How To Write a Song That’s Relevant and Emotionally Compelling

Writing a song that’s much more than the repetition of second-grade-style rhymes–and that millions of people in today’s society can relate to–is a real feat, but not an impossible one!  Your composition can begin by simply looking closely at the 1970’s hit “Margaritaville” by folk-rock legend, Jimmy Buffett, as analyzed by within its Song-of-the-Month critique.

Here, the special “lyrical qualities” of “a compelling and effective title, or hook, a clearly stated story, or theme, a logical progression of ideas, inventive rhyming, vivid and colorful imagery and a lyrical structure easily adapted to music” are analyzed as they relate to the wording and rhythmic style of “Margaritaville.”

Writing a song that’s hard-to-stop-listening-to, as well as culturally relevant–and that includes all of the above-described “lyrical qualities”–can just as easily be accomplished because  (and after) you’ve perused a 1967 Beatles’ composition which appeared on the Fab Four’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. Please follow along as we emphasize exactly how Paul McCartney and John Lennon wrote the million-selling song–

AN EFFECTIVE TITLE–“She’s Leaving Home”

The 1960’s (remember?!!) was a period of great social unrest which included race riots, sit ins, draft dodgers and young adults (girls, too!) leaving home in droves to pursue “meaningful lives” (that they considered)–much different from their parents’. Back then, moms and dads strove to “live in the every-house-looks-the-same suburbs,” to keep good-paying jobs for decades–regardless of whether or not work felt “meaningful”–and to give their children “everything material thing they (the parents) never had.” The troubles were: Professional dads were often “at the office” or “on the road” 60 hours a week, and moms became anxious to “keep up with the Jones’s.” This left little “meaningful” time and energy for the kids.

The title “She’s Leaving Home,” though, may not be appropriate today, as adult children and their spouses (and many with children) are moving back home with mom and dad because they may have college degrees, but they can’t find full-time, good-paying jobs!


This Beatles’ song is/was actually written as a story in which: 1) Young woman leaves home very early in the morning after leaving a note that “she hoped would say more,” 2) Mother awakens first, sees the note and cries out, “Daddy, our baby’s gone!” 3) Mother and father wail and bemoan (what they see as) the facts that, “We sacrificed most of our lives (for daughter); We gave her everything money could buy; We struggled hard all our lives; What did we do wrong?!” 4) Two days later, the daughter is meeting a man “about a job.” She has no intention of returning to her parents’ home–ever!–This story “plot” definitely contains an EASY-TO-UNDERSTAND PROGRESSION OF IDEAS.


The first three lines of the first stanza of “She’s Leaving Home” employ the long “o” sound in assonance–the repetition of an “identical or similar” vowel sound. This “o” assonance–within the words “o’clock,” “closing,” “note,” and “more”–effectively matches the song’s theme, as the concept of “moaning” and “oh-noing” is extent throughout.

The second stanza, again, capitalizes on this long “o”, or “moaning” pattern with its choice, and repetition, of the words “most,” “home,” “alone” and “so.” Actually, the word “alone” appears five times, including refrains, and is used to refer to the mother(3rd stanza): “standing alone at the top of the stairs.” The Beatles adeptly imply that mother has really been “alone” a long time, because she’s been “emotionally estranged” from her daughter for years.

In the 5th and final stanza, the rhyming words “buy,” “something inside,” “denied,” and “bye bye” strongly suggest that identifying with material things leaves one “internally bereft (something inside),” without (“denied”) real affection and, ultimately, alone(“bye bye”).


The Beatles’ use of the word “she” to harmonize on a high note–and to hold this harmony for up to 10 counts(in stanzas 2, 4 and 5)– physically expresses how the mother and father must have screamed (and held the scream) “shhhheeeeee!” in their rage over (what they saw as) their daughter’s “thoughtlessness” and self-centeredness. Seldom has their been (since the 60’s) a more effective “lyric/music structure” to convey strong, painful emotions than within this song!


Lennon and McCartney are/have been well-known for their song imagery, and “She’s Leaving Home” is no exception. The phrases “silently closing her bedroom door,” “clutching her handkerchief,” “quietly turning the backdoor key,” “father snores as his wife gets into her dressing gown,” “standing alone at the top of the stairs,” “cries to her husband, ‘Daddy, our baby’s gone!'” give us an intimate look into the mind of the daughter, who feels a certain “death knell” at leaving, but knows she must–and into the egos of the parents, who “snore away, oblivious” to the fact that their “baby” is not really “theirs,” but a “child of the universe” who wants to discover values that fit for her.

So, writing an award-winning song can be “pretty heavy,” can’t it? No doubt the Beatles tapped deep (and perhaps, unexpressed) feelings from their own teen and young adult years for this composition.  And, you can, too!

Please contact us to contribute–and to have critiqued–your culturally relevant and emotionally compelling composition. Our judging is based on the “special elements” within your writing–not on the “production value” of your song.

Related Articles

Community Responses to How To Write a Song That’s Relevant and Emotionally Compelling