Listen: Ultimate songwriter's selection with ICMP's Dan Green

Listen to an inspiring playlist of choice musical moments aimed at showcasing the best in songwriting from ICMP's Dan Green...


From Brian Wilson to Charli XCX to Skepta and back, songwriters have been a sonic powerhouse driving the music industry forward since it began. 

So with this in mind, we wanted to compile a selection of tunes showing off the best in songwriting excellence, a go to playlist for aspiring songwriters looking for musical inspiration and innovation in equal measure.

We asked ICMP's Deputy Programme Leader Daniel Green to compile a list and you can tuck into what he put together below. Be prepared to immerse yourself in a series of stone cold classics ranging from the Shirelles to grime legend Skepta and back again... 

Skepta -'Man'

Skepta's Mercury Prize-winning album 'Konnichiwa'  is a masterpiece not only within the grime genre but within popular music as a whole. Skepta, due to his highly accomplished lyrics and complimenting the music, places the listener squarely within his world. His work is vivid and visceral. 

John Mayer - 'Slow Dancing in a Burning Room'

John Mayer has a tendency to balance many facets within his music - blues with contemporary pop, blistering guitar work with heartfelt lyrics, and emotional honesty with songcraft. 'Slow Dancing in a Burning Room', being used as a metaphor to symbolise the demise of a relationship, is an excellent example of his work. 

Arctic Monkeys - 'A Certain Romance'

Alex Turner's style is highly individual, often replicated but rarely equalled. Turner's ability to translate narrative themes into highly engaging lyrics adds an extra dimension to Arctic Monkeys' guitar driven music. 

LeAnn Rimes - 'How Do I Live'

Diane Warren has a knack for writing highly commercial songs with interesting twists. Here the verses seemingly have little to no sense of repetition and the chorus modulates by going down by a major second. 

Bonnie Ratt - 'I Can't Make You Love Me' 

If the mark of a classic song is the number of cover versions then 'I Can't Make You Love Me' is a modern evergreen. Though Bon Iver's version is well-established, it is Bonnie Raitt's version that propelled the song into public consciousness. 

The Smiths - 'Cemetry Gates'  

With Morrissey's dense lyrics and Johnny Marr's melodious music, this distinctive writing team represents how creative opposites attract in music. Morrissey's dry wit and literary references, also heard in Dylan's early work, are detectable in the contemporary work by Father John Misty. 

Prince & The Revolution - 'When Doves Cry' 

Released in 1984, 'When Doves Cry' highlights Prince's gift for writing economical pop songs. On paper, songs with only one vocal melody (the verse and chorus vocal melody are the same!) and no bass-line (seriously) shouldn't work - but this is Prince. So it does. 

Robert Wyatt - 'Shipbuilding'

One of the most imaginative anti-war songs in popular music released at the height of the Falklands War in 1982. The song depicts shipbuilders of the previous generation inadvertently building the warships that their children might use as soldiers in the war. A highly emotive and intelligently song written by Elvis Costello and Clive Langer. 

Bob Dylan - 'Hurricane'  

Inspired by the false imprisonment of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter in 1966, Dylan's lead single from his 1976 'Desire' album is controversial, provocative and utterly engaging. Quintessential Dylan. 


Though derided at the time of release, ABBA's legacy has strengthened due to the quality of the song material written by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. 'SOS' is regarded as one of their most well-crafted songs. Fun fact: this is Pete Townshend's favourite song. 

Joni Mitchell - 'A Case of You'

A song and artist that perfectly summarises the west coast 'troubadour' scene of the early 1970s. Away from presenting a stunningly beautiful melody, this album track from the classic 1971 album 'Blue' balances individual creativity with an intelligent application of lyrical techniques. 

'Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints

I'm frightened by the devil
And I'm drawn to those ones that ain't afraid'

Diana Ross & The Supremes - 'Reflections'

The product of one of the final singles written by Holland-Dozier-Holland in 1967 for Motown, 'Reflections' presents this powerhouse team at their most adventurous incorporating detailed arrangements, a number of key centres and cerebral lyrics. 

The Beach Boys - 'God Only Knows' 

With its direct lyrics written by Tony Asher, within 'God Only Knows', Brian Wilson, unlike many of his contemporaries, incorporated chord progressions more aligned with classical music. The perfect fourth modulation in the bridge and its seamless transition back to the original key for the final verse is a testament to Wilson's sophistication as a writer. 

The Beatles - 'She Loves You'

The Fab Four's second UK number one hit and an excellent example of Lennon & McCartney's early sound mixing clear influences from 1950s rock 'n' roll and traditional popular songs by the likes of Cole Porter and the Gershwin brothers. 

The Shirelles - 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?'

Ushering in an era of girl groups, this Goffin & King classic was one of the first pop songs to present a more sophisticated view on relationships from a female perspective. Due to the lyrical content, there is a common misconception that Carole King wrote the lyrics; in fact, the lyrics were written by her then-husband and writing partner, Gerry Goffin, with King writing the melody, chords, and arranging and conducting the strings! 

Chuck Berry - 'You Can't Catch Me'  

Rock 'n' roll's poet laureate. Rightly recognised as one of the pioneers of the electric guitar, Chuck Berry's lyrical ability influenced the prevailing generation of songwriter.  

Ella Fitzgerald - 'I've Got You Under My Skin' 

One of the great writers within the great American songbook - Cole Porter. Arguably Porter's most recognisable title-focused songs performed exquisitely by Ella Fitzgerald on her classic 'Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook' album...

Take your songwriting to the next level at ICMP

If you're interested in taking your songwriting to the next level, then please get in touch with our Admissions Team. You can call them on 020 7328 0222 or email

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by Dan Green
October 19, 2017
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