I was listening to a jazz station on my way to play a round of golf with my buddies today, and caught the tail end of the name of a song they were about to play by Wynton Marsalis.
It instantly became my all-time favorite song title. Ready?
What a GREAT line.
Let’s analyze why it works so well.
1. It turns a common phrase on its head by replacing one of the core words with a substitute. You think you know where the title is going – and then it takes a verbal left turn. That’s the essence of humor. When we expect one thing and the communicator surprises us with something unexpected, it elicits an almost involuntary smile, chuckle, or guffaw
2. The substituted word is similar to the original word because it has also one syllable and a “long i.” A verbal twist on a cliché works better when the new word sounds like the original word because there’s a slight delay while we wonder, “Did I hear what I just heard?” When we discover we’ve been cleverly fooled, we are intellectually tickled.
3. Like good art, this line keeps revealing new layers the more we think about it. It has another “gotcha” by playing off the numbers twice and first. You can’t really hear someone twice the first time – however most of us “get” this anyway because most of us have been subjected to a long-winded monologue or a person who repeats everything they say.
4. This simple line also “says a lot in a little.” Comedian Steven Wright said, “My grandfather invented Cliff- Notes. It was in . .. well, to make a long story short.” This song title makes a l-o-n-g story short – 7 words to be exact – however we are eager to hear, as popular broadcaster Paul Harvey would say, “ . . . the rest of the story.”
That’s the hallmark of a good title — it gets your project’s foot in your target audience’s mental door and they can’t wait to find out more.
What are some of your favorite song titles? They could be clever, laugh-out-loud funny, or evocative.
Submit them to this blog and I will feature the winner (with your permission) in an upcoming blog and give you a $50 gift certificate to be used for any of my books and CD’s at www.SamHorn.com