Wildest Dreams: How To Take A Song From Good To Great
Taylor Swift teamed up with Pop powerhouse duo Max Martin and Shellback for her dreamy Pop Ballad, Wildest Dreams. The song fuses sultry, low-range alto vocals with Swift’s well-established soprano on top of strings, synths, piano and even a heartbeat, all of which accentuate its love/relationship and hooking up lyrical theme — no drama spared.
And as you would expect from this A-team of hitmakers, the song features a plethora of hooks, clever elements, and WOW factors that puts it over-the-top.
In this article, excerpted from our Wildest Dreams Deconstructed Report, we examine a couple of the many characteristics that put the song over the top – its unique primary instrumental hook, and its infectious and engaging, blend of disparate genres, sub-genres and vibes.
A staple of every song that lands in the Top 10 of the Hot 100 is the inclusion of at least one, if not many, infectious hooks. These hooks can come in the form of vocals, lyrics, instrumentation, or a combination of the three. However, the “hookiest” of hooks possess a unique quality that enables the song to further stand out among its mainstream contemporaries. A few recent examples include Wiggle (the toy flute hook), What Do You Mean (the ticking clock and pan flute hooks), and Taylor Swift’s latest hit, Wildest Dream, via its heartbeat hook.
Consisting of a two-part structure (quarter note compressed beat and two higher level “thumps”), the heartbeat appears in every section of the song save for chorus 3 Part X (the sparse breakdown section). Its primary function is twofold:
- It serves as the song’s primary rhythmic backbone.
- Its characteristics cleverly jibe with and accentuate the song’s love/relationship and hooking up lyrical themes via its heartbeat characteristics.
The clever, dual function of the heartbeat hook is one of the key elements that put Wildest Dreams over the top.
Another key strong suit of Wildest Dreams is its array of disparate genres, sub-genres and vibes that take its engagement value and impact to the next level.
Header (Song Form): I=Intro, A=Verse, PC=Pre-Chorus, B=Chorus, C=Bridge
Header (X, Y, Z): Represents individual parts/stanzas in the chorus
Chart Body: I=Instrumental characteristics, V=Vocal characteristics
Wildest Dreams is first and foremost a Pop song with a mix of Electropop, Ballad, and Power Ballad sub-genres. The Electropop influence is in effect throughout the entire song, and is put into effect primarily via the prominent synths featured in the mix. The Ballad and Power Ballad influences, however, interchange with one another from section to section:
- Ballad: The intro, verse, pre-chorus, and chorus 3, Part X sections feature a Ballad-esque quality. This is put into effect primarily via the characteristics of the vocal, instrumentation (piano and legato strings), and its half-time rhythm.
- Power Ballad: The chorus sections, save for chorus 3 Part X, and the bridge feature a Power Ballad quality. This is primarily put into effect via the harmonic shift and the addition of prominent bass and sawtooth synths into the mix. The shift from Ballad to Power Ballad is what enables the “payoff” sections of the song’s to stand out and resonate with the listener at a heightened level.
Wildest Dreams also features an engaging blend of Lana Del Rey and “traditional” Taylor Swift qualities, which enables the song not only to stand out in the mainstream, but also in regard to Swift’s overall body of work.
- Lana Del Rey Influence: The Lana Del Rey influence is present throughout the majority of the song. It’s elicited via a combination of Swift’s lower-range, sultry,“Rey-esque” vocals, and the sensual, melodramatic, backing music via strings, heartbeat, piano, and heavy reverb processing.
- Taylor Swift Influence: The “traditional” Taylor Swift influence is primarily put into effect via her higher-range, “bright and poppy” vocal characteristics.
The manner in which these disparate genres, sub-genres and vibes interact throughout the song is a key factor that led to the song’s success.