What makes a great song vs. a good song?

Considering the song writer as a story teller and dream weaver.

In an age when it seems like way too many songs are the repetition of one or two cute lines ad nausea
I was happy to revisit Jackson Browne’s music this evening.
To me these have alway been examples of writing (poetry?) and story telling at it’s best,
Then the extra dimension of putting it music and it reaches a whole new level.
Getting the most out of every word… capable of reaching inside the listener pulling out emotions, playing with memories
creating mental landscapes that didn’t exist before the music
and fade into distant echoes after the music stops.
Perhaps especially valuable because of it’s fleetingness

Jackson Browne - The Load Out and Stay - Live BBC 1978 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I11t5mj9FOk Jackson Browne - Rockpalast 1986 - Boulevard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QgNbtOTeRU

As Guy Clark wrote, “It’s got to come from the heart if you want it to work.” That’s the difference between Jackson Browne and the American Idol singers.

My wife and I like to listen to the XM station “Alt Nation” which plays rock music but usually more obscure artists. My wife carpools with a friend who complains about the music on the car ride and tells co-workers that my wife listens to “weird”'music. But sometimes the songs on Alt Nation become mainstream hits after weeks or months of regular play. Then my wife’s friend suddenly likes that song and tells others that she had been listening to that for a while.
My point being that sometimes a person’s taste in music is just what others think is good which is also known as not really having any taste in music at all, in my opinion. Maybe this is a common problem which could explain why pop music is so, well, popular. The only reason people like it is because it’s popular which begs the question on how it became popular in the first place.

This is a big subject actually, aesthetics. One thing that’s particularly hard to get a handle on is that on the one hand we want to say it’s all subjective. On the other that’s a hard pill to swallow. If Jimbob thinks some bumpkin country singer is just heaven, and Bee-thoven is crap, is that true? Does that mean only accomplished musicians with PhDs can tell what good music is? I happen to think of Jackson Browne as “pop” music, better than Madonna say, but still pop. For me, someone like Rufus Wainwright is tops. Take a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Szm6uUh9UlI Does that mean I’m right? I think it’s safe to say though that bottom line, popularity has little or no relevance to quality.

Does that mean I'm right? I think it's safe to say though that bottom line, popularity has little or no relevance to quality.
Yup, looking at it from a slightly different angle. There is music I don't like at all, but can still recognize as well crafted and as fine as anything I like. For instance those two Jackson Brown songs, let's take 'Boulevard' strip away the music and only look at those words:
Down on the boulevard they take it hard They look at life with such disregard They say it can't be won The way the game is run But if you choose to stay You wind up playing anyway It's okay The kid's in shock up and down the block The folks are home playing beat the clock Down at the golden cup They set the young ones up Under the neon light Selling day for night It's alright Nobody rides for free Nobody gets it like they want it to be Nobody hands you any guarantee Nobody No, nobody baby The hearts are hard and the times are tough Down on the boulevard the night's enough And time passes slow Between the store front shadows And the street lights glow Everybody walks right by like They're safe or something They don't know Nobody knows you Nobody owes you nothin' Nobody shows you what they're thinking Nobody Hey hey, baby, you got to watch the street Keep your feet and be on guard Make it pay, baby It's only time on the boulevard It's like this It's the way it is Yeah, yeah, baby It's only time on the boulevard Read more: Jackson Browne - Boulevard Lyrics | MetroLyrics http://www.metrolyrics.com/boulevard-lyrics-jackson-browne.html
That's not a jingle - nah, this is shit describing a world to the T, and with style. Like it, hate it, there's something that transcends opinion… imho :) And those that have never tasted the streets and who can't relate to specifics, still get a taste of it, via this story teller… i like to believe.
This is a big subject actually, aesthetics. One thing that's particularly hard to get a handle on is that on the one hand we want to say it's all subjective. On the other that's a hard pill to swallow. If Jimbob thinks some bumpkin country singer is just heaven, and Bee-thoven is crap, is that true? Does that mean only accomplished musicians with PhDs can tell what good music is? I happen to think of Jackson Browne as "pop" music, better than Madonna say, but still pop. For me, someone like Rufus Wainwright is tops. Take a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Szm6uUh9UlI Does that mean I'm right? I think it's safe to say though that bottom line, popularity has little or no relevance to quality.
I took a listen, and it was, 'oh that guy' - when I listen to Radio it's usually NPR and he seems big around here. He's an example of someone I can't listen to, though I recognize that he's achieved an awful lot of critical acclaim, so there's something going on there - but I don't have the time or interest to pursue figuring it out. … and, OK, no argument with categorizing Jackson Browne as drifting towards Pop - plus there's the certain 'era' connection for those who were in the neighborhood so it speak, he was part of the sound track of a special time and place. When it comes to music, I'll be honest I'm an old dinosaur, too much of today's music seems like desperate attempts to reinvent the wheel because everything has already been done by someone somewhere - another reason I recognize civilization in proceeding down the slippery slope :ahhh: . And actually I don't listen to radio/recorded that much, I'm lucky in that I have a whole crew of close friends/bros that are musicians so I have access to doses of live music. Maybe it's because I was raised in a household where music seemed to be playing pretty much nonstop - But, I'd much rather listen to books on tape and chew on ideas and I don't mind long silences one bit either. To me it seems music is like getting a buzz, good to do in it's doses, but not all the time. And like you point out, but that's just me. :-)

My impression is that most pop music today is written by teenagers, graduates of those arts schools in California that are just churning them out by the carload. The only thing that seems to matter is the video that they make at the same time. The words or the music don’t matter because the song will be replaced by something else next week.
Me I like the golden oldies. Remember the Alan Parsons Project?

