Hasn’t been made yet. Record breaking record Thriller almost broke a record for being an entire record of hit records (Did I break the record for the number of times using the word record in one sentence?). In fact, only TWO songs from the album were not released as singles. All 7 remaining tracks got major radio airplay. That’s no easy feat, considering Michael Jackson didn’t even record the most OBVIOUS types of guaranteed hits. See, the key to making an instant hit single requires NO concern about the quality of the music, just that the song follows a tried-and-true formula of listener pandering that has led to some of the most played-out hits of all time. Here is how I would fill an album with songs that would ensure that every track on it becomes a hit.
1. The party song. This should not only be the lead single from the album, but the lead song on the album. This one will be eternally played at every public social event following its release. It’s as easy as putting the word ‘party’ in the song title. For instance, Pink’s “Get the Party Started” or Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the U.S.A.” But really, it just has to be focused on getting your party on, such as Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started,” Wang Chung’s narcissistic “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” and “Celebration” (by either Kool & the Gang or Madonna).
2. The dance song. You gotta have a club anthem, a song that is all about going out and getting your groove on. The most common examples come from the disco era: I Love the Nightlife, Night Fever, You Should Be Dancin’, (Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty, Get Up and Boogie, Boogie Oogie Oogie, Boogie Wonderland, Boogie Nights (okay, any song with the word boogie in it). Let’s face it. There hasn’t been a dance party since 1978 that hasn’t ended with Donna Summer’s “Last Dance.”
You can go one better and record a dance song that has simple choreography that even old ladies can do at baby showers: Macarena, The Electric Slide, YMCA, Vogue, The Twist, Walk Like an Egyptian.
Other examples include Jennifer Lopez’s “On the Floor,” Lady GaGa’s “Just Dance,” C&C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat,” “Pump Up The Volume” by M/A/R/R/S, “Rhythm is a Dancer” by SNAP!, and Young MC’s “Bust a Move” (because even drunk straight guys need a dance anthem).
3. The rocker song. You gotta have that head banging self-proclamation that everything else on the radio is not real music, that you are somehow above it all because you know how to rock. And this requires blatantly saying rock in the title: I Wanna Rock, Old Time Rock n’ Roll, Rock n’ Roll All Night, Rock Around the Clock, Crocodile Rock, It’s Still Rock n’ Roll to Me, Rock On, Rock of Ages, I Love Rock n’ Roll, We Will Rock You, Rock This Town. Okay, this is ridiculous. You get the point.
4. The relaxation song. This is that motivational song about not worrying over every damn thing that makes your blood boil until you want to reach through the radio and strangle everyone involved with making this so fricking annoying song and slapping silly anyone who drives it straight to the top of the charts. #%@&$*!!!!
Okay. Breathe Dan. Good. Relax.
Okay. I’m better now. I’d be talking about classics like Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” and Bruno Mars’ “The Lazy Song.”
5. The foreign language song. You gotta have a song that is in English but borrows at least one phrase or name from another language. How else will kids think learning a foreign language is cool? Past hits of this sort include: Fernando, La Vida Loca, La Isla Bonita, C’est la Vie, Der Komissar, Le Freak, Alejandro, and My Cherie Amour.
6. The pride song. The song that is supposed to be telling everyone to love himself or herself, but which few know is specifically targeted to grab hold of the gay market. Songs can be either upbeat or sappy ballads. Some of the biggies would be Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors,” Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” Lady GaGa’s “Born This Way,” and Katy Perry’s “Firework.”
7. The self-empowerment song. This one is like the pride song, only with attitude. These tracks are most successful when they are about female empowerment. Take for instance Tina Turner’s “Better Be Good to Me,” Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter,” Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” Aretha’s “Respect,” Britney Spears’ “Stronger,” Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” and Pink’s “U and UR Hand.” Guys, you write a self-empowerment song, and you’re pretty much just a chauvinistic prick.
8. The team spirit song. Or as I like to think of it, the ‘men are animals’ song. These are the ones chanted at crowded public events where guys in face paint gyrate and shoot foaming liquid all over each other’s bodies. No. Not the gay pride parade. Sporting events! Classic testosterone overload jock anthems include: We Are the Champions, Get Ready for This, Tubthumping, Whoomp! There It Is, Who Let the Dogs Out, The Power, and of course the most manly song of all, Macho Man.
9. The rebel song. These are best when served up to make teens feel like they are flipping the bird to every adult, and are even better when they are bashing school. Think Another Brick in the Wall, We’re Not Gonna Take It, School’s Out, Rock n Roll High School (note the possibility of crossing categories with #3), Fight for Your Right to Party, Parents Just Don’t Understand, and Smells Like Teen Spirit.
10. The graduation song. The song about how much you actually LOVED the high school experience and how much you’re going to miss being a teen. It is CRUCIAL that this song gets released as a single by April so it can be chosen as the graduation ceremony and prom song. Past graduation anthems include: “The Best of Times” by Styx, “Forever Young” by Alphaville and more recently Jay-Z, “Never Say Goodbye” by Bon Jovi, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” by Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley, “I Got a Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas, and most obviously, “The Graduation Song” by Vitamin C.
11. The sex song. There’s gotta be that sex-centric track that causes great controversy—even if it isn’t all that controversial. It can be all out song porn or a metaphorical track. It never hurts to throw a word into the title that freaks out conservative family groups—“Like a Virgin” and “Detachable Penis,” for example. Other goodies include “I Want Your Sex” by George Michael, “Touch Myself” by Divinyls, “Hot in Herre” by Nelly, and “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot.
