Student Spotlight ‘Rhett Kay’

Andrea Stolpe

Rhett Kay, a former student of Berklee Online, is a songwriter from New York, with a wonderful lyric sense for pop and country styles. I’d like to use a few examples from her songs to highlight some tools for writing simple and effective pop lyric.

I’d like to point out that Rhett is extremely prolific.  She writes a lot of songs, which offers her much to choose from when it comes time to demo them.  As she moves through the demo process, she is flexible, allowing her lyric language and arrangement to adjust as needed to best accommodate the track as it’s built.  Sometimes in our work with producers, we songwriters need to bend in a collaborative effort to create the strongest song experience possible. This is a difficult thing to do, but a skill that is highly necessary to develop when working in the larger music industry.

In Rhett’s song Yo-Yo, http://www.rettkay.com, she takes an object as her title and develops a lyric around that object.  What results is a beautifully focused song in which the message is clear and the images are strong.  The language Rhett uses throughout the song is very conversational and she isn’t afraid to use repetition to make her point. This helps the melody repeat some memorable hooks. Without that repetition, the song might begin to involve too many different ideas, and no one particular idea would stand out as her main message. She also isn’t afraid to rhyme perfectly at times, which in my opinion, helps to accentuate the feeling of monotony as we are wound around and around like a yo-yo.

In the chorus, Rhett allows the shape of the melody to reflect the message of lyric. Each line climbs high and then falls, just like the action of a yo-yo.  A driving element of the song is the energy of the track. The lyric is consistent with the mood of the track, with a directness, simplicity, youthfulness, and a snappy sentiment.  Looking at the individual line ‘I am the one,’ We might say the idea is cliché. But familiar language such as this has it’s place in song. The way Rhett uses this kind of familiar language here makes the song accessible, and in my opinion, is an appropriate use of cliché consistent with her genre.

Throughout the song, Rhett pays special attention to the stresses in the language and making sure it pairs with the melodic stresses well. The lyrics must sound that it belongs with the melody, and any mispronunciation would draw our attention to how the lyric is singing rather than what it is saying.

To listen to more of Rhett Kay’s music, visit http://www.rettkay.com.  Leave her a message while you’re there, and perhaps even share your own music with her in an effort to expand both your writing networks.

Happy writing,

Andrea Stolpe

Andrea Stolpe
Andrea Stolpe

Andrea Stolpe teaches songwriting at Berklee Online and the University of Southern California. Her songs have been recorded by Faith Hill, Julianne Hough, and Jimmy Wayne. She is also the author of Popular Songwriting: 10 Steps to Effective Storytelling.