A great song, by virtue, of its well chosen and constructed lyrics, in conjunction with its aesthetic musical composition, has the power, over time, to, consistently evoke a powerful emotional response.

What makes a great song vs. a good song?
The music.
Great music with great lyrics make for memorable songs.
Great lyrics without great music will die. Great music without lyrics at all can still be great. But the music is essential.
Lois

NPR did a discussion of this very topic a couple of months back and the reason I remember it is their mention of Earth, Wind and Fire’s 70’s hit September considered to be the “happiest” song ever written. In case you’ve forgotten it (for those who don’t remember the 70’s) it was the end song of the movie “Night at the Museum”. It’s the music, very rhythmic with vocablals that makes it appealing. The lyrics are very simplistic.
http://www.metrolyrics.com/september-lyrics-earth-wind-fire.html
Cap’t Jack

The other aspect that hasn’t been mentioned is Context. You’re at a baseball game (probably falling asleep if you’re like me…boring) then your team hits a homer. All of a sudden that Nah Nah Nah, Kiss it goodbye song comes on. Perfect for that context. Can you imagine if Claire De Lune came on?

Yea, I’d still be snoring. Beautiful song though. Coney dogs and the wave keep awake at a game. And the nah nah song is an example of group chanting which we still enjoy even though we’re not dancing around the central fire communing with the animal spirits any more.
Cap’t Jack

:lol:

The other aspect that hasn’t been mentioned is Context. You’re at a baseball game (probably falling asleep if you’re like me…boring) then your team hits a homer. All of a sudden that Nah Nah Nah, Kiss it goodbye song comes on. Perfect for that context. Can you imagine if Claire De Lune came on?
:lol: :lol: :lol:
You remind me of the super Queen who provided a couple foundational songs for Baba Sports Addicts.
One of those beautiful irony of ironies - though it’s lost on most of them.

We Are The Champions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxfrz6iQb9A Queen - We Will Rock You (Live at Wembley Stadium) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ljr46m-O90w
And the nah nah song is an example of group chanting which we still enjoy even though we're not dancing around the central fire communing with the animal spirits any more. Cap't Jack
Are you knocking chanting and dancing around the camp fire??? %-P

Oh hell no! I’ve been a camper most of my life and if there’s anything that’ll bring people together it’s a good campfire song, sung around a campfire that is.
Cap’t Jack

I love music discussions because it’s such a subjective subject yet many people insist on carrying on like there’s some true good taste or that you can objectively determine what makes one example “good” and another “bad”. Where was I going with this? Right, subjectivity. I listen to a lot of music that most other people I’ve known consider horrible, or even not music at all, but I still love it. Take this song for example. Yet I love it. In fact, it’s one of my favorite songs, but I’d be willing to bet money most of you would hate it or even find it completely unlistenable.
At the same time, I find the vast majority of popular music absolutely horrid. Not so much because it’s juvenile, uninspired, saccarine crap , which much of it is. Rather I find it boring. Most music is dull to me. Like there are tolerances most song writers won’t push past or violate. (I could probably explain it better if I knew more about musical theory or structure). So I end up listening to a lot of music that could be called experimental, extreme, or avant-garde.

I find the vast majority of popular music absolutely horrid. Not so much because it's juvenile, uninspired, saccarine crap , which much of it is. Rather I find it boring.
I agree with you abut Pop music DM, but there is no need to go to the other extreme.

It wasn’t something I purposely set out to do as a sort of adolescent rebellion. “This song sucks! I shall find and listen to and make myself enjoy the least like it music I can!” No, I just sort of slowly migrated over the years. I kept hunting around the internet for music that appealed to me, listened to damn near every style of music under the sun, and ended up sort of falling into the deep end so to speak. Now I listen to all sorts of music: noise rock, industrial, psychobilly, blues, punk, bluegrass, progressive rock, etc. Most of it though falls under noise-rock, math rock, or experimental.

Just pushing your buttons, DM. Most of my friends and I have similar taste in music, and most of them think I’m a bit extreme when they find out I like Archie Shep, Pharaoh Sanders, Nirvana, Buttonhole Surfers, etc. I’m a psychobilly fan too.

I figured as much. I like talking about music though so I tend to jump at any excuse to do so.
And the Butthole Surfers are amazing. Well, their early work is. After Hairway to Steven they started getting a little dull.
Also, the Reverend Horton Heat rules. Enough said.