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How to write the perfect destination song

What does it take to make a hit song that evokes a very real place on earth? So much so that the destination mentioned becomes as coveted as the song itself, playing endlessly in the back of our minds. Eagles did it with Hotel California, as did The Mamas and The Papas with California Dreamin', and most recently Camila Cabello with her smashing debut single Havana, a resounding global success that topped charts all over the world. So, how did she do it? How did they all do it? We investigate.

How to write the perfect destination song

Camila Cabello's song Havana was, for all intents and purposes, MASSIVE. That song was honestly everywhere, and given that Cuba is one of our favourite destinations, we of course loved it! After singing the song non-stop for the past year, we have been wondering if singing about a destination is the perfect way to guarantee a hit single. Is there a perfect formula to create a destination song that is an instant hit? Or was Camila Cabello just lucky? We decided to crunch the numbers and find out.

Obviously, the fact that Havana is such a lively city had a lot to do with the song's success. The city is full of culture, colour, old cars, and music – so much music. Cuban artists have been challenging the country's elite upper-class attitudes ever since Jose Nicolas de la Escalera started painting black slaves in the 18th century, while the local cafes and bars practically scream bohemian.

Nevertheless, as great as Havana is, there is definitely a formula to each destination song. And luckily for you, we worked out exactly what it is. Just follow our little "how to", and you'll have a definite hit on your hands.

How to write the perfect destination song, step by step guide

In order to calculate the perfect formula, we first had to work out all of the different elements that have to come together in order to create a song, and then we looked at every single destination hit ever made to see how they lined up with these elements.

The elements we analysed were:

  • What destination was mentioned?
  • How many times it was mentioned?
  • Whether the artist was a solo singer or a band.
  • Whether the artist was male, female, or mixed.
  • What genre the song was?
  • The length of the song.
  • The topic of the song.

And we did this for over 100 songs. Told you, absolutely exhaustive list.

Start your band

Start your band

The first step in your route to musical success is getting yourself a band together, or deciding to fly solo. But, know that you're 150% more likely to have a hit song on your hands if you're part of a band rather than going it alone – plus it's more fun, so it's a win-win situation really.

Choose your genre

Choose your genre

Ok, now you're searching for your bandmates you need to make sure you get the right mix of people in your band. The best genre for a destination hit is, unsurprisingly, pop, so there's no point getting a load of AC/DC wannabes together. Think traditional, stereotypical, pop band vibes and you should be golden. Oh, and in the true spirit of feminism, the best bands were, of course, male. So maybe channel early One Direction, Boyzone, Westlife, Take That, even the Beatles if you want to go really old school.

Pick your destination

Pick your destination

The specific destination that was mentioned was, obviously, the important bit, and as travel experts its certainly what we're most interested in. There is absolutely no point working out the length of the song, the genre of music, and all the rest of it, if the destination you're singing about is one that, quite frankly, no one cares about.

So, to work that out, we looked at whether the song mentioned a city or a country, and then obviously how many times that was then mentioned. Turns out, America was the winner. Which isn't really surprising, considering how many songs are made in America, and how proud Americans are of their country.

To be fair, there are a lot of great things about America: it's the country that produced Steven King, and Edgar Allen Poe, and it brought us the magic of Taylor Swift, Elvis, Prince, Aretha Franklin – to name a few.

Take on a topic

Take on a topic

Next, you need to think about your topic. No matter what your opinion is about the current pop music trends, unfortunately you can't just sing about any random thing and hit the top spot. In fact, our research found that the best topic to sing about was love.

It doesn't have to be romantic love though, it could be family, friends, love for your country, your gender, your race, anything. Sure, Taylor Swift, Adele, Ed Sheeran and all the rest typically sing about past, present or even future relationships, but you also get the occasional song about grandparents like "Nancy Mulligan" by Ed Sheeran, or high school best friends, "Fifteen" by Taylor Swift comes to mind, so it can be done. But if you do stick with romantic love, that opens you up to the whole world of betrayal, cheating, breakups and everything else too.

Timing is everything

Timing is everything

Now, decide how long you want your song to be. Granted, not something most artists will think too long and hard about, but in fact it may well be a subconscious element contributing to that perfect hit formula. Thankfully, the exact perfect time for your song is a pretty average length anyway: 3 minutes and 37 seconds. But not a second longer.

Repeat the destination

Repeat the destination

Finally, make sure you work your destination into your lyrics somehow. Unfortunately, you can't just sing the destination over and over again and get a hit – apparently even modern music isn't that repetitive and boring. In fact, the actual number of times your destination should be mentioned is 8 – just enough that it's memorable, but not OTT you know?

Voila, it's a hit!

And there you have it. Six easy steps to having a sure-fire hit song on your hands. Just make sure to give us some creds if your song makes it big time.

Jana Crowne

Jana Crowne

Photosynthesizer

With passion for art of all kind both historical & contemporary, photography, design and...

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