What makes a song “good”? There are many variables at play here. Ultimately this answer is subjective, but a truly great song can transcend time and cultures being loved by many. I will now go through a few of the reasons I personally feel make a song stand above the rest.
Most people these days would probably first say, rhythm is the largest key to a good song. While I do agree that rhythm can make you move to a song, not all songs that make you want to dance are good. I personally enjoy a song that has a unique structure to its rhythm. If it changes the beat, or is just slightly off rhythm, then I sometimes find these songs can be more interesting. You tend to pay more attention to the rhythm if it does change-up and is unusual.
Lyrics are probably another giant favorite of most people. While I concede that great poetry or storytelling spoken or sung over a piece of music can add to the experience, I still do not personally believe this is the biggest factor to making a song good.
The biggest elements I find that help define what is a good song, are the combination of dynamics, range, harmony, texture, and the form of the composition. It is somewhere in the mixture of these elements that you find an unquantifiable recipe. Many great classical pieces of music could be broken down to a pure mathematical equation and find patterns that are common. This alone isn’t the source. It is the art of mixing these elements and taking the traditional structure of a song and whirling it together into one pot. If we could truly quantify what is a good song, then a basic computer’s artificial intelligence could produce one easily. Many soundboards, keyboards, samplers, beat machines, etc. can already make simple beats. These simple formulaic mathematical beats of rhythm aren’t yet good music alone. It takes a good producer to take these samples and mix them into what can become a good song.
In conclusion, there will never be a simple answer to this question. It ultimately is subjective to one’s personal preferences. Although, there tends to be consensus with most musicians and fans of music when it comes to certain classics. No one song will be loved by everyone, but various songs can have a much larger following and stand the test of time. Opera and classical music both have long histories, but they still speak to many of our souls today. There is a feeling when a good song takes over you. There is an experience, one that sits with you for a long time. I will end on one such story I personally experienced.
I love most types of music including the aforementioned classical and opera, but let’s go back to my teenage years. I was trying some herbal enhancers for one of the first times. I took it from my dad’s drawer because he was gone. I put on his Led Zeppelin II album on vinyl on to the turntable and listened to this album for the first time ever. The entire album was amazing. With my mind state I was completely zoned into the music listening to every tiny crevice and pocket of sound and silence within. When the song “Moby Dick” came on, I nearly lost my mind. I thought that I was so inebriated that my mind was breaking down the music so hard, that I was the one doing the drum solo in my head. I couldn’t believe this was really happening. The music builds back up and suddenly the rest of the band kicks back in. I finished the album, and immediately put it right back on again. I had to listen to the whole album again. When I got back to “Moby Dick”, I was in utter shock, that what I heard had nothing to do with intoxicant. The song was just the same. My brain wasn’t breaking anything down. The song is so magnificently power and intoxicating, that I was hypnotized. At first listen, I rationalized that it must have been what I smoked. It was not. It possibly increased the intensity of the effect that song had on me, but the credit of that experience goes completely to John Bonham and Led Zeppelin.