Science & Society

The songwriter is inventive – the singer, not really

Country music songwriters must perform a careful dance when they work with well-known singers who might be less skilled at composing melodies however bring the required star power to attract fans – and, critically, to get the song recorded in the first place, look into proposes.

An investigation of 39 successful country-music songwriters found that they utilize two techniques to explore creative collaboration with more famous artists.

“You have these recording artists who are being required to co-write their own songs, but maybe that’s not their skill,” said Rachel Skaggs, the study’s author and an assistant professor of arts management at The Ohio State University.

“And then you have songwriters who are brought in to help, and to collaborate, and they have to balance this. There’s the need to make money and make a living, and the need to not have their name on a ‘bad’ song.”

The investigation, published in September in the journal Social Psychology Quarterly, distinguished the two systems – what Skaggs has named “bespoke facilitation” and “the manipulation dance” – that songwriters utilize to co-compose songs with somebody who may be a popular performer, however, who probably won’t be an extraordinary songwriter.

“There are these strategies for when collaborators don’t have the same idea of what they want to happen, particularly if one collaborator is much higher status — a more famous artist who is important to their label,” Skaggs said.

“And if you’re the songwriter in the room with them, you don’t want to undermine that collaborator. You want to identify that they have something to bring to the table, and maybe it’s their fame, but maybe it’s not creativity. So what are the ways around that? How can you still create something that is good, but not alienate or belittle your partner?”

Such collaborations, between well-known artists and successful songwriters, are becoming more common, Skaggs stated, due to economic pressures on the music industry.

“We often think about creativity as being this very personal, independent thing, like some kind of prodigy in a room by themselves and their creative juices just flowing, but really it’s a socially constructed process,” she said.

In any case, that implies that exceptionally skilled songwriters may find themselves in a room with an artist who has a lot of celebrity, yet very little ability – or in some cases, interest – in writing a song. For the investigation, Skaggs talked with songwriters who are, she stated, exceptionally successful in the country-music industry.

The songwriters’ reactions showed that most either attempt to take a backseat to the singer – what Skaggs called “bespoke facilitation” – or they come in with the songs for the most part composed – “the manipulation dance.”

“Bespoke facilitation is basically where the songwriter might say to the artist, ‘Oh, you’re from Ohio, so we’re going to write a song called ‘Ohio Girl,'” Skaggs said. “It’s really kind of hitting on personal branding.”

That personal branding is significant in this age of social media, Skaggs stated, where fans want to feel a connection to the artists they love.

Be that as it may, it could likewise imply that the songwriter, in writing a song that caters to the artist’s personal brand, may lose notoriety focuses among their songwriting community.

“It could be seen as fluff, right?” Skaggs said.

On account of the manipulation dance, Skaggs stated, songwriters may attempt to present thoughts just as they were the more famous artist’s own. All things considered, Skaggs stated, the songwriters for the most part pre-write a large portion of the song – one songwriter referenced composing a chorus and a few sections early – at that point casually recommend the thoughts as though they began with the artist.

“They’ll get in the room and maybe it’s hard to corral the artist, and so they’ll say, ‘oh, what was that you wrote a minute ago, artist, that was so good?’ And they’ll introduce something they have already written,” she said. “And — it’s kind of deceptive, right? But it seems to work.”

That methodology – the “manipulation dance” – seems to be particularly compelling in situations when a songwriter wants to push the artist toward something with “more artistic merit,” Skaggs said.

“Maybe that could be a Grammy-nominated song as opposed to only a chart-topper,” she said.

Skaggs said her discoveries could likewise be appropriate in different partnerships where partners are crisscrossed in some way – an office environment, for instance, or a group project in a school or volunteer association.

Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No News Feed Central journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.

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