise the song has enough variation to keep it interesting and 'entertaining' throughout.

As for Mojo: this is an excellent song. Period.
Originality and creativity 08 points.
Lyrical imagery/lyrical flow 07 points.
Music - chord structure, melody 08 points.
Dynamics - phrasing, tempo, overall song 07 points.
The Whole Thing 09 points
------------------------------------------------------------------------ +
Total 39 points
Final score (39 + 5)/5=8.8


   
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chefie
(@chefie)
Prominent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 553
 

Thanks Ignar,

Job well done. I know it took a lot of work and it is appreciated. Lots of insight, excellent comments.

Neil


   
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coleclark
(@coleclark)
Honorable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 417
 

wow! what a lot of detail! which is exactly what we wanted :D

hugely good job Ignar!! you have my eternal respect :)


   
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Blueline
(@blueline)
Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1704
 

Thanks very much Ignar.
It's obvious you put a lot of time and effort into the reviews. It is greatly appreciated. As you know, feedback is important. Especially from another musician like yourself. You rock!

Teamwork- A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction.


   
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kingpatzer
(@kingpatzer)
Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 2171
 

First -- this is a great effort by everyone involved. You guys have done a
fantastic job here and should be proud. I'm a harsh critic, and I tend to
focus on what I see as being areas for improvement rather than
applauding what is done well. Please don't take that as a slight, that's
just my nature -- I always tend to look for what can be improved.

Everyone who posted a song for this should be rightly proud of having
taken the chance to share their work publically like this. All of these
songs are usable material. You guys did great work!

Embrace the Darkness - Life Story

This is a nice story song, and it ihas it's moments but ultimately I
found the slight lack of consistency in verse structure a problem.

The rhyme scheme for the versus is established as 'A,A,B,C,C,B', but
then that scheme is changed for what seems like no good reason.

There's not a lot of imagery, metaphor or allegory here, it's a straight
forward story that is to be taken on face value. As such, it makes
good rhymes, compelling word choices, and a strong rhyme structure
that much more important. That's what carries a song like this.

Some of the choices (rhyming best with quest) work well, but others
are very weak (around with downs). And then the rhyme scheme is
abandoned. It's as if the author focused so much on the narrative
that the other aspects of song structure just got lost half way
through.

Musically, this song is flat and just doesn't grab me. The chord
choices are predictable and don't really shake things up enough,
and they don't seem to support the meloncholy nature of the
overall lyric. I'd like a stronger minor feel overall and just in
general more movement.

The problem with story songs in general is that the narrative needs
to be compelling to make the song memorable. This song, however,
doesn't really have a great narrative to drive the story. There is a
great idea of a good story here, but it's unrefined and not fully
developed yet. It strikes me as a great start to a song idea, a draft that
needs more work.

Originality and Creativity: 03 points
Lyrical imagry/lyrical flow: 03 points
Music - Chord Structure/melody 05 points
Dynamics - phrasing, tempo, overall song 06 points
The Whole Thing 05 points
------------------------------------------------------
Total 22 points
Final Score 4.4

Don't Pray For Me -- bobw

This song has a great lyrical flow, and a wonderful feel in the way it is
presented. The structure has a few weak points, but all in all is very well
crawfted. The structure is simple and straight forward. The song itself
is relatively short and the guitar work forms a significant part of the song,
lending to the depressing feel and making it even darker than the lyrics
suggest by themselves.

Some rhymes are weak (weak with heartbeat for example), and there's
nothing really creative in the imagery presented, but that works in this
case as the song's story is brutal and stark.

The song works well. It's very well crafted and polished. But it seems
short both musically and lyrically. That too, though, works with the
underlying message of the brutallity and shortness of life. What's amazing
to me is the way you know exactly what's being said without any
explicite incite into what the singer means by being " a world away" and
"already free."

The music is just perfect for the song. Dark and minor without being
depressing. It moves easily through the versus and chorus, but doesn't
divert your attention from the lyrics.

I dropped the dynamics score largely due to length. Part of "tempo" and
phrasing is how fast the song comes to a close. This one is just too
short for me. I can see that working as an artistic choice for this
material, but honestly, I suspect it's not so much an artistic choice
turning the song structure into a metaphore for the underlying lyrical theme,
but rather, that the song is just too short . . .

Originality and Creativity: 06 points
Lyrical imagry/lyrical flow: 07 points
Music - Chord Structure/melody 08 points
Dynamics - phrasing, tempo, overall song 04 points
The Whole Thing 07 points
------------------------------------------------------
Total 32 points
Final Score 6.4

Coleclark - The Mindgame

I'd call this a post-punk pop tune, and it works pretty well. The
music flows nicely and has a very nice feel to it. It's easily
something that could be heard on the radio.

But one of my presonal criticism of the whole alternative genre
these days is that it's pretty generic sounding. There's nothing
surprising or new here, musically.

Now, for pop music, that might be good. The listeners of that genre
seem to like vanilla -- everything sounds like everything.

Lyrically, the structure of this type of song isn't a big driver, rather
it's how the syllables fit with the music. Rhyme scheme and structure
are less important than how the words and music fit. In this case
they fit together very well and it keeps the song flowing.

I do like the metaphors of sunlight and moonlight here. The poetic
elements work -- but even these work because they're the generic
uses of those metaphors we've all heard a thousand times before.

