Don’t Bore Us – Get To the Chorus!

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February 8, 2011

The best title ever for a hits package.

Also, the first thing that popped up in my head when I was thinking about this discussion topic.

Some songs have choruses so good that they don’t even need the rest of the song to make them worth listening to.

In the case of “Let That Pony Run,” the Pam Tillis hit about a newly divorced mother, you can lift the chorus out of the song completely and it still makes sense. Pretty rare for a story song:

You do what you gotta do,
And you know what you know.

You hang on ’til you can’t hang on,
Then you learn to let go.

And you get what you need sometimes,
When it’s all said and done.

You do what you gotta do,
Then you let that pony run.

How’s that for a great life philosophy?

What are your favorite choruses? Can they stand up on their own?

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  1. GatorNo Gravatar says:

    One of my personal favorite choruses is that of Julie Roberts’ sole hit “Break Down Here”

    I’d sure hate to break down here
    Nothin up ahead or in the rear-view mirror
    Out in the middle of nowhere knowin
    I’m in trouble if these wheels stop rollin
    God help me keep me movin somehow
    Don’t let me start wishin I was with now
    I’ve made it this far without cryin a single tear
    I’d sure hate to break down here

    I think its just a wonderful statement for heartbreak.

  2. KatieRNo Gravatar says:

    Too many, but here’s a couple:

    Dixie Chicks “Heart Break Town”

    [i]This ain’t nothin’ but a Heartbreak Town
    Square people in a world thats round
    And they watch you dancin’
    Without the sound
    It ain’t nothin’ no nothin’
    You take your number and you stand in line
    And they watch to see how high you’re gonna climb
    Pat on the back ‘n’ better luck next time
    It ain’t nothin’ no it ain’t nothin’ but a Heartbreak Town[/i]

    Others as well, but that’s the one that always gets me.

  3. BobNo Gravatar says:

    Ty Herndon’s “What Mattered Most” written by Gary Burr and Vince Melamed.

    Her eyes were blue
    Her hair was long
    In 64 she was born in Baton Rouge
    Her favorite song
    was In My Life
    I memorized her every move
    I knew her books, her car, her clothes
    But I paid no attention
    To what mattered most

    I heard a story song a few months ago at a show and then checked out the lyrics on-line the next day and realized that the song has no chorus. I’m sure I’ve heard songs without a chorus but I guess I never noticed it before. The song was “Table 32″ written by Georgia Middleman and Sam & Annie Tate and was on Georgia’s 2004 album “Unchanged”. It made me wonder what percentage of country songs and songs in general have no chorus? About 6 weeks later I was listening to John Denver’s “Windsong” album and found that 4 of the 12 songs had no chorus as far as I could tell.

  4. JonathanNo Gravatar says:

    A favorite of mine is “Sunday Morning Coming Down:”

    On a Sunday morning sidewalk,
    I’m wishing, Lord, that I was stoned
    ‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday
    That makes a body feel alone
    And there’s nothing short a’ dying
    That’s half as lonesome as the sound
    Of the sleeping city sidewalk
    And Sunday morning coming down

    and another is Alan Jackson’s “Someday:”

    And I said someday
    I’ll get my life straight
    And she said it’s too late
    What’s done is done
    And I told her someday
    She said I can’t wait
    ‘Cause sometimes someday just never comes

    and here’s a third – “Murder On Music Row:”

    For the steel guitars no longer cry
    And the fiddles barely play
    But drums and rock ‘n’ roll guitars
    Are mixed up in your face
    Ol’ Hank/Lefty/Hag wouldn’t have a chance
    On today’s radio
    Since they committed murder
    Down on music row

  5. BLLNo Gravatar says:

    There’s two dates in time
    that they’ll carve on your stone
    and everyone knows what they mean
    what’s more important
    is the time that is known
    in that little dash there in between
    that little dash there in between

    ‘Pushing Up Daisies’ Garth Brooks, Scarecrow, written by John Hadley, Gary Scrugs and Kevin Welch (actually 2 Kevin Welch songs that Garth put together, but still an awesome chorus).

