Miley Cyrus’s fourth studio album Bangerz in 2013 featured one of her hit songs “Wrecking Ball”. The song was written by Henry Walter, Kiyanu Kim, Lukasz Gottwald, Maureen McDonald, Miley Cyrus, Mozella McDonald, Sacha Skarbek and Stephan Moccio. David Penn of HitSongsDeconstructed.com breaks down how the songwriting techniques, structure and chorus contributed to making Wrecking Ball an international chart topping song.
Miley Cyrus was at the forefront of Pop culture in 2013. Many of us remember her outlandish, controversial behaviour including twerking at the VMA’s, stating publicly to Rolling Stone that “weed is the best drug on earth,” and swinging nude from a wrecking ball all have taken her exposure (no pun intended) to astronomical heights.
But behind all the hype and controversy lies a talented artist who was able to take a song that was provided to her by some of today’s hottest hitmakers, make it her own, and deliver it in an infectious, engaging, memorable manner that was able to connect and resonate with the masses on a global scale.
There’s a lot that can be learned from that we’ll explore in this song analysis of Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus. You just need to look beyond the hype and appreciate the song for what it really is – a clever, expertly well crafted Power Ballad.
To date, Wrecking Ball has landed in the top 5 in 24 countries and hit #1 on 12 charts.
3 Hit Songwriting Techniques
What follows are 3 of the many hit songwriting techniques that can be extracted from Wrecking Ball:
Incorporating clever elements into your song is a surefire way to help put it over the top. In the case of Wrecking Ball, there are 2 that you should take note of:
- First, notice the manner in which the kick and snare within the chorus act as “wrecking ball” elements. Their nature elicits the impression of a wrecking ball slamming into the side of the building, which perfectly jibes with the title and lyrics.
- Second, notice the manner in which Cyrus sings the lyrics “break me” and “wreck me” at the end of the chorus. By singing it like “brea-ea-eak me” and “wre-e-eck me,” this clever vocal phrasing concludes the section in an exceptionally infectious manner that gets completely engrained within the listener’s head.
- Prosody: The nature of a song’s music and vocal needs to perfectly jibe with the lyrics in order to provide the listener with the most profound connection to the song possible. A perfect example of this can be found within Wrecking Ball’s chorus and bridge.
The Heartfelt Bridge
Following the powerful nature of the chorus which perfectly accentuates the “wrecking ball” themed lyrics, notice how the bridge brings it all down by taking on a more heartfelt, fragile and somber tone in order to accentuate the realization and hurt present in the lyrics. Gone are the drums and electric guitar of the chorus, and in its place we have strings, piano and bass coupled with a more somber, heartfelt vocal from Cyrus which takes the evocative nature of the section to the next level when she sings “I never meant to start a war, I just wanted you to let me in…”
Not only are all the elements working in perfect tandem with one another, but also notice how the profound difference between the bridge and preceding chorus provides strong contrast within the song, which ultimately makes for a more engaging listening experience.
The Chorus – The Payoff Impact Accee Chorus
When your song features a really big, powerful chorus, how you set it up for maximum impact makes all the difference. In the case of Wrecking Ball, the set up consists of the following 3 stages:
Stage 1: The backing music fades from the mix at the tail end of the pre-chorus. The silence that follows acts to heighten the tension factor for the listener in anticipation of the chorus that follows.
Stage 2: Cyrus slams in with the “I came in like a…” vocal. Notice that this is a SOLO vocal. The backing music isn’t present within the mix.
Stage 3: The full chorus, (backing music included), slams in on the title “payoff” lyrics “wrecking ball.”
By going through this 3 stage set-up, it enables the full chorus to slam in with the impact of a “wrecking ball,” ultimately taking the impact of the section, and the song for that matter, to the next level.
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