Ralph Murphy, the Vice-President of ASCAP, has a lot of wisdom on music. One of his most interesting points is that men and women process a song differently; in short, men “hear” the lyrics, whereas women “listen” to them.
The point is exemplified in a song called “Ocean Front Property” by George Strait (a former #1 hit on the country chart). When I first heard the chorus, I thought it was stupid: “I got some ocean front property in Arizona”.
“Impossible!” said the Major. What the hell is he talking about? How can you have ocean front property in Arizona?
Years later, I watched a video of George Strait and Kenny Chesney. They were singing “Ocean Front Property” at Texas Stadium; coincidentally, it was the largest single-show concert in the history of the United States – 104,793 in attendance. At any rate, the first thing I noticed were the women. They all knew the lyrics to the verse, and they were singing along emphatically.
So I went back and read the lyrics again:
If you leave me
I won’t miss you
And I won’t ever take you back
Girl your memory
Won’t ever haunt me
Cause I don’t love you
Now if you’ll buy that…
Now the song made sense. The verse shows a man who doesn’t love a woman, while the chorus exposes the verse as a lie. In short, he’s still madly in love with her. It’s a theme that can be stated in the following ways:
- “Girl, I want you back”
- “My baby done left me”
- “Woman I miss you”
How many other songs have a similar theme? Literally thousands. So what makes “Ocean Front Property” a number one hit? Well, a number of things…but perhaps the most important this is the following – it repeats a popular theme in a unique way.
Most men, like myself, will listen to the song and hear the beat or chorus. Conversely, most women listen to the lyrics to the entire song. When they do, they find a pleasing message: an old flame is still thinking of them, aching over “what might have been.” Because women can relate to that. Most women know a man “got away “: a man they loved, but were unable to keep.
Nashville songwriters are the best in the game. They know their audience (women) and they craft messages that speak to them. In the case of “Ocean Front Property,” three people wrote the tune: Dean Dillon, Hank Cochran, and Royce Porter. There is strength in numbers, indeed.
The words of Ralph Murphy are so true: men and women process a song differently; men “hear” the lyrics, whereas women “listen” to them.
See Related Article: How Rhyme Schemes and Pronouns are Used to Create a Hit Song