The Singer vs. the Songwriter

According to my most recent poll on “Nurturing David’s Talent,” the majority of you believed David needed help in all areas of music – songwriting, music production, choreography, marketing etc. – while another number of folks thought he just needed help with marketing.

It’s clearly evident how dang talented David is and how many gifts he has to contribute to the music world, but when I recently came across an old version of David performing his song, “Elevator,” that he helped to pen (see above video), and then compared it to the last two Christmas carols featured in my Sunday Carol Series – “Silent Night” and “Los Pastores a Belen” – I couldn’t help but think: FORGET THE SONGWRITING THING, DAVID, SINGING IS YOUR FORTE!

Now, I know that songwriting is where the real $$ comes from, and David could seriously clean up with a hit. But here’s the thing: A song can only become a “hit” if it’s got a serious vocalist and production team behind it.  I admire David for wanting to immerse himself in the whole music production process, but can he be both an amazing singer and songwriter? And since when is the “singing alone” not considered worthy musicianship?

I once read somewhere (probably in the comments section of Fans of David back in the day) that David’s team had learned that David would never be taking seriously if he didn’t branch out into songwriting. I’m beyond annoyed that he was given this advice, to be honest.  What David needs is one heck of a songwriter who can show off his amazing Voice on a truly great song! Not for him to write his own song!

Think about it: You know why so many of you weep saltwater tears when you hear David sing “O Holy Night” or “Silent Night” or “Everybody Hurts”? It’s because his beautiful vocals are wrapped around beautiful, deep-felt songs. You know why David didn’t really sell as well with his sophomore album, The Other Side of Down? Because, as respectable and catchy as some of the pop songs were, they’re not that great.  Is it cool that David wrote on songs like “Elevator”? Sure, he’s trying!

But his vocal talent is wasted.  It’s the magic of aligning the Voice with Song and Music.  I just want David to lay his smooth vocals on a great song.  And I don’t think David is there yet in terms of songwriting. In the mean time, where’s the great song not yet penned that would fit David like a glove?

Songwriters used to kill to get certain singers covering their songs.  I’ve been disillusioned with the way David has been handled since it’s shocking to me that certain songwriters didn’t want his vocals taking their little song to the next level.

Perhaps it’s all part of the lack of “nurturing artistic talent” that currently plagues the music industry.  But I also think artists need to know their strengths (and weaknesses). Someone needs to let David know SINGING is his money note.

Dear David: Add what you must later to a song to get your copyright royalties, but let the professionals showcase you the way you ought to be showcased!

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Posted on September 16, 2013, in music. Bookmark the permalink. 53 Comments.

  1. I agree! Songwriting has not been his strong suit, but his singing and ability to interpret songs is. “Let the professionals showcase you the way you ought to be showcased”–well-said.

    It will be difficult enough to get back into the music industry after a 2-yr break. I hope, at least at first, his focus will be on finding great songs/songwriters, and, later collaborating with other writers til he develops his songwriting skills.

  2. I’m so disturbed by the idea that a great singer MUST be a great songwriter to succeed, and vice versa, because then we surely will miss the most talented singers who don’t write and writers who don’t sing.

  3. I so totally don’t agree. To basically say David has no talent in songwriting and should only sing what others tell him to sing, is wasting his talents. and to me sending him the wrong message. Some of my favorite songs David has sung are his own. I would be sad if Everything and More, Zero Gravity, BROKEN and so many others didn’t exist because we are telling him where his talents lie. I am disturbed that we would judge his writing skills on such a young, inexperienced songwriter, with so much to say.

    • poof well spoken,iso agree with you

    • We all have areas of strength & weakness–that, to me, isn’t a judgement but a statement of fact.

      I agree, David does have a lot to say thru music and I hope he will continue to hone his writing skills and seek out mentors that can help him grow in that area.

      I don’t think anyone is denying David’s talent as a vocalist and an interpreter of music. But, in order to return to the music business, he’ll need everything going for him, including great songs.

