Often known as “the hook”, because it contains the most memorable combination of melody and lyrics which aim to get stuck in your listener’s ears, the chorus is arguably the most important part of any pop song.

In modern pop music especially, this will be the peak moment of your song, both in terms of arrangement and lyricism, and more often than not in pitch as well!

Let’s take a closer look by breaking down the chorus into its key components:

Lyrics

Chorus lyrics often use big themes and sweeping generalisations. Verses are the place for specific descriptions and imagery, but your chorus should sum up the purpose for your song existing in the first place. It can be a feeling (“‘Cause you make me feel like I’ve been locked out of heaven” – Bruno Mars, “I’m so happy” – Pharrell Williams) or a metaphor (“We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky” – Rihanna, “When I’m with you I’m standing with an army” – Ellie Goulding) or an instruction (“Send my love to your new lover” – Adele) that on it’s own, may not make much sense, but in the context of the rest of the song delivers a powerful emotional message.

The chorus will often contain the title of the song somewhere. Whether the title inspires the chorus or the chorus inspires the title is a bit chicken and egg, but it makes sense that if the chorus is the most important and memorable part of the song, then using this as the title helps people remember and identify it.

So, if you have a title for your song, then in theory, you already have at least one line of your chorus written! Do you need any more?

Well, not necessarily. If you can repeat this line a couple of times and drive the message home without more explanation, then repeating one line is perfectly acceptable in pop music – and, some would argue, preferable. The more times the listener hears your “hook” the more chance they have of remembering it.

Melody

One of the most effective ways to ensure your chorus literally rises above the rest of your track, is to make sure that the melody peaks during the chorus. This has the immediate effect of making your verses seem quieter and more intimate (it’s harder to sing lower notes louder – when you really want to let rip you aim for the top of your range), with your pre-chorus perhaps rising a few notes to aid the transition into your full throated singalong chorus moment.

Rhythm

A clever way to add extra contrast between verse and chorus, is to make the melody in your verse up from either mainly short or mainly long notes, and then do the opposite in your chorus.

Example: Ciara – “Dance Like We’re Making Love”

Verse

Sweat drippin’ from my body
We both at this party
So come and show me your moves
I got some things I can teach you too
If you wanna see, oh
You say you a need a shot of the Henny
Then you’re ready
Do what you need to do
Cause I’ll be waiting for you
It’s about to get hot and heavy

Pre-Chorus

It’s really late
You’re getting close and the lights are off
Your body’s in sync to the beat of my heart
And I can feel your nature rising while I whine on you

Chorus

Let’s dance like we’re making lo-o-o-o-o-o-ove
Ma-a-king lo-o-o-o-ove
Let’s dance like we’re making lo-o-o-o-o-o-ove
Ma-a-king lo-o-o-o-ove

This song by Ciara ticks all the boxes – the verse starts with with a long, slow melody full of long notes. The pre-chorus rises in pitch and intensity, leading nicely to the chorus which is made up of short, staccato breathy notes, contains the highest note of the song, and is basically just the title of the song repeated over and over.

Looking through the lyrics above, you should also be able to see how the verse contains the specific details and descriptions, but the chorus is just the general theme of the song. On it’s own, it’s a nice phrase, but its the rest of the song that gives you the context and helps the chorus deliver the emotional payoff.

What are some of your favourite choruses, and do they follow the rules we’ve looked at here, or do they completely buck the trend and do their own thing? Tell us in the comments…

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