The most ubiquitous feature of the overly-processed, plastic pop music that dominates radio today would have to be the hook. Not only must the main chorus quickly grab the listener, but now you need hook-y ad libs in the intro, hook-laden verses, and a hookish bridge to boot or else, well, people just won’t latch onto – and thus buy – your product.
After all, in a ringtone-driven market full of consumers with the attention span of a spastic gnat, a catchy hook is money, and money is what powers the machine.
However, there are those of us who do not court the attention of Top 40 program directors. We are a niche-y bunch of weirdos, and we like it that way. We like to think we create music to make art, not a product. Within this community of “conscious” musicians, there has come to be a stigma around using hooks, and any musician that uses them is often considered a sell out.
Is it true that hooks are “too mainstream” for all of the crunchy ones that are too ‘woke’ to listen to pop?
I think not!
We like that freedom.
True art is free expression. If a hook wants in, we want to be the clear, non-judging conduits that allow it to come through. We want to let the track be what it wants to be, while still remaining true to our group’s identity.
I don’t believe hooks are evil minions of pop culture looking to capture your mind and brainwash you into singing along with Adele songs on your way to the grocery store. Actually, hooks can be sacred.
A hook is much like a chant or mantra. Chants and mantras are meant to be repeated over and over and are catchy, either in their rhythmic cadence, in their melodic quality, or both. As you repeat a mantra or chant, not only does its catchy aspect open the doors of your mind to remember its message, it opens the doors of your heart to feeling, and opens your body to movement and dance.
A hook is an invitation to open up.
A hook is an invitation to follow.
There is sacredness in the repetition of a hook.
And, when you follow a hook you’re not spinning in a circle like a broken record in 2 dimensional space, despite the fact that it may feel like that when you’ve got an earworm! Like so many aspects of life, a powerful hook or chant moves in a spiral.
A hook is an invitation to ride the multidimensional spiral of a song that has cyclical patterns, but that is not limited to just going in flat loops.
Essentially, a hook is a sacred doorway.
We say, bring on the hooks, if they want to come through, let them. We don’t judge them as good or bad, we don’t force them to be where they don’t want to live, and we don’t evict them when they are clearly making their way into a song.
We are making sounds that extend an invitation to connect, to open up, and to follow on a journey of creative expression and discovery. Isn’t that what being an artist is all about?