  4. Since I’ve turned into an ODD David fan, I have also learned a lot about the music industry. It has been very enlightening. In today’s music many songs are written by a team of writers which often times includes the artist. David has had help writing all of his songs except “Falling” which he wrote himself at age 14. Part of the reason that songs include the artist is so that the artist can get the lucritive song writing credits. I think sometimes the artist does not do very much of the song writing, but in David’s case I believe he does. The other song writers have indicated that David was very much in the process of writing the song. In the case of BEGIN, David wrote the music and Jon Hunt did the words. I really hope they collaborate that way again. I think David does have some talent in song writing and especially in writing the music. I love the haunting melody of “Falling”.

  5. I’m of two opinions about this.

    Certainly experienced professional songwriters are able to craft sophisticated and melodically interesting songs. They are a resource that should not be slighted. And if an artist expresses no interest in creating their own songs then they should definitely utilize professional songwriters and not be made to feel like they are less of an artist because of that.

    However, since David has said that he has an interest in songwriting and has mentioned working on improving his abilities, I think that’s a skill that should be nurtured and mentored not abandoned. I do think that David has the talent to be a good songwriter. No, he has not penned a Nobel prize winning song yet (jk) but I do see promise in what he has created. I hope he continues to hone his abilities, both by expanding his own experiences and by mentorship from experienced songwriters.

    Here’s an unpopular opinion: I know Elevator gets a bad rap but I actually really like that song. It’s fun and catchy and a real crowd favorite at his concerts. It definitely isn’t anything earth-shattering when it comes to lyrical content but it’s a good pop song. I hear comparable songs on the radio every day. Fun little ear candy. Am I saying that David should write a ton of songs just like that? No. But as an individual song I like it. It definitely doesn’t do justice to his vocal prowess (as is displayed in that live Z100 performance above — he sings the socks off that damn song and leaves it in the dust) but not every single song has to change the world.

    To me the best option would be a melding of the two — that David would keep an open mind about accepting songs written for him but also keep working on his own abilities. I think he could have used a few more “written for him” songs on TOSOD but it also seems like he was trying to make a specific point with that album. It might have been a bit too much too soon but I think that old saying goes it’s better to have tried and failed than to have not tried at all. Even having said that, TOSOD is still my favorite album from him but I’ve always been an unapologetic pop girl at heart. 😉

    Thanks for this post, HG!! It’s interesting to read the differing opinions on this and there are some very good points being brought up.

    • I like “Elevator” too. I don’t love it but I like it. It has a quirky rhythm and adds something different to his concerts. When he’s performing, it’s good for him to mix in a couple of songs like “Elevator” that allow him to rest his vocals.

      Re. songwriters, I’d like for him to be more selective in terms of who he works with. Eg, keep Sunny as a friend but realize that he has surpassed what she has to offer him in terms of songwriting.

  6. i don’t think david should waste his time writing songs unless he wants to of course. there are thousands of songwriters out there whose job it is to write songs. i have a friend in nashviille who has written hundreds, maybe thousands of great songs for others to sing, it’s her regular full time job. i didn’t know that’s how it worked. i so wish that ryan tedder would write a song for david and it would be almost guaranteed a hit!!! david shouldn’t have to write his own songs to be taken seriously.

    • Ryan Tedder wrote a song with David Cook and it did not become a hit. Like any songwriter, some of his songs are good, but some aren’t. It is never a sure thing.

  7. Carrie Undewood doesnt write any of her songs…doesnt seem to be hurting her career! Personally I feel David was ill-advised whe he was told he needed to write songs in order to be sucessful. All he needs to do is open his mouth and sing. Yes, of course he also needs a good management team.
    Im the opposite of Ali, TOSOD was my least favorite album of Davids, Elevator was not my cup ot tea with the exception of the souldful R&B Z100 version.

    • Carrie Underwood actually writes a lot of her songs. Like I said above, just about every artist these days writes with several others to compose a song. They do it to get song writing credits on their songs.

  8. HG-Im with you, for now leave it to the professioanls, learn from them, then hone your writing skills.

  9. I like Elevator too. And I do like many of David’s penned songs. I just think, as Ali said, he should also have songs written for him.

