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Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy

How to Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell

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No, I can’t tell you how to do that. Trust me, if I could compose popular songs that would sell, I wouldn’t be toiling away in the tech industry. Just like Hugh Grant in About a Boy, I’d be living a life of leisure paid for by my song royalties, all cool toys and artfully tousled hair.

Another person who doesn’t feel he really knows how to compose popular songs that will sell is Bob Geldof, who therefore mockingly uses that as the title of his new album. Now much better known for his ongoing humanitarian work with Africa (Live Aid and all all that), as a musician he’s mostly remembered for one song: 1980s “I Don’t Like Mondays.” (Mind, if you’re only going to be remembered for one song, that’s a really excellent one to be associated with.)

It’s not entirely correct that’s been his only success. Particularly in the UK, the Boomtown Rats had numerous top 40 (and other number 1) hits, and even as a solo artist, “This Is the World Calling” and “The Great Song of Indifference” were pretty big hits. Not to mention his being the cowriter of everyone’s favorite rock Christmas song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?

He is a rich man, but the fact is, that’s more from his TV productions (did you know he created Survivor?) and other business holdings than from song royalties. He loves making music but, he says, doesn’t feel comfortable trying to sell it.

So the title is amusing, and apt, and layered in meaning. But is it any good? Well I think so. I’d say it’s better than any of his other solo albums, other than Sex, Age, and Death. Geldof calls this new album the companion to that one. That one, written as he emerged from a deep depression brought on by his marriage ending, was very dark, deeply personal, and hauntingly intense. This one, written as he amazes in the restorative power of love in second marriage, is much brighter, still fairly personal, and incredibly varied in musical styles (including a couple hauntingly intense numbers).

A lot of the songs are pretty catchy. There aren’t any I don’t like. I already love “She’s a Lover” and the hidden track at the end, “Young and Sober”, which synopsizes his entire life in an amusing three minutes. So will it sell? Unlikely, given the decline of album sales in the music industry as a whole. But the mighty few who find their way to this record won’t be disappointed, I don’t think.

PS Excellent 15-minute documentary about Bob Geldof, the musician, then and now:

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