Lately, it seems I’ve been on a mission to get as much feedback about my songs as possible — beyond sharing my work with family and friends, I’m involved in two songwriting workshops and have been getting some one-on-one coaching.
Being the inquisitive type, one question that occurred to me during this process was whether I could refine a song to the point where it would get virtually no criticism. In other words, was there such a thing as a “bulletproof song”?
Adventures in Criticism-Getting
To figure out the answer, I took one song and played it for twenty different people. Each time, I’d incorporate the suggestions I got from the listener into the song.
As it turned out, every person who heard the song, from the first listener through the twentieth, had ideas for making it better. More strikingly, a few people heard the song twice, and gave me feedback on the second listen that contradicted what they told me after the first.
Maybe, if I’d been patient enough to go through this process with a thousand people, I would have eventually ended up with a “perfect song” that would have been met with nothing but contented silence from my listeners. But I doubt it.
I Guess I’ve Learned . . .
What this exercise showed me is that the “bulletproof song” is probably a myth, and that there’s no point in trying to create one. Not only is it impossible to please all the people all the time — probably, it’s also impossible to completely please one person with my work.
This makes sense when we think about all of the factors that play into a person’s reaction to a song — things like what genre of music they like best, how much they enjoy hearing themselves talk, what they had for breakfast, and so on. These factors can change from day to day, which explains why the same person can have different, and conflicting, opinions about a song at different times.
Remembering that it’s impossible to write a criticism-proof song makes the creative process much more efficient. The less I focus on staving off every possible critique while I’m writing, the less time I’ll spend second-guessing myself, and the more progress I’ll make.
Do you find yourself trying to come up with, and address, every potential criticism somebody might make while you’re writing?