  10. Didn’t he write “Works for Me” on his own? I love love love that song!

  11. From what I have gotten from listening to David, the creating of a song is part of the process for him that helps him speak from his heart. It is part of his creative process and being. Who are we to say who is “good” at this. It is an art that one is born with, but can also be mentored and developed. Why would anyone want to limit David’s joy and creativity? To make sure he get’s a hit song??

  12. Great Post, hg. You expressed exactly what I was thinking about David’s song writing for a long time. To be honest I was never a fan of the Elevator song and did not understand why David wanted to push that song at all. I agree. Leave it to the professionals and just use that great vocal ability for awhile.

  13. Another gem Hg. I too feel that David’s song writing doesn’t equal to his vocal ability and I do agree with you that great professional writers would be what he needs to get himself back on track with his career. With that being said, it does seem to me that he has some writing ability, Falling is a good example. He has written (collaborated mostly) good songs, but he’s going to need more than just good songs, he’s going to need exceptional songs in order to get back on track. Once his career is back on track and successful, he will find his way as far as writing goes.
    Count me in as TOSOD being my least favorite. Didn’t like Elevator until I heard him sing Z100 version, really like that R&B vibe.

  14. I’m sure David will continue to collaborate on his songs as that is now how music industry seems to work. If you look at the song writing credits on most popular songs you will see that a lot of them are written by several people including the artist.

  15. I’d like for D to continue writing some of his own songs. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed the ones he co-wrote more than many of the others.

    I think singers with incredible voices should receive some type of credit/compensation for masterful interpretations of a song. Case in point, Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You”. D’s interpretation of “Imagine” would also fall in this category.

  16. Wasn’t the fans to pushed for ALNOY to be the second single because David was one of the writers and look how far that song went. David’s songs are all good, but only diehard fans will even give them a chance, he does need to step out of that box to wow millions more, imo.

    • The lack of ALTNOY taking off had less to do with the writer and more to do with the promo, imo. If I recall correctly from reading back over the posts from around then (that was before my time lol) the other choice for a single was Touch My Hand. I honestly don’t see that song doing any better than ALTNOY did given the same amount of label support. The album had already dropped and Jive didn’t seem interesting in promoting the second single nearly as much as the first.

      • You may be right about TMH, it’s a real good concert song though. I will never understand why Jive wouldn’t want to promote more songs from a somewhat of a successful album…they were already going down hill and probably didn’t have the funds to do so, maybe.

      • What I recall is that there was some question between “Touch My Hand” (great concert song) and “My Hands” (became an even greater concert song) until the revelation of D’s participation in ALTNOY made it the fan choice. Don’t know how this could be–perhaps it was before the album even came out? Anyway, they made a GREAT video for ALTNOY so clearly there was some intent for publicity. But then–*crickets*

  17. I have to agree with Ali. D should continue singing fantastic songs written by fantastic song writers such as Heaven, This Christmas, et al, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t continue to develop his writing skills. I think hes written some pretty good stuff considering he was just a teenager. David said he expresses his feelings and ideas best thru music. I love Broken, MKOP and TOSOD. D is a hard worker. I really believe he will write some great music as well as be an amazing singer !! IMHO

  18. I’m a real fan of “Elevator”–possibly the song of D’s that I find myself singing most often. I also really like “Works For Me” and “Zero Gravity.” I think “Falling” was by far the worst thing David ever put on a CD. *puts on flack jacket*

    That said, I think David is mostly a music writer, not a lyricist. He doesn’t have the depth of experience or inclination to expose himself that it takes to write the best lyrics. My favorite scenario is one in which he finds a lyricist that he can work consistently with like the team of Elton John and Bernie Taupen (sp?).

    Today’s habit of having committees write songs produces songs that sound like they have been written by committee. David can sing with way more depth than that and I hope he can find songs that can do justice to his vocals.

  19. Not sure about that one, cq. I really do not think that Mike K was the best person for David to be collaborating with on songs. JMHO. I still think SBL was a catchy pop tune.

  20. I think David is likely more talented writing music than lyrics–some of his lyrics seem quite clunky to me i.e. Elevator.