  6. MIANo Gravatar says:

    Apparently, I’m in cheesy song mode, so here goes…

    Gary Allan, “Her Man”

    ‘Cause I’ve been a wild catter, and a go-go getter
    Been an S.O.B. right down to the letter
    I’ve had misadventures, I’ve even got pictures
    I’m even more than I can stand
    But startin’ today, all I’m gonna be is her man

    John Michael Montgomery, “Life’s a Dance”

    Life’s a dance you learn as you go
    Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
    Don’t worry about what you don’t know
    Life’s a dance, you learn as you go

    Dwight Yoakam, “Guitars, Cadillacs”

    It’s guitars, cadillacs, hillbilly music
    Lonely, lonely streets that I call home
    Yeah, my guitars, cadillacs, hillbilly music
    It’s the only thing that keep me hangin’ on

    Garth Brooks, “I’m Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)”

    And the white line’s getting longer and the saddle’s getting cold
    I’m much too young to feel this damn old
    All my cards are on the table with no ace left in the hole
    I’m much too young to feel this damn old

    Pam Tillis, “Spilled Perfume”

    Did you really think last night would last forever
    Did you really think that guy hung the moon
    Right now you hate yourself ’cause you knew better
    But there’s no use crying over spilled perfume

    Sara Evans, “Suds in the Bucket”

    How could 18 years just up an and walk away?
    Our little pony-tail girl growed up to be a woman
    Now she’s gone in the blink of an eye
    She left the suds in the bucket and the clothes hangin’ out on the line

    I’ve heard these songs millions of times, and it’s the choruses that grab me each time and keep me coming back for more. Haha. :) (Sorry so long)

  7. MIANo Gravatar says:

    @BLL I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’ve never even heard of that particular Garth Brooks album. But, I just located the song on YouTube and I liked it. It has a very strong Irish feel to it, which is a thread through a lot of Garth’s songs, and what makes his choruses so great. So much Irish music has that strong sing-a-long chorus. Cheers.

  8. Music manNo Gravatar says:

    Oh, the lonely sound of my voice calling
    Is driving me insane
    And just like rain the tears keep falling
    Nobody answers when I call your name
    Oh, nobody answers when I call your name

    Sent chills down my spine the first time I heard the song, one of Vince Gill’s finest.

  9. Music manNo Gravatar says:

    ‘Cause I’d love to be out of your shoes tonight
    To be the one turnin’ him on
    When he turns out the light
    Under your skin
    Lyin’ with him
    When he holds you tight
    I’d love to be out your shoes tonight

    This Lorrie Morgan song says it all, don’t you think?

  10. Music manNo Gravatar says:

    So I guess that means that things are better
    Must not be so bad at home
    I thought it looked like you were leavin’ but it don’t

    And I heard you tell her you still love her
    So it doesn’t matter what you say
    I saw it all from a table away

    Sunny Sweeney, something newer.

  11. Music manNo Gravatar says:

    He said I wanna see you again
    But I’m stuck in colder weather
    Maybe tomorrow will be better
    Can I call you then
    She said you’re a ramblin’ man
    And you ain’t ever gonna change
    You gotta gypsy soul to blame
    And you were born for leavin

    Another newer song, Zac Brown Band.

  12. The king of great choruses may just be Alan Jackson. They’re deceptively simple (Keith Urban could learn a thing or two about brevity). This may not be the best example of his songwriting, but it’s a personal favorite:

    “Livin’ on love
    Buyin’ on time
    Without somebody nothin’ ain’t worth a dime
    Just like an old fashioned storybook rhyme
    Livin’ on love
    It sounds simple, that’s what you’re thinkin’
    But love can walk through fire without blinkin’
    It doesn’t take much when you get enough
    Livin’ on love”

  13. Music manNo Gravatar says:

    I guess you’re tired of walking tightropes
    Of setting up and tearing down
    You want a place to call forever
    And rest your feet on solid ground
    Somewhere you’ve lost that sense of wonder
    But that’s still the place I’m bound
    I’m a storm in search of thunder
    I’m just a circus leaving town

    Phillip Claypool wrote it, he and Travis Tritt both recorded this song.

  14. Mike J.No Gravatar says:

    I know I must be goin’
    ‘Cause love’s already gone
    And all I’m takin’ with me
    Are the pieces of my heart
    And all I’ll leave
    Are smoke rings in the dark.

