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The Art of Writing Great Lyrics
The Art of Writing Great Lyrics
Pamela Phillips Oland
Reviewed by Jace Carlton
Originally published in
The Songwriter's Connection  -  September  2002

Just a year ago this weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Pamela Phillips Oland when she attended the 21st Annual Northern California Songwriter's * Association Conference CREATION : CRAFT : CONNECTION (OK, a shameless plug!) and conducted a seminar on what else … Writing Great Lyrics!  She took us through several exercises designed to help us allow The Muse to work through us, and after a slow start we began to really let the ideas flow.  I was excited when she chose my idea / hook to develop, and with the assistance of many others in the audience, we worked step by step, line by line, crafting verse and chorus.  We didn't go so far as finishing the song, but we learned SO much from her detailed and yet simple style of developing an idea from scratch and molding it into a viable, potential hit.

In "The Art of Writing Great Lyrics", Pamela does the same thing, only she's not confined to just an hour or so, and she has a worldwide audience to work with instead of just a full lecture hall.  She takes you step by step through the craft of writing lyrics that will stand out above the crowd (you DO want to be noticed, don't you?), because that's what she's known for.  Her bio is literally a "Who's Who" of the music, television and film industries.  Whitney Houston, Anne Murray, the Jacksons, Aretha Franklin, Selena, Frank Sinatra (enough?  HA!  No way!)  Let's throw in "Xena: Warrior Princess", "The Sopranos", "Coming To America", along with Walt Disney's "102 Dalmatians". Her award winning lyrics cover all the bases including pop, R&B, country, gospel, hard rock, rockabilly, theater, doo-wop, alternative rock, blues and jazz.  This lady KNOWS what she's talking about!

The Other Half of the Equation

Since this is a book on writing lyrics (ahem … make that "GREAT" lyrics!), at some point you have to consider the other half of the equation … the music.  Will you be writing that as well?  If not, then you'll need a collaborator.  Pamela covers all the bases on what to expect and what to look for in a collaborator in order to make it a successful union.  It's a job that's easier said than done, but well worth the effort to do it right.

"The Art of Writing Great Lyrics" is, however, more than a great book on songwriting.  It's also a great resource for what to do AFTER your song has been written, and re-written, and re-written again, until it's the best it can be.  If you're satisfied with writing for yourself and stashing those songs away in a binder or a folder, fine (though you're cheating the world of your talent!).  But if you want to make your mark and get your songs heard you need to know what to do next.  And the better prepared you are, the better the chances of your success.

"The Art of Writing Great Lyrics" is for every songwriter; professional, serious semi-professional, or beginner.  Pamela's fresh presentation, with just the right amount of detail, along with the stories she shares from her lifetime as a professional songwriter and the numerous examples she's included to illustrate the points she's making, make this a deceivingly easy read.  Scan the pages, just to see for yourself how much she covers and how helpful the book will be, but then settle in for some good old fashion studying, because this book has the goods that can make you a GREAT lyricist!

"The craft of writing lyrics today is in very sad shape."

Pamela was once asked why she would want to offer a book that could conceivably make her competition tougher in an already highly competitive industry.  At the 2001 NCSA Conference I spoke of at the beginning of this review, she answered that by saying, "The craft of writing lyrics today is in very sad shape!  ANYTHING I can do to help train songwriters to do their job better will benefit the whole industry.  And sharing what I know helps to make me a better songwriter as well, and therefore I improve my own chances of success."  She lives by her words, and so what positively goes around must positively come back around.

See for yourself!

Copyright © 2002 by Jace Carlton

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Jace Carlton is a Nashville based songwriter, music publisher, artist manager, and freelance writer.  As a songwriter and collaborator much in demand in the Country market, he also enjoys writing for A/C, Pop, R&B, Smooth Jazz, Contemporary Christian, and Cabaret.  As a Freelance Writer he has contributed reviews on new CD's to online newsletters and artist websites, and occasionally  ontributes book and concert reviews along with personal commentary on the music industry to Nashville's Songwriter's Connection e-Zine.

He was recently honored by being selected to be a part of Nashville's Shine On Foundation, assisting talented songwriters, artists and musicians.

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