OW....Just wow! What an amazing collection of songs we received as entries for this year's song contest.
Last Thursday our panel of judges sat down to listen to and discuss the 30 songs submitted. Our task was to select just five which will go out to public vote throughout the month of September. The styles varied from rock, pop and rap to folk, country, ballads and even comedy.
This year, our five finalists were chosen by four people for whom music composition is a huge interest, perhaps even a way of life!
⦁ Darren Parry: Published songwriter from Merthyr Tydfil who has himself had much success in international songwriting contests. He was the winner of the 2004 UK Songwriting Contest, one of the longest running and most well respected in the world. He has been runner-up in several US competitions with his songs being judged by the likes of Beyonce, Lenny Kravitz, Gwen Stefani and Phil Collins. Check out his website to see the plethora of big names Darren has worked alongside as a solo artist and to hear some of his own well-crafted songs. www.darrenparry.com
⦁ Gavin Clifton: Talented songwriter, from Newbridge, South Wales who also knows what it is like to reach the final stages of the prestigious UK Songwriting Contest. Gavin is well known by many local artists and is a regular collaborator at the Shabby Road Studios in Caerphilly. He has been writing songs seriously since 2011. His most recent work of which he is really proud is a charity single Talk To Me for William's Syndrome Foundation www.cliftonmusic.co.uk
⦁ Haydn Rushworth: Filmmaker, director and screenwriter who made the brilliant videos to accompany our finalist last year and has kindly agreed to do the same this year. Last year, Haydn told me that one of his ambitions is to discover one of the future stars of the international music scene right here in Newport! Anyone who is looking for a great video for their song should look no further than Haydn. He offers a great creative service at a very reasonable price! See some of his work here: www.haydnrushworth.com
⦁ Kym Frederick: Yes, that's me, representing Newport City Radio on the selection panel. I cannot claim to have the knowledge and experience of the other judges on the panel although I have studied songwriting as a short Open University course and spent decades listening to songs. I like to call myself an appreciator of music and enjoy hearing something new and original. If you listen to my radio shows, you will know that I just love to know the "story behind the song"
I asked my fellow judges what they were looking for in a winning song. Here are some of their comments.....
If you ask 10 different people what makes a good song you'd probably get 10 different answers...but for me a great song makes me feel something, it communicates an emotion, be it happiness, sadness, anger or passion. Somehow, it has to strike an emotional cord and make me feel the way the songwriter felt at the time of writing.
A song should have a memorable melody, preferably one that can be sung back or hummed after only 1 or 2 listens. Lyrics that can clearly convey the message of the song without being too personal so that others fail to understand the concept of the song.
Great songs convey a universal truth or emotion that many people can relate to - e.g. "Yesterday" by the Beatles is about 'loss of love and how things used to be'. "Happy" by Pharrell is obviously about being happy and elated about something. The important part in focusing on the concept of your song is having a concept, to begin with. What do people want to hear about? Themes of love and loss are the most popular but songs can be about anything... as long as people can relate to it.
My advice to a new songwriter might be: maybe... instead of spending 5 hours on the guitar sound, spend 5 hours on making the central idea something people can relate to, as generally, people don’t listen to songs because of how the guitars sound (ok some do .)
A lot of 'hit' Pop/Rock songs - have a message that is clear, simple, catchy and easy to relate to but.... there are many ways to skin a cat!
I'm listening to these song submissions with the question, if I walked into a living room and heard that song on the TV but had my back to the TV, what would I imagine I would see when I turned around. What would be happening on screen? What kinds of characters would I see?
It's clearly not the only way to decide what could be a hit song, but it's a good starting point for me.
I really should add that I’d be ideally looking for a song that powerfully conveys an emotional connection. That sounds very arty-farty, but it’s more clinical than that. Let me explain...
If I want to feel Christmassy, I play songs that powerfully stir up that emotion.
If I’m having a tough time in my job and feeling undervalued and want to pick myself up and give myself hope, I play 9-5 (it’s about time that somebody re-recorded that song) or Bad Day.
I want songs that are powerful theme tunes to my life’s strongest emotions. When the FEELING I’m experiencing is Heartache, Bereavement, Romance, Jealousy, Determination, Freedom, Chilled-out, Afraid, Lonely etc, well-written music AMPLIFIES and MAGNIFIES those emotional experiences in a way that is like an emotional crutch for all of us. I’m looking for songs like that.
I'd agree with Darren and Haydn. Emotion is key but it has to be the listener's emotion that counts in the end. It's all very well the songwriter pouring his or her heart out in a song but the listener is far more concerned with what is going on in their own life than that of the artist so the clever songwriter will be able to make that emotional connection.
I also want a song to get to the point quite quickly. Unless I'm lazing about with nothing to really do or think about, a long drawn out intro will lose my interest. I want to hear the song's hook quite early on.
If the song has a story, I want that to be clear the first time I hear the song, I'm not very good at riddles!
I love great lyrics to a song but I do think that a simple yet catchy melody is what makes us actually stop and listen to the words. It's what gets us picking up the lyrics and start singing along.
And a great riff always makes a song memorable.
Finally, I love it when a songwriter chooses an unusual subject for a song. Romance and lost love will always be popular but who would have thought a song about two veteran freedom fighters reminiscing about the Mexican revolution could be one of the best selling singles of all time! (Fernando by ABBA.)
Who could imagine that the observations of life on a coach journey would become a top ten hit? (National Express by Divine Comedy)
So, I'm pleased to be able to say that the final five musical creations for this year's Newport City Radio Love Live Music Song Contest have now been chosen and the videos to accompany those songs are in planning right now. All we need from YOU dear reader is your vote when the songs go out into the big wide world of social media!
The final five songs are (in no particular order)
My Biggest Fear by Crisis Talks
Live It by Shimai
Let it Fly by Zoila
In The Morning by Jack Perret
Deadbeat City Blues by Ben Dain-Smith
We are currently putting together a special radio show to showcase all thirty of the songs submitted for the 2018 competition so watch out for news about that.
Our sincere thanks to all our judges but most of all to the songwriters. We hope you enjoyed taking part and that you will do so again next year.
Special thanks to Haydn Rushworth for his generosity in making the music videos.