The Orion

If it’s a good song, it should be 6 minutes

William Rein

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Illustration by Miles Huffman

A really good song isn’t afraid to go the extra mile and push at least six minutes.

While the three minute radio model is fine for club bangers, it’s really tragic for an objectively good song. I don’t think the human attention span has eroded enough to only accept tiny tracks for listening.

If you lack a DJ at your party, and someone is just running up and searching songs (lacking a playlist), you have to do this every three and a half minutes, on average. That’s a tremendous amount of running around, and coming up with a song that often can be difficult.

The genre that has most fallen from chronicle, and is most played at parties, is hip-hop.

Recently, rap has lost touch with its classic 3-verse paradigm. Singles abound where the artist only writes two 16-bar verses, giving the last to a feature, or has three shorter verses. If you can’t write three full-length stories, you shouldn’t release a song about the subject.

One reason I like Kanye is his willingness to create huge songs. “Runaway,” which no one can deny is beautiful, is nine minutes. Other artists are pushing this barrier as well.

Kid Cudi’s “Ghost!” at five minutes, tying into my column this week about sensitivity, deals with detachment and isolation. The vocabulary is elementary, and except for a final piano bridge, the whole song could’ve been only 30 seconds – Scott Mescudi knew it had the stamina for longer, fortunately.

“Money Trees” by Kendrick Lamar is another example. A summer staple and hood capitalism anthem, the throwback production and falsetto hook create an entrancing six minute soliloquy. The alternate chorus by Anna Wise toward the end refreshes the pace of the song.

In hip-hop, long classics are not rare. “Can’t C Me,” “One Love” and “Control” are all pushing six minutes, and are all indoctrinated into the hall of fame.

Underground electronic music has always pushed odysseys of sound. Skream, the creator of Dubstep, has an arsenal of lengthy, repetitive tracks that somehow keep momentum. His “Exothermic Reaction”, “Rutten”, “Perfect Picture Remix” and “Summer Dreams” (eight minutes) are all equally enjoyable for their magnitude.

Any really great song isn’t afraid to break the current mold and chisel on for twice the length.

William Rein can be reached at [email protected] or @toeshd on Twitter.

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If it’s a good song, it should be 6 minutes