We Covered a Legendary Croatian Song :: Short Guide How To Create a Pop Song 101

in music •  2 years ago 

In this post, I will explain how to create a true pop song, one that never dies, one that goes on repeat forever, the ultimate evergreen, a shoulder to cry on, a buddy to drink with, a girl to to gaze at until your pupils dilute, and finally, your life in a blink of an eye, Ladies and Gentleman, I give you: Chewbacca Chetri Chudaka and Chewbacca's Baka! 

In Croatian this means 'Chewbacca, Four Weirdos and Chewbacca's Grandmother'. This is a project that goes back to 2000's, when my uncle started covering Croatian (or ex-yu) pop-classics by translating the lyrics into English, and then singing them with a trembling-Brit-voice, reminiscent of Robert Smith (The Cure). For people over here, the result is usually hillarious. But I can't tell what foreigners will make of it, since they don't know the original. The songs Chubaka covers are mega-hits, so there's no problem there with the content itself - the melody and the lyrics are great. But the question is, what happens when you take the content and give it a completely new form?

During the process, we realized that in order to create a mega-hit, only three requirements exist. Only three?! you may ask, and I say to you, yes, only three. We called it 'the three P's'. These prerequisites are:

  3. PJESMA - or the SONGNESS quality

So, the song must to written in such a way that it can easily be sung and memorized.
It must be danceable, your body needs to connect with the melody and the rhythm, it needs to move you on its own.
And the last but not the least, and the most unclear so far, it needs to be a 'Song', with a capital letter. While it might be easy to create a catchy melody, and to add a somewhat groovy rhythm, the Songness quality is the most elusive of the three. How do you know your song is a really great song? (Click on the link below to see for yourself before continuing.) 

You don't. You just hope for it. You can only see it in retrospective, when your Song has withstood the test of time, when generations of people drank to it, cried to it, when it gave shelter and comfort to oh so many broken hearts. This all sounds inconclusive, but you will realize it when, and if, it happens. 

Enough with the metaphysics, let's get down to the structure. The structure of a pop song is banal, really. The simplest formula is this:


You can add a couple of verses, or a couple of choruses, but the result is the same. In our case, the structure was as following: 


As with Vladimir Prop, who discovered that folk tales always follow the same sequence, although they might have a pair of extra choruses, we are in the same kind of situation. Essentially, the most important thing is that you have THREE PARTS:

  1. A - the VERSE
  2. B - the CHORUS
  3. C - the BRIDGE

I have consisently ridiculed the C throughout the years, but finally I succumbed and realized that binarity doesn't cut it. You need to have a C part in order to give the listener the time to breath, to let his attention relax for a period of time, let him forget about the chorus. That's the most important thing, because the last chorus needs to be as grandiose as possible. That's why composers (by this I mean producers of mainstream radio music) often write really shitty C parts - because the worse it is, the chorus will come out better. Yep, it is counter-intuitive and paradoxical, but you really can get away with it. Because it doesn't matter what happened, it matters what happens next.

So, to get back to our song, we followed all of the above-mentioned rules of structure. The gods of pop are pleased for the ritual we followed, for sure. We introduced the song, then cut it to a low-level chorus, followed by a first real verse, then a stadium chorus. That's where we switched to the C part. First the solo, then silence and a slow build-up to the final choruses. The song itself is pretty long, I'm aware, but I don't see it as something necessarily grabbing your attention every second of the song. It moves forward, and if you lost track, you will get it back, because it was designed that way. 

As for the three P's, at the beginning, we were sure we got a Song, that one wasn't on us. It was written by one of the greatest pop composers in Croatia, Djordje Novković, and sung by the ultimate pop legend, Mišo Kovač, who makes stadiums roar with a flick of his finger. Songness, check. The same goes for the melody. So the most important thing for us to do was to give the song a dancy groove and to dot our I's regarding the structure and the dynamics of the song. That's what most of the arrangement was focused on. We built a nice backbone with only bass and the drums and then just stacked layers upon layers, closely examining what the effect on the each respective part will be. I was recording back vocals and guitars, while Mišo added synths, which in the end turned out to be crucial for the dynamics and the flow of the song. It must not get boring, unless you want it that way (see the infamous C part). So, every moment you think there's not enough going on and the you're losing the listener, you come up with some kind of a riff, a sound, a lick, to kind of shake him back to the song. And if you do it well and consistently, it should work out fine.

And that's what we did. After this lengthy theorethical part, I invite you all to listen to the song (upstairs) and let me know how it works for you. Because, in the end, you don't really know the original. But if you're that interested, here it is. 

Thanks a lot for reading and do comment on the song, I have no clue what your feelings might be. Take care!

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What did I just listen to? :D
If you decide to go, if you say goodbye...
This actually sounds much better than the original, lol :) Malo me podsjeća na navijačke pjesme na stadionima :D

hej, malo mi je falilo da postam ovo ispod vašeg zagrebačkog meet-upa. jer kontam da bi vi više cijenili, hehe. drago mi je da je stiglo do tebe :)

Nanjušila sam Mišu :D