listening subjected to the classic adult contemporary hit, She's Like the Wind by Patrick Swayze and wondered how you know you’re creating a “lite” rock, adult contemporary power ballad before it's even released. Here’s a list of warning signs:
1. Your song features sultry saxophoing and/or synthesized beats. This seems to be one of the underlying musical currents of lite pop hits. Notables include, Phil Collins, Kenny G, Anita Baker and of course the aforementioned Swayze.
2. You’re teaming up with Linda Ronstadt. (This advice applies especially to Aaron Neville). You may be crafting a song and thinking to yourself, “the pop vocals of Linda Ronstadt blended with mine are just what this song needs”. Wrong. Teaming up with Ms. Ronstadt may sound like a good idea but it’s a one way road to the adult contemporary charts. Despite her solo accomplishments Linda is a perennial fixture of lite rock. You’re more likely to hear Ronstadt vocals at a dentist’s office than you are a drill.
3. Whimsical imagery. If your song includes whimsical ideas like sailing, balloon rides, summer days, or how cute your child is then you my friend are writing an adult contemporary hit. It’s a proven fact there’s nothing adults love more than whimsy so incorporating it to music is like crack to them. Examples include; Summer Breeze, Butterfly Kisses, Sail Away, I Hope You Dance.
4. It’s on the soundtrack of an 80’s comedy. What is it about 80’s comedies that inspired such sappy love songs? I guess the 1980’s were a complex time when comedy needed that extra bit of drama and melancholy to “bring it home”. After all, this was the decade that created the “very special episodes” of otherwise comedic TV shows. Examples of sappy power ballads inserted into comedies include; include Tootsie , Arthur , An American Tail (bonus points—it features Linda Ronstadt!), Scrooged.
5. You’re Aaron Neville. Maybe his time in prison made him get in touch with his softer side. Everything he sings has an adult rock affectation He can even cover songs and make them lite. Examples include; Betcha By Golly, Wow, Everybody Plays the Fool, Don't Know Much (Extra bonus, one of several duets with Linda Ronstadt! Together they form an unbeatable force of adult contemporary fury).
On the plus side is the fact you’re writing a hit song however, know that it will be primarily heard by people strapped to chairs during teeth cleanings, at work or waiting to see a doctor. Not the best context for your creation.
Special shout out to the king of adult contemporary, Lionel Richie. All of his songs are lite rock hits so there's really no way he's unaware of what he's making. Same for Richard Marx