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Songwriting

Breaking Down Hooks

with Ali Tamposi and Andrew Watt

The long-time songwriting partners explain melodic, lyrical, and instrumental Camila Cabello hooks from their hit catalog, discussing how and why each component creates a catchy song.

Summary:

Writing duo Ali Tamposi and Andrew Watt answer the question “What is a hook?” Plus they share examples of melodic, lyrical, and instrumental hooks in their hit catalog, and how these hooks factor into popular song structures. 

About the Talent:

Florida-born, LA-based songwriter Ali Tamposi has over a decade of experience penning radio hits, starting with 2011’s Kelly Clarkson anthem, “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).” Her credits include collaborations with major pop stars like Beyoncé, Demi Lovato, Christina Aguilera, Selna Gomez, and Dua Lipa. In recent years, she’s developed a close working relationship with Andrew Watt penning hits together for Camila Cabello, Bieber, and Ozzy Osbourne. All this hard work led to Tamposi being named 2019’s Pop Songwriter of the Year by BMI. 

Meanwhile, in a digital world, Andrew Watt is a throwback. The producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist made a name for himself guiding rock-focused hits for the likes of Post Malone, Lana Del Rey, Miley Cyrus, and Juice WRLD. He’s also showed off his pop bona fides in collaboration with Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, 5 Seconds of Summer, and Halsey. In 2021, the Grammys cemented his growing legacy by crowning him Producer of the Year (Non-Classical). 

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Lyrics should be conversational. The best songs convey things that people do every day, or utilize phrases that people say in casual interactions.

  • A lyrical hook is unique enough to remember, but easy enough to understand on first listen.

  • There are three types of hooks:

    • Instrumental

    • Melodic

    • Lyrical

  • As a songwriter, you need to trust yourself to build one piece of a song at a time. Maybe find the words first, then the melody, or vice versa. When you build  hooks the rest of the song might fall into place.

  • Work with your peers. Collaborating with people who understand you and balance your strengths will allow everyone to grow. 

  • “Freestyling” means singing or saying whatever comes to mind. It is a powerful tool to turn off your inner perfectionist and embrace your natural intuitions and instincts.

SONG STARTERS:

  • Think about one of your favorite songs. Can you identify one instrumental, one melodic, and one lyrical hook in each song? Do any of the songs have more than one type of hook?

  • Choose a song that you don’t think has a memorable hook. How can you improve its hook? Focus on the melodic hook, and rewrite the melody. Now try to add an instrumental hook. How do these hooks work together to capture — or “hook”— a listener’s attention?

  • List all the reasons why you think “Señorita” is a hit. What hooks are there? Keep your list to reference in the future, to see if your song might be able to check those same boxes.

KEY TERMS:

  • Hook:

    the catchy combination of melody, lyrics, and instrumentals that stands out from all other elements of the song. 

    • *Note: some songwriters use the phrase “hook” to mean the same thing as “chorus,” which is usually the catchiest section of the song that shares the main idea, and repeats multiple times.

  • Melodic hook:

    a memorable set of notes repeated throughout the song. It should evoke an emotion for the lyrics.

  • Lyrical hook:

    the sung centerpiece that defines what the song is about. 

  • Instrumental hook:

    the primary instrument or instrument arrangement throughout the song. It should reel listeners in.

  • Repetition:

    the act of repeating certain elements of a song for emphasis and significance.

All illustrative graphics created by

Top40 Theory.

Listen to his Song Start - Song Structure podcast

here.

Crafting an Infectious Hook

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Watch more episodes about songwriting, production, and collaboration, plus listen to Song Start: The Podcast, here. For more info on Song Start click here.