Keep an eye out for Dylan Galvin and his track ‘How to Write a Pop Song.’ Drawing inspiration from classic pop, the song is a clever blend of George Michael and John Mayer vibes with a touch of 80’s synth-pop. It serves as a satirical take on the music industry in 2024, playfully poking fun at the predictability of today’s top 40 hits. Adding to the intrigue, it seems like Carlos Santana makes a special appearance in the song.
The track could easily find a home on Spotify’s Pop Rising and Pop Sauce playlists.
Dylan says, “If you think too hard, you will get it wrong, you got to stay nice and stupid, if you wanna write a pop song”
Dylan Galvin, known for his successful EPs and mentorship by Paul Simon at Berklee College of Music, contributed to the score, sound design, and voice overs for the documentary “The Essential Church.” The documentary reached #1 in the Apple TV store’s “documentaries” category. The Daily Vault notes that Galvin’s music, whether lively or thoughtful, comes straight from the heart.
What inspired you to make the song ‘How to Write a Pop Song’?
So a while back, I had a bit of a debate with a fellow musician. I said that top 40s in the past few decades has seemed to decline Creatively as well as morally And it’s not just a matter of the inherent bias that comes with getting older. It’s an objective, legitimate decline. They responded with (paraphrased): You sound like an old angry boomer who can’t cope with the fact that rock and your personal preferred genres aren’t dominating the charts. Which is a nice try, but an incorrect conclusion. It’s not genre that has gone down – it’s quality of content regardless of genre that has.
I thought this argument is a favorite go-to tactic by people with a postmodernist worldview who believe everything is subjective (of course until they make an objective argument about how you’re wrong). The idea that music is totally purely subjective is just demonstrably false. There is a subjective element y, sure, but also an objectivity, which is why you have to study to learn it. If Everything was purely subjective, then someone who catches a seagull and has it scream into a mic is no different than a concerto by a master composer. And someone might say they believe they’re equal, but will quickly become objective when you start asking them the right questions.
How to write a pop is my counter argument. Top 40s has declined In harmonic complexity, Lyrical originality And depth of storytelling. There are several papers, published by researchers that show this is not the imagined bias of angry boomers, but a statistical Certainty.
Heres a link to a study done by Joan Serra:
It’s not a big surprise. The music industry is hemorrhaging money, and each year makes less and less in an audience that is harder and harder to continue to capture. More people listen to music today than they did 30 years ago, but the music industry hasn’t made proportionally an amount of money to reflect that, So they eliminate risk, encourage homogeneity And always try to reach the lowest common denominator. The end result is Music-like product, Created by entertainers who call themselves artists. (Notice how everyone calls it the “entertainment industry” but whenever one of them is interviewed, they say they are an artist….interesting).
Of course, this is not universally true, there are exceptions to this even in the top 40s world. Every now and then something comes through the chart that is groundbreaking and incredible, but it’s an undeniable tendency, and as an artist It would be a failure of mine not to comment on this. There is a sharp distinction between an artist and an entertainer. An artist has a job of showing people, something true and authentic, whether those people want to hear it or not. An entertainers job Is just to occupy the attention of an audience and give people what they want to hear. Art can be entertaining and entertainment can be artistic, but our culture has totally conflated these two things and blurred the line so much that people can’t really tell the difference anymore. I wrote “How to Write a Pop Song” to comment on this.
Can you tell us more about the funny take on the music industry in the song and what you wanted to show?
As much as I have to criticize about the industry and the music that comes from it, I still do love pop as a genre. A lot of the records I have growing up that impacted me the most were pop. Now granted it was several decades ago before everything was less streamlined and Formulaic, but it was pop nonetheless, and my song is technically a pop song. I wanted to keep things a little bit lighthearted and satirical, rather than just truly lob a grenade.
The lyrics run through a set of instructions that are written as a satire of the modern mainstream formula that is sure to get those profit margins up. Just remember, Freddie Mercury wrote Bohemian Rhapsody by himself. One man wrote BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. There’s a recent Sam Smith song that had 14 Entities collaborating on it. At that point you can’t say there’s any semblance of authenticity to a song if you crowd sourced it among an entire group and then the “artist” just is the face to sell it in a performance. Thats not art. That is product.
I mean if you shared your newborn baby with 14 other people how special and unique would your relationship be when they grew up? If you created a dinner for someone but in a group of 13 others, is it still your recipe? If you wrote a Letter to someone you truly loved but 13 other people helped you write it… How would that person feel when they found out? Not very special. And that’s what we’re getting in the music industry. Forgettable songs that are created as a cash grab that are not very special. Again, of course, there are exceptions to this, But to deny that this happens at all is just to be truly disingenuous.
Your music has vibes of George Michael and John Mayer—how do you mix these influences to create your own style?
