Cracking creative blocks using reverse engineering

Yes, it can be hard to come up with a compelling story, intriguing characters and find a satisfying resolution in just a few minutes. Making it musical and lyrically arousing is not the problem – that’s what we do. But we’ve all been there. Sometimes we just need a fresh idea.

Two words: music video. The other night, SongExpresso had a craving for a bit of accessible drum and bass and came across two memorable Rudimental videos: “Not Giving In” and “Waiting All Night”. Firstly, hats off to the makers Josh Cole and Nez Khammal. Their role visually was actually not much different to what we are doing lyrically – take a theme and imagine a whole world around it to portray that story in a short time. In the short time of the length of a song. 

Go on, watch those examples and think about (i) the actual lyrics and (ii) where the director has taken them. 

In each case, the lyrics are simple and catchy with a very straightforward message. SongExpresso thinks that this is often what dance lyrics need to be – and by simple we don’t mean easy. 

So we have “Not Giving In” – whose message is: “I made some mistakes in the past but this time I’ll not give in to temptation”. A nice idea for the two brothers, one getting on in life and in contrast the other going down a fatally wrong path. 

And “Waiting All Night” – “I’ve been waiting all night [for you to tell me what you want]”. Where is one place where someone would wait all night? In a hospital of course. Match that to another true inspiring story and we are off.

Now the exciting part. Forget about the original lyrics. Watch the videos again. Do it with the sound off if it helps. Pretty emotionally charged stuff. Any ideas stirring? I bet. Just for some bonus fun, try this: video of one song and audio of the other. Start both at the first vocal (NGI: 0’44”; WAN: 0’34”). We might edit a little differently but actually they still work, giving a slightly different message. See? We have characters, back story, conflict and resolution – what more do you need to start writing?

SongExpresso is not saying this is going to work every time. If the video just tells the same story as the song, it’s going to be quite hard to squeeze out an original take. What we want is a video that is implied by the title or the song but doesn’t follow it. But like we said with Mr. Banks, when we have a starting point then things have a much better chance to flow. 

And, best of all, we can bask in the satisfaction and don’t have to tell anyone what we did. As we never get tired of saying on SongExpresso, “it’s not where you take it from – it’s where you take it to”…

SongExpresso is sure that there are a million other examples out there. What about “Love Me Again” by John Newman?  Depeche Mode’s videos were (are) always great too. Not sure whether “Wrong” or “Enjoy the Silence” are really suitable for this exercise – but what do I know? 

Have you done this? Have you got any candidates? As always, SongExpresso would love to hear.

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