  21. Good post HG,David doesn’t need to write all his songs, just listen to BEGIN To me that’s the best cd so far.

  22. Adding one thing–to me the songs and David’s lyrics have frequently been utterly ruined by horrible production. For example, I really love “Barriers” but I can’t listen to the album version because all I hear is that clap beat. I don’t want David to have to learn the production skills, but dang it he deserves better production than he has had. Perhaps he means he needs to learn enough to explain to Production what he wants out of a track?

    • No, I think David probably does want to learn production. In this day and age with the sophisticated software a musician can learn to do their own production. If he got good at it he could produce his own songs and could even produce for others. I actually think that would be a great thing for David to learn. He has such a good ear musically.

  23. Ok, everyone can see that this topic really interests me. I just wanted to comment on the Mike Krompass collaborations. I actually like all the songs that they wrote together, and had to look up which ones they are: ALTNOY, Somebody Out There, Zero Gravity, Elevator and Who I Am. Music is very subjective so what I think is a good song others do not. I’ve always liked the quirky song “Elevator” which seems to be the song that is the most polarizing with the ODD fans. It seems you either like or hate it. Probably the only song that I dislike that David has sung is “Dream Sky High” and there are some fans that absolutely adore that one. Please David don’t sing any more collaborations between Sunny and your Dad IMHO!

    • Yes, I do agree that all those song were good, but (again jmo) he needs collaborations with writers that can produce GREAT songs. I know that non diehard fans didn’t have much of a chance to even hear SOT, ZG or Elevator, but they did have a chance to hear ALTNOY, even if it wasn’t promoted to much, if it was an exceptional song, it would of been noticed by non fans and might of been a hit. Those are all great songs to me, but I’m a diehard fan, so he can throw pretty much anything (almost anything) my way and I’ll like it.
      I do agree with collaboration with Sunny. A little to much rainbows and sunshine.

    • I would agree no more song collaborations with Sunny and his Dad.

  24. grammyj~ omg i love Dream Sky High! it’s in my top 5 david songs. i was going to suggest that Sunny should write more songs for him then saw your post. lol! just watched justin’s new video- lolly. absolutely disgusting, and i am not easily offended. it’s way worse than miley’s wrecking ball nudity, in my opinion.

    • Saw the justin bieber new video Lolly. Shook my insides a little bit and made me feel something between being nauseous and confused. Seeing how songs like that and miley’s Wrecking Ball could garner so much views in you tube within a 24 hour period makes me wonder how our David would fit into the celebrity world. I know all of us here “get” him, at least most of time, but it’s not hard to see that he is way too clean and proper for whatever’s in the music biz right now that are considered successful. Not that I’m complaining about David being clean and proper (I wish he stays that way forever), but it just worries me sometimes. But I guess some people like us really do understand and appreciates his kind of music, although audience for it is far fewer than say miley getting naked on her music video to get her song noticed.

  25. The way I see it, David needs to get away from restrictive confines of Utah. I’m sure Utah is a nice state, but let’s face it, it’s run by the church and to me he can not grow and produce music freely with big brother watching over his every move.
    Now I’m not saying he shouldn’t have a home there to come to, but just get away to say Nashville or some other rich in music city.

  26. I haven’t watched and I won’t, but I wonder what Kari thinks of Justin’s new video? Know wonder he defended Mlley.

  27. OOPS I made a boo- boo, I thought you were talking about JT not JB’s new video. I wouldn’t be surprised at anything that kid does. However doesn’t JT have nudity in one of his videos ? All I can say is, ” What is wrong with the music industry”?

  28. I was just reading Kari’s tweets online and I thought this reponse to someone who was asking her what the difference was between when she signs “ks” or “Team Archie” on tweets was interesting. This was her response:@kariontour
    “not too big of a difference. Still me posting but when I sign “Team Archie” I am including D, myself, his manager and the web team.”

    So I have to ask- Who is David’s Manager-Gina Orr and is his dad on the web team? I hope when David returns he gets a more high powered managment team and keeps Kari and Gina in some capacity on his team. Yes you would have to spend money for it but it would pay off in the long-term.JMHO.

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