According to Wikipedia:
A topical song is a song that comments on political and/or social events. These types of songs are usually written about current events, but some of these songs remain popular long after the events discussed in them have occurred. Typically, these songs offer a mix of narrative and commentary, although some (such as Neil Young’s song “Ohio”, reacting to the Kent State shootings) assume that the events are so well known that only commentary is called for.
A few years ago, CD Baby band Pacific Buffalo wrote a song about corporate greed and corruption called “Wall Street Windows.” Now that the Occupy Wall Street movement has gone global, Pacific Buffalo has seen renewed interest in their song.
Every time a natural disaster occurs or election fever is in the air, CD Baby is flooded with topical releases. Unfortunately, in the time it took to write, record, and distribute the music, the public’s interests have moved elsewhere. But what if you could beat them to the punch and write a topical song in advance?
I’ll give you an example in the form of a confession: about 4 years ago I wrote a song about Fidel Castro looking back on his early life before the Revolution. It’s not one of my best songs. I like the lyrics, but I just never got around to getting the music right. So it never ended up on an album. But I keep telling myself, “he’s going to die any day now! Better get that song recorded soon.” I’ll probably miss the boat, though.
Now my advice is not to sit around predicting whose deaths you can profit from. But thinking and feeling your way a few years into the future might open you up creatively to explore new themes, events, and characters in your songs. And if you predicted correctly, you might have earned a little extra exposure for your music, too.
If you’ve written topical songs, or plan to write above something in the future, we’d love to hear your story, hear the song, or watch the video. Feel free to comment and leave links in the section below.
-Chris R. at CD Baby
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