Breaking Down What Makes A Hit Song a Hit

Gibson Girl By Gibson Girl, 23rd May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Music>Composing Music

In this paper I will look at the lyrics to The Band Perry's song, "Better Dig Two", and break down what makes the song a hit.

In search of answers

As a full time singer/songwriter, I am always looking at what is successful in my field, and trying to discern what the magical formula is that makes it skyrocket above and beyond all the others.

Written by Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, and Trevor Rosen, "Better Dig Two" is The Band Perry's first single off of their sophomore album, Pioneer. In this paper, I will be looking at the lyrics of the song, and offering my opinion as to what makes the song a hit. Please understand, these are only my opinions, and in reading the lyrics you may make your own determination as to what has caused the song to gain such popularity.
I recommend that if you are not familiar with the song, that you go to iTunes to either download an mp3 of it, or listen to a minute of the song.

Better Dig Two

Verse 1
I told you on the day we wed
I was gonna love you til I's dead
Made you wait til our wedding night
That's the first and the last time I'll wear white
Verse 2
So if the ties that bind ever do come loose
Tie them in a knot like a hangman's noose
Cuz I'll go to heaven or I'll go to hell
Before I'll see you with someone else
Prechorus/Channel
Put me in the ground
Put me 6 foot down
And let the stone say
Chorus
Here lies a girl whose only crutch
Was lovin' one man just a little to much
If you go before I do
I'm gonna tell the gravedigger that he Better Dig Two
Verse 3
It won't be whiskey, it won't be meth
It'll be your name on my last breath
If divorce or death ever do us part
The coroner will call it a broken heart
Prechorus/Channel
Put me in the ground
Put me 6 foot down
And let the stone say
Chorus
Here lies a girl whose only crutch
Was lovin' one man just a little to much
If you go before I do
I'm gonna tell the gravedigger that he Better Dig Two
Dig Two
Bridge
I took your name when I took those vows
I meant 'em back then and I mean 'em right now
Oh, right now
Combo Verse/Channel
If the ties that bind ever do come loose
If forever ever ends for you
If that ring gets a little too tight
Might as well read me my last rights
And let the stone say
Extended Final Chorus
Here lies a girl whose only crutch
Was lovin' one man just a little too much
If you go before I do
I'm gonna tell the gravedigger that he better dig
There'll be your stone right next to mine
We'll be together til the end of time
Don't you go before I do
I'm gonna tell the gravedigger that he Better Dig Two
Tag
I told you on the day we wed
I's gonna love you til I's dead

Melody Matters

Okay, first and foremost, in my opinion, the melody plays a big role in this song's success. It has a fantastic signature lick on the banjo during the intro to the song, that continues onward into the verse. A signature lick is simply a repetitive melodic riff that makes a song instantaneously recognizeable. For instance, the song "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd has that instantly recognized lead guitar at the beginning of the song... one doesn't even have to hear a single lyric to know what the song is. That is a signature lick.
When writing our own songs, it is not entirely necessary to create a signature lick, but if you can come up with one that automatically has people listening, bobbing their heads along with the tempo, then you're definitely off to a great start.
Melody is literally the first thing that the listener latches onto. The sign of a good melody is one that allows the listener to join in and hum along after hearing the first verse and chorus.
Prosody is also very important in this. Prosody is basically the marriage of the lyric with the melody. If the lyric is a sad one, then the melody should follow suit and "sound" or "feel" sad to the listener. If the lyric is all about hanging out with friends at a rockin' party, then the melody should in turn be uptempo and upbeat... therefore creating prosody.
The prosody in "Better Dig Two" works perfectly... it makes the song feel a little forewarning, the singer definitely believes in being faithful to her beloved, but she wants him to know that should he ever stray, she's not gonna let him go so easily. If she can't have him, no one can. There's even one spot in the song after she's told him that if the ring on his finger no longer agrees with him, that they might as well read her her last rights... at this point the music fades away and before starting up again, you hear the kick drum give three beats that in my opinion sound a lot like gunshots. 'Nuff said!
The melody of the verse flows seamlessly into the melody of the pre-chorus / channel and from there into the chorus. Each section has it's own distinct melody, which helps the listener distinguish between the different sections, but still they all feel like they belong together. As writers, this is what we must also strive for in our melodies.
Another technique that the writers of this song created was to make the melody in the verses go from high to low, then turn it around in the chorus and have the melody go from low to high... once again creating the edgy feel that the song creates.

Rhyme Time

Rhyme is extremely important and effective in this song. The writers used an A-A-B-B rhyme scheme the entire way through. In other words, lines 1 and 2 rhyme with one another, and lines 3 and 4 rhyme. There is only one spot in the song where the rhyme is not what is considered "perfect rhyme" but fits into the "close" or "near rhyme" category.
"Wed" and "Dead" are examples of perfect rhyme.
"Hell" and "Else" fall under the close rhyme category.
I tend to be on the fence with what type of rhyme is best in a song... I love perfect rhymes, and what makes them work so well in this example is the fact that the meter of the song is so perfect as well, that rhyme and meter go together like a hand in a glove. It creates an almost hypnotic feel for the listener... sort of rap-like in a sense, without the singer ever rapping in the song.
My issue with perfect rhymes is that although it does create a seamless rhyme, sometimes it also makes the words used very predictable, just like when you're listening to a song on the radio for the first time and the singer sings one line, and you the listener are able to sing the next line with them almost verbatim, having never heard it before, but knowing exactly where they're going.
This of course can be a good thing... after all, you do want the listener to sing along. However, in my experience, those songs are usually the ones that I tire of the quickest... to the point where I can't change the channel quick enough when it comes on the radio. It's definitely a very slippery slope to walk.
Near or close rhymes, on the other hand, open up the song to a wider choice of lyrical possibilities. I absolutely love it when you can write a song's lyrics down on a piece of paper, and if someone came across that paper and read it, they would literally think that you had simply been writing a letter to someone you love, or someone you're breaking up with, or someone you're just completely frustrated with.
Always remember to keep it conversational. Rhyme is extremely important, just never let it get in the way of what you want to express to the listener.

Wrapping it all up

So, what have we discovered in the song "Better Dig Two"?
First, the melody is perfect for the lyric. It has prosody, a great signature lick, and each section blends seamlessly into the next.
Second, the rhyme scheme is concise and fluid throughout. I can understand why I was able to sing along after hearing it only a couple times.
Finally, the lyric delivers it's message clearly and conversationally.
All these factors lead to a very well crafted, very successful song. I hope that this paper has been of interest to you, and has maybe even opened your eyes to something that will in turn make you a better songwriter as well!

Tags

Song Lyrics, Song Review, Song Structure, Songwriting, The Band Perry

Meet the author

author avatar Gibson Girl
I am a singer/songwriter based out of Nashville, TN. Most of my writing will focus on the craft of songwriting in today's commercial market.

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