It works. But it's hard to judge quality for a genre piece where being
part of the genre where there's such a ubiquity of the generic.

It is listenable, but it lacks anything to bite my teeth into as a song.

Originality and Creativity: 03 points
Lyrical imagry/lyrical flow: 05 points
Music - Chord Structure/melody 05 points
Dynamics - phrasing, tempo, overall song 05 points
The Whole Thing 05 points
------------------------------------------------------
Total 23 points
Final Score 4.6

And So It Goes - Chefie

My first thought for listening to thish song is that it needs some help
with the mastering.

This song has a very tight structure. It shows a lot of work went into
crafting the song itself. And there are a few very surprising rhymes here:
basis with oasis caught me completely off guard, for example, that show
sparks of real creativity. But others are a bit mundane -- sky and eyes,
mother and brother, lost and cost.

On the one hand the tight structure is very impressive, but the number of
cliched rhymes is hard to get past.

The song works though, in that the message, the music and the laid back
vocal presentation all convey the same "and so it goes . . " message. It
is a study in the theology of Ecclesiastes revamped for a modern audience.
As such, the song works quite well.

Musically, the song is flat and less interesting than the message and lyrics
deserve. It needs a certain mellowness, but mellow need not be boring. A
more developed base line or some fingerpicking -- something to move the
song more musically, would have been a big boone for this tune.

Over all, this song works. You can just picture some fellow sitting on a porch
at the end of the day strumming and singing this song as an anthem to
the acceptance of the banality of the average life.

Originality and Creativity: 05 points
Lyrical imagry/lyrical flow: 08 points
Music - Chord Structure/melody 04 points
Dynamics - phrasing, tempo, overall song 04 points
The Whole Thing 06 points
------------------------------------------------------
Total 27 points
Final Score 5.4

Rest In Peace - Raystrack

Musically this may be the most creative song in the bunch. The song
has punch and some interesting rhythmic moments that aren't quite
predictable. The song makes you want to continue to listen to it
to see where the music goes.

The real upside of this song is the very creative story line and the
equally creative imagery used to convey the narrative.

It's just a good narrative and strong music.

But it's also jarring in places, the structure doesn't seem to quite fit,
and it's hard to quit figure out if it's intentional -- to convey the
uneasiness of the story through the music, or if something doesn't quite fit
correctly.

In other words, each individual part of this song is very strong, but
somehow together they're not as compelling.

Originality and Creativity: 07 points
Lyrical imagry/lyrical flow: 08 points
Music - Chord Structure/melody 07 points
Dynamics - phrasing, tempo, overall song 08 points
The Whole Thing 05 points
------------------------------------------------------
Total 35 points
Final Score 7

Paint It Blue - Blueline

This is, first of all, an excellent recording. To my ear it was the
most well mastered song of the group.

Musically, it's also very creative, with some unexpected little twists
to keep it going. The outro was an excellent break from the rest
of the tune.

The song conveys the feeling of loss very well. The catch lyric "seems your
life's been painted blue" fits in a strong way in each verse.

My only complaint is that the relationship between the singer and the subject
is just vague. I don't know who Virginia was to the singer. Wife? Lover? Friend?
Mother? Sister?

And what was left behind? The song is about a broken and bereft life
after the loss of someone special -- but what was broken isn't really specified.

The simple structure works to support the song, and works well. This song
has a lot going for it. But ultimately, I'm left to wonder why I as the
listener should care. The lack of specificity in the story leaves me with
out a reason to care too deeply.

Originality and Creativity: 07 points
Lyrical imagry/lyrical flow: 05 points
Music - Chord Structure/melody 09 points
Dynamics - phrasing, tempo, overall song 08 points
The Whole Thing 05 points
------------------------------------------------------
Total 34 points
Final Score 6.8

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


   
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Blueline
(@blueline)
Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1704
 

Great insight! Thanks for the work you've put into the reviews. You're input is invaluable to us all.

Matt

Teamwork- A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction.


   
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coleclark
(@coleclark)
Honorable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 417
 

very, and i agree totally with the generic dodgeyness of my song, the lyrics are so...overused? it doesnt have any quality to it, i abandoned my usual cryptic and dark lyrics for a poppy tune this time, i dont think il do it again too soon. although the public reception to everyone iv played this song to has been amazing, very positive...its always the way hey! you get stuck playing the songs you dont love! and then you play one close to your heart and people say 'mmm...nah. play the other one!'

*sighs* :P :P


   
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Embrace_the_Darkness
(@embrace_the_darkness)
Honorable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 539
 

Big thanks to Arjen and Kingpatzer for their comprehensive reviews; its obvious you guys put a lot of thought and effort into those, and its great for us "contestants" to get great advice about our work.

Cheers much! :mrgreen:

Pete

ETD - Formerly "10141748 - Reincarnate"


   
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Raystrack
(@raystrack)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 123
 

Thanks to all those who have put in the time and concentration to offer these critiques.

To pick up a couple of points on mine.

I changed the lyric in the second verse but didn't have it in front of me on the recording so I sang the original - hence the disparity.

This is a prog-rock / Genesis inspired song. The pauses in tempo are deliberate and work when other instruments are added.

The vocal was poor and though the rules stated that performance was not a factor, it is inevitable that presentation will affect judgement, especially in the 'Overall' mark for which I was universally panned :( .

http://www.raystroud.com
http://www.myspace.com/raystroud


   
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