To say that Miley Cyrus has recently been at the forefront of Pop culture would be an understatement. Her outlandish, controversial behavior including twerking at the VMA’s, stating publically to Rolling Stone that “weed is the best drug on earth,” and swinging nude from a wrecking ball all have taken her exposure (no pun intended) to astronomical heights.
But behind all the hype and controversy lies a talented artist who was able to take a song that was provided to her by some of today’s hottest hitmakers, make it her own, and deliver it in an infectious, engaging, memorable manner that was able to connect and resonate with the masses on a global scale.
There’s a lot that can be learned from Wrecking Ball. You just need to look beyond the hype and appreciate the song for what it really is – a clever, expertly well crafted Power Ballad.
To date, Wrecking Ball has landed in the top 5 in 24 countries and hit #1 on 12 charts.
What follows are 3 of the many hit songwriting techniques that can be extracted from Wrecking Ball.
Incorporating clever elements into your song is a surefire way to help put it over the top. In the case of Wrecking Ball, there are 2 that you should definitely take note of:
First, notice the manner in which the kick and snare within the chorus act as “wrecking ball” elements. Their nature elicits the impression of a wrecking ball slamming into the side of the building, which perfectly jibes with and accentuates the title and lyrics.
Second, notice the manner in which Cyrus sings the lyrics “break me” and “wreck me” at the end of the chorus. By singing it like “brea-ea-eak me” and “wre-e-eck me,” this clever vocal phrasing concludes the section in an exceptionally infectious manner that gets completely engrained within the listener’s head.
The nature of the music and vocal needs to perfectly jibe with the lyrics in order to provide the listener with the most profound connection to the song possible. A perfect example of this can be found within Wrecking Ball’s chorus and bridge.
Following the powerful nature of the chorus which perfectly accentuates the “wrecking ball” themed lyrics, notice how the bridge brings it all down by taking on a more heartfelt, fragile and somber tone in order to accentuate the realization and hurt present within the lyrics. Gone are the drums and electric guitar from the chorus, and in its place we have strings, piano and bass coupled with a more somber, heartfelt vocal from Cyrus which takes the evocative nature of the section to the next level when she sings “I never meant to start a war, I just wanted you to let me in…”
Not only are all the elements working in perfect tandem with one another, but also notice how the profound difference between the bridge and preceding chorus provides strong contrast within the song, which ultimately makes for a more engaging listening experience.
The Payoff Impact Accentuator
When your song features a really big, powerful chorus, how you set it up for maximum impact makes all the difference. In the case of Wrecking Ball, the set up consists of the following 3 stages:
Stage 1: The backing music fades from the mix at the tail end of the pre-chorus. The silence that follows acts to heighten the tension factor for the listener in anticipation of the chorus that follows.
Stage 2: Cyrus slams in with the “I came in like a…” vocal. Notice that this is a SOLO vocal. The backing music isn’t present within the mix.
Stage 3: The full chorus, (backing music included), slams in on the title “payoff” lyrics “wrecking ball.”
By going through this 3 stage set-up, it enables the full chorus to slam in with the impact of a “wrecking ball,” ultimately taking the impact of the section, and the song for that matter, to the next level.