    - – - –

    I get weak in the knees
    And I lose my breath
    Oh I try to speak
    But the words won’t come
    I’m so scared to death
    When you smile that smile
    The world turns upside down
    Whenever you come around

  15. AndrewNo Gravatar says:

    “The Ride” by Chris LeDoux

    Sit tall in the saddle
    Hold your head up high
    Keep your eyes fixed
    Where the trail meets the sky
    Live like you ain’t afraid to die
    And don’t be scared
    Just enjoy the ride

  16. Jon G.No Gravatar says:

    I love pretty much all the songs mentioned here. Good topic.

  17. TomNo Gravatar says:

    …george strait’s “i can still make cheyenne”

    he said, i’m sorry it’s come down to this
    there’s so much about you that i’m gonna miss
    but it’s alright baby,
    if i hurry, i can still make cheyenne

  18. TomNo Gravatar says:

    …and of course there’s dwight’s “i’ll just take these”

    so i’ll just take
    what my mind can stand
    ’cause there’s not a lot
    that you can hold in trembling hands

  19. JonathanNo Gravatar says:

    I Love both Lorrie Morgan’s “Out of Your Shoes” and Vince Gill’s “When I Call Your Name.” The Vince song is one of his finest and having Patty Loveless singing harmony only enhances the beauty of that track. That’s a classic of the modern era for sure.

    I’m really enjoying this thread – it has me thinking about country music on a different level. I’ve never given this much attention to choruses before but they really do make or break songs. (as do bridges but that’s another post).

    I’m surprised no one has posted the chorus to “The House That Built Me:”

    I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
    This brokenness inside me might start healing
    Out here it’s like I’m someone else
    I thought that maybe I could find myself
    If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave
    Won’t take nothing but a memory
    From the house that built me

    or “In Color:”

    And if it looks like we were scared to death
    Like a couple of kids just trying to save each other
    You should have seen it in color

    or “Whiskey Lullaby:”

    1st Chorus

    He put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger
    And finally drank away her memory
    Life is short but this time it was bigger
    Than the strength he had to get up off his knees
    We found him with his face down in the pillow
    With a note that said I’ll love her till I die
    And when we buried him beneath the willow
    The angels sang a whiskey lullaby

    2nd Chorus

    She put that bottle to her head and pulled the trigger
    And finally drank away his memory
    Life is short but this time it was bigger
    Than the strength she had to get up off her knees
    We found her with her face down in the pillow
    Clinging to his picture for dear life
    We laid her next to him beneath the willow
    While the angels sang a whiskey lullaby

  20. JonathanNo Gravatar says:

    And to add to the cheese factor – Shania Twain’s number one hit from Oct 1998:

    Honey, I’m home and I had a hard day
    Pour me a cold one and oh, by the way
    Rub my feet, gimme something to eat
    Fix me up my favorite treat
    Honey, I’m back, my head’s killing me
    I need to relax and watch TV
    Get off the phone-give the dog a bone
    Hey! Hey! Honey, I’m home!

    Plus a good one from Rosanne Cash:

    Tell me you’re trying to cure a seven-year ache
    See what else your old heart can take
    The boys say, “when is he gonna give us some room”
    The girls say, “god I hope he comes back soon”

    and a favorite from Lori McKenna:

    I was stealing kisses from a boy
    Now I’m begging affection from a man
    In my house dress don’t know you who I am
    I’m standing in your kitchen

    Desperation never sounded so good…

  21. Erik NorthNo Gravatar says:

    “Love Is A Rose”, from Linda Ronstadt’s 1975 album Prisoner In Disguise:

    Love is a rose, but you better not pick it
    It only grows when it’s on the vine
    Handful of thorns, and you know you’ve missed it
    Lose your love when you say the word Mine

  22. DiamondNo Gravatar says:

    I’m just a singer of simple songs
    I’m not a real political man
    I watch CNN but I’m not sure I can tell you
    The difference in Iraq and Iran
    But I know Jesus and I talk to God
    And I remember this from when I was young
    Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
    And the greatest is love

    -Alan Jackson

  23. highwayman3No Gravatar says:

    ‘We fired our guns and the British kept a’comin.
    There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago.
    We fired once more and they began to runnin’ on
    Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.’

    Also, Breathe by Faith Hill, a great build up.