12. The sexy times song. This is the sex jam. The one that’s supposed to be a great seduction song, a melodic aphrodisiac, a surefire way to get laid. Perfect examples (notice they’re all by men…): “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye, “Nite and Day” by Al. B. Sure, “Shake You Down” by Gregory Abbott, “I Wanna Sex You Up” by Color Me Badd, “Strokin” by Clarence Carter, “Too Close” by Next, or pretty much anything by R. Kelly (although those might land you a 15-year-old). WTF? Don’t white people know how to make love? Because they clearly don’t know how to sing about it….
13. The lady love song. More aptly titled the playa song. This is the one a guy sings because he knows it’s what a girl wants to hear and hopes saying all the right things will segue directly into the sexy times song. It’s the ‘you’re perfect just the way you are’ song. So it’s no surprise the 2 obvious songs in this category would be “Just the Way You Are” by Billy Joel and “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars. Other lies—I mean, heartfelt odes to the lady love—include “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker, “Amazed” by Lonestar, “You Are the Sunshine of my Life” by Stevie Wonder, “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt, and “You’re the Inspiration” by Chicago.
14. The wedding song. If you’re not careful with the lady love song, it can easily become your wedding song. There are also plenty of inclusive songs that remind you that there’s no U in wedding, it just begins with a big fat WE (of course, a big fat we can be fun on the honeymoon…). “We’ve Only Just Begun” by The Carpenters, “The Power of Love” by Celine Dion, “Endless Love” by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, “I’ll Stand by You” by the Pretenders, Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers, and “You and I” by Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle are prime death tolls.
15. The unlikely duet. You totally have to record a song with another artist. It has to either be an artist from a clashing genre of music (Run D.M.C. and Aerosmith/Tammy Wynette and KLF), from a different generation (Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield/Tom Jones and Art of Noise), or two divas who could just as easily start rolling around in mud and tearing out each other’s weaves (Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston/Brandy and Monica/Elton John and George Michael).
16. The rap collaboration. You gotta have a track that features a rap intro or rap break by a huge hip-hop star. In fact, you can record a song without a rap, and then before it’s released as a single, just have that shit remixed and let them slap a rap on it. Then for the holiday season, you can release a DELUXE edition of your album featuring the hit rap version as a bonus track because you know suckers like me will run out and rebuy a CD they already have for that new version of the song.
To include a rap segment on your hit, you can enlist the help of any hip hop artists with crossover appeal, such as Kanye West, Jay-Z, Ludacris, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, or Diddy.
17. The cover version. You have to record a version of a hit from like 20 years ago that makes you forget the original even existed. Guilty parties include Donna Summer’s “MacArthur Park,” Kim Wilde’s “You Keep Me Hanging On,” Mariah Carey’s “I’ll Be There,” Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Billy Idol’s “Mony Mony,” and Joan Jett’s “Crimson and Clover.” Actually, just cover a Tommy James & The Shondells song and there’s a good chance you’ll have a hit. Who’s Tommy James, you ask? He’s the guy who originally recorded I Think We’re Alone Now, Mony Mony, and Crimson and Clover.
Another cover-like option is to use the instrumentation of an old song and just add some beats and sing a new melody over it. “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” by PM Dawn, “S.O.S.” by Rihanna, “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer, “Ice, Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice, and most hit songs by Diddy make for good reference. Do this and you’ll be appealing to the young generation with something ‘fresh’ while also offering their parents instantly recognizable nostalgia.
18. The Halloween song. Record a song about ghouls, ghosts, death or evil—and even better, release it as a single in October—and you’ve got yourself an instant classic to be played at Halloween parties for generations to come. Michael Jackson leads the pack with “Thriller” and his chorus contribution to “Somebody’s Watching Me.” But your Halloween playlist wouldn’t be complete without “Monster Mash,” “Werewolves of London,” “Ghostbusters,” “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” and “I Put a Spell on You.” And that’s just for starters when it comes to horrors.
19. The Love, Peace and Understanding song. The Elvis Costello song gives this track its category name. These over-the-top social statements can easily become anthems for a state of existence that is nothing but a pipe dream. Obvious examples include “Give Peace a Chance,” “We Are the World,” “What’s Going On,” “Peace Train,” and “All You Need is Love.”
Oh, and let’s not forget the most elementary one…”The War Song” by Culture Club. War, war is stupid, and people are stupid… Boy. You got that right. That’s why this list is guaranteed to work.
And there you have it. That’s like THREE YEARS worth of top ten hits on ONE album. And the great thing is, many of these songs can satisfy the conditions of more than one genre. Write a song about dancing and partying or rock n rolling and partying. A song about what a precious moment in your life this is can be interchangeable as a wedding/graduation song. Do a cover version of ANY song from ANY of the other categories, just like Jay-Z did, and you have a double threat. Slap a rap on any song in any category. And if you’re a whiz with metaphors, you can write a perverted sexy times song that sounds like you just want to make sweet love to your woman when what you’re really saying is, “Hey babe. How about a threesome loaded with girl-on-girl, backdoor, pearl necklaces, spankings, tea-bagging, maybe even some pegging after you lick my butt, and my best friend filming the whole thing to put on X-tube?”
I think I may have just described a couple of Prince songs…