I feel like my style kind of emerges from where I feel most fondly in the timeline of my past. As a teenager, you generally think you are so much cooler than your parents and you try to not let their music tastes influence you. But I’m really grateful before I got to those years both my mom and my dad in their music taste influenced me a lot. My dad would put on the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Mozart, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen… Just huge amalgamation of different styles of music from previous years and I got exposed to good music before I became and know it all teenager. Just because my dad listened to it, doesn’t automatically make it good by default, but as I learned more and more about music, studying it at Berklee and spending thousands of hours listening, I really came to realize his tastes were not rooted in “oh this is so catchy” but rather “what is this song about”.
I’d be in the car with my brother and my mom would be driving us up to clean my grandma’s house and she’d put on U2 and UB40 and David Bowie. So, even when I went through my teenage years Those good memories of listening to the music with them stuck with me long after the rebellious teenagers had faded and my personal taste of trends disappeared back into the dark unseen abyss of their rightful places.
The George Michaels totally comes from my parents influence. I recently realized how good George Michael was as an artist and a singer after my mom was insisting on me checking out some of those things on YouTube. When I was in the Recording Studio, recording the vocal for “how to write a pop song” I couldn’t help but sing it the way I thought George Michaels would sing it. It wasn’t like a conscious decision, it was just an intuitive thing that kind of felt right and came out as I went through the recording process. Things like this I will admit, is where the subjective element of music shines – In certain inflections or genres that you gravitate toward; you just kinda feel your way around until you’ve got something that hits you. It’s objective in that you know if it’s not working and you know when it is working.
The John Mayer Influence just comes from my own personal discovering him when I was in high school. I mean, if you were a sensitive singer songwriter with an acoustic guitar, John Mayer was your hero. I’ve listened to everything he’s ever released. I’ve seen him live several times and I’ve even got to meet him and talk to him briefly when he did a Q&A few years ago at Berklee College of Music. Funny in the second verse when I say “ Just sing about your ex, and how things used to be” – Which is an And true pop formula, John Mayer definitely does this a lot. Even my own personal music heroes aren’t always exempt for the satirical throws of my song.
I’m sure I’m not either. But back to John…his writing truly resonates with me because he’s one of those examples of a person who is technically Pop, but he has skillfully walked the line of maintaining an artistic integrity, Being able to showcase his very high-level musicianship And still throw the steak bones to the screaming fans and the money hungry labels.
You mentioned, “If you think too hard, you will get it wrong, you got to stay nice and stupid, if you wanna write a pop song.” Can you explain what that means and how it affects how you write songs?
I’m singing the lyrics somewhat from from the perspective of a savvy business executive who is in the industry, and who is giving instructions to you, the listener; the person who doesn’t understand these things yet.
“You gotta stay nice and stupid if you wanna write a pop song” Is a line that reflects the sentiment of always capturing the largest audience At all cost. When that becomes the goal, throw depth and uniqueness out the window because that’s not going to be as intriguing to as many people. If you keep it nice and stupid – You’ll be playing by the mainstream rules and your label will smile and give you a nice big check for being the obedient little “artist”.
This line in particular is hitting on the main stream departure from art and gravitation towards entertainment. Art Requires effort from the audience to go into the art and discover what it’s about and good art takes time to figure out. You have to get off your butt and use the evidence of the art to find out what it means. Lyrics used to be written this way much more often, even in the mainstream. Theologians would refer to this as “exegesis”: Determining the authorial intent in its proper grammatical, historical and intended context.
What we usually get Instead is Something That cheerfully says “ Oh no don’t get up out of your seat and exhaust yourself trying to figure out anything, I’ll come to you and spell it all out”. This is more along the lines of entertainment is for. Entertainment is not bad per se. You ever heard someone Say “ This song is my guilty pleasure”? They’re admitting the song isn’t very good, but they like it anyway, And that’s OK. Sometimes you just wanna be entertained. But much like your diet if all you want is sugary sweet every meal It’s going to have an effect on you over time. Modern lyrics could use a nice nutritional enhancement.
So if you go through the lyrics and read them as if I’m the CEO of a mainstream label telling you what you have to do as an artist in the 21st-century. You don’t have a chance to object. You just have to bow Your head, and do what you’re told. Because after all, we know better than you. 😎
But I do want to end this on a good note, and that is this: The world of independent music is thriving and it’s thriving so much it’s causing certain people in the mainstream to become uncomfortable. Independent musicians are increasingly taking greater and greater parts of the total industry every year. I’m grateful to people who have followed me through the years and have bought my CDs and shirts and Come out to see me, even when I was playing little dive bars. Fans and friends and family are the most essential thing to surviving as much as the music is.
And it’s also thanks to people like you, Dean and the Kings of A&R Who give platforms to independent artist to speak freely, and to reach audiences. Damien Keys, Rick Barker, Indepreneur – These are all people teaching good stuff to the world of Indies, And if things keep going in this direction We just might see a drastic shift in the years to come.