  24. J.R. JourneyNo Gravatar says:

    Tell me you’re trying to cure a seven year ache
    See what else your old heart can take
    Boys say ‘when is he gonna us some room’
    But girls say ‘God I hope he comes back soon’

    - Rosanne Cash

  25. I’m not sure if I quite agree with you here; although the chorus may be the easiest bit to remember, imo if the verses don’t contribute the composition as a whole has failed. But it reminded me of the song ‘I Will Come Back Again’ (written by Verlon Thompson and recorded by Matt King just over 10 years ago):

    Once I was a singer, music was my church
    And I put myself through hell trying to write a second verse
    So I came back as a chorus, the best part of a song
    Cause all your friends remember and they all sing along

    Here’s a live version by Thompson:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ng_pJW1flYY

  26. Mike KNo Gravatar says:

    I’m going with the all Sonny Throckmorton edition

    The way I am, don’t fit my shackles
    The way I am, reality
    I can almost see that bobber dancin’
    So I’ll just dream and keep on being the way I am.

    written by Sonny Throckmorton performed by Merle Haggard

    Now my heart is sinking like a setting sun
    Setting on the things I wish I’d done
    It’s time to say goodbye to yesterday
    And this is where the cowboy rides away

    written by Sonny Throckmorton performed by George Strait

    Why not me on a rainy day
    Why not me to love your cares away, why not me
    Why not me when the nights get cold
    Why not me when your growin’ old, why not me

    written by Sonny Throckmorton, Harlan Howard, and Brent Maher performed by The Judds & others

    I was gonna list Roger Miller’s songs with great choruses, but I ain’ t got all day

  27. JoJoNo Gravatar says:

    I’ll move on baby just like you
    When the desert floods and the grass turns blue
    When a sailing ship don’t need her moon
    It’ll break my heart, but I’ll get through
    Someday when I stop loving you.

    “Someday When I Stop Loving You” -Carrie Underwood

  28. BLLNo Gravatar says:

    @MIA- its on ‘Scarecrow’, Garth’s last studio album; not a filler cut on it.

    @highwayman- very nice Johnny Horton reference!

  29. John LNo Gravatar says:

    Where’d you get that alibi?
    Did it fall out of a midnight sky,
    Or did you find it on the side of the road?
    Tell me: Did you have to make a deal,
    Or wrestle for control, of the wheel, from your conscience?
    I’d like to know.
    Where do you go?
    On your way home?

    On your Way Home: written Matraca Berg,Ronnie Samoset
    Performed by Patty Loveless

  30. JosephNo Gravatar says:

    What about a phone call in the middle of the night
    You whispering so she can’t overhear you
    Telling me you still want me desperately
    What about a knock on the door– 3AM
    Don’t have to hear your voice to know you been drinking
    What if my hand opens the door and lets you in
    Oh No What if I can’t say no again

    –Chely Wright

  31. JakeNo Gravatar says:

    And it’s love and hate and all these emotions
    I never thought that you’d be going
    Now I’m just going through the motions
    Where everything is you, everything is you
    -Eli Young Band

  32. Travis in VIrginiaNo Gravatar says:

    Here are my pics:

    “And still
    The world stood still
    I couldn’t move
    And all I could feel
    Was this aching in my heart
    Saying I loved him still.”
    -Reba

    “It don’t matter where you bury me
    I’ll be home and I’ll be free
    It don’t matter where I lay
    All my tears be washed away.”
    -Emmylou

    “Yeah I’ve finally realized that’s the way things are
    I got the bleeding stopped but there’s gonna be a scar
    I know I’ll go on living but you’re always gonna be around
    Deep down, deep down.”
    -Pam

    “Keep your distance
    Keep your distance
    Oh, when I feel you close to me
    What can I do but fall
    Keep your distance
    Keep your distance
    Oh, with us it must be all or none at all
    (Oh, with us it must be all or none at all)”
    -Patty

    “Somebody’s loving you I know And I can feel you letting go
    There’s a flame in you I can’t walk through
    You’re burning but it’s Somebody Else’s Fire.”
    -Janie

  33. ZackNo Gravatar says:

    One of the reasons why I love the Chicks’ “Silent House” so much is the chorus:

    And I will try to connect
    All the pieces you left
    I will carry it on
    And let you forget
    And I’ll remember the years
    When your mind was clear
    How the laughter and life
    Filled up this silent house

    ……I also second “The House That Built Me”‘s chorus, one of the few reasons why I love that song.

  34. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    The chorus of Kellie Pickler’s “Best Day of Life” is really catchy, and better than the rest of the song.

    Shania Twain’s “Up!” is another song where the chorus seemed especially central to the song.

    Also love…
    Lorrie Morgan, “Watch Me” and “We Both Walk”
    LeAnn Rimes, “One Way Ticket”
    Tim McGraw, “Where the Green Grass Grows”
    Sara Evans, “A Real Fine Place to Start” (could probably stand on its own)

    Can’t think of very many right now, but I might come back with more later.

  35. ScottNo Gravatar says:

    “Break Dwon Here”
    “Out of your Shoes”
    “Where were you…”

  36. KNo Gravatar says:

    Carrie Underwood- “Someday When I Stop Loving You”
    Carrie Underwood- “Jesus, Take The Wheel”
    Carrie Underwood- “Don’t Forget To Remember Me”
    Sara Evans- “A Little Bit Stronger”
    Dixie Chicks- “Top Of The World”
    Dixie Chicks- “Wide Open Spaces”
    Keith Urban- “Tonight I Wanna Cry”
    Rascal Flatts- “These Days”
    Rascal Flatts- “Bless The Broken Road”
    “Only Prettier”- Miranda Lambert
    “House That Built Me-” Miranda Lambert
    “Airstream Song”- Miranda Lambert
    Guilty In Here”- Miranda Lambert
    “Life Ain’t Always Beautiful”- Gary Allan

  37. Music manNo Gravatar says:

    ‘Cause I Love the long shots
    And the left out lost caused
    Hanging out in the back of the pack
    With the dark horses
    I ride the wrong road
    Just as fast as I can
    God knows there is no one else to blame
    Sometimes I think I get off on the pain

    Gary Allan ~ Get Off on the Pain

  38. Music manNo Gravatar says:

    Just a few more…
    If you’re calling ’bout the car I sold it
    If this is Tuesday night, I’m bowling
    If you got something to sell
    You’re wasting your time
    I’m not buying
    If it’s anybody else
    Wait for the tone
    You know what to do
    And P.S. if this is Austin
    I still love you

    Austin ~ Blake Shelton

    I’m just a ghost in this house
    I’m just a shadow upon these walls
    As quietly as a mouse I haunt these halls
    I’m just a whisper of smoke
    I’m all that’s left of two hearts on fire
    That once burned out of control
    That took my body and soul
    I’m just a ghost in this house

    Ghost in This House ~ Shenandoah and/or Alison Krauss

    And my heart is sinking like the setting sun,
    Setting on the things I wish I’d done.
    It’s time to say goodbye to yesterday.
    This is where the cowboy rides away.

    The Cowboy Rides Away ~ George Strait

  39. DanNo Gravatar says:

    Sometimes that mountain you’ve been climbing
    Is just a grain of sand
    And what you’ve been out there searching for forever
    Is in your hands
    And when you figure out love is all that matters after all
    It sure makes everything else seem so small

    “So Small” by Carrie Underwood

  40. RJNo Gravatar says:

    Makes ya wanna start thinkin about drinkin
    If I don’t find a way to ease my mind
    To leave all this behind
    I’m gonna go crazy without you baby
    A barroom or a bedroom back at home
    I feel a cold one comin on

    Most underrated Montgomery Gentry single. Some reason missed the top 20.

  41. FelipeNo Gravatar says:

    I love the chorus from the Lisa Dames’s Just Another Day song

    No one called from the Whitehouse to say
    The president’s making this a holiday
    And people still riding in the subway all alone
    It didn’t stop anybody’s big league game
    Or sinners from falling on their knees to pray
    The traffic is still moving real slow all over L.A.
    For the rest of the world, It was just another day
    It was just another day

  42. NicolasNo Gravatar says:

    Roll Me Back in Time by Sara Evans:

    All the glitter out in Hollywood,
    All the stars that never shined,
    Well it could hold the candle to you when
    Could you roll me, could you roll me, could you roll me back in time?

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