The challenge? Write a backing song for a commercial that features a child. I immediately ask about a product but the issuer of the challenge, Heather Gardner of Pivot stands by non-disclosure and offers the following: “the key is to be able to capture the sentiment.” Fair enough, no mentioning of brand names. I was kid once, I can do this.
I do my due diligence -listen to the various samples suggested by the ad company (White Stripes, Feist, Karen O, Joni Mitchell) I hear innocence, nostalgia, bliss and abandon.
I research childhood memories looking for universalities.
Thematically and structurally I am thinking of kids in their naievety and absolutism. The blind optimism of youth. I seek good memories from my own youth. I am seven years old, out on my own on a perfect summer day, watching the sun go down over a park in Ottawa. I got to stay up late! I think of Robin Williams in The World according to Garp having the perfect day with Roberta (John Lithgow) and the two kids and saying “we lived a life today.”The actual line is: “Sometimes you can have a whole lifetime in a day and never notice that this is a beautiful as it gets.” For a child, every event is essentially the best ever.
The writing/the structure
I write down as many childhood memories, personal or otherwise that a child might have. Climbing trees, playing in the park, going to the beach, hanging with a father/mother/best friend/sibling. Make a song about a perfect day. I decide on the refrain “Best Day of My Life.”
Keep it simple. Sing along. Repetitive melody and lyrics, always punctuate with “best day of my life”. The words flow. I notice from the comments on the SAC Blog that others are finding this easy as well. My initial draft has several verses, I cut it down to three plus the refrain.
I do a click track guitar and guide vocal then sought out friends with children. I wasn’t looking for perfection but energy. Although my voice remains in the mix, I needed a child’s voice as a way of communicating the innocence. I contact an old friend who is more than willing to help. The Singing Anderson’s contribute the right amount of exuberance that I am looking for.
The fly(s) in the ointment
Sunday afternoon, my weekly band rehearsal. A friend mentions to me that the line “Best Day of My Life” has been used before, but can’t place it. I do the research – sure enough, it’s been used in a Prius commercial and executed by a band named the Americans. I despair over rewriting the whole thing on Sunday but listen to the song and realize it’s a universal expression and as much as it’s been used many times, is instantly identifiable to an audience.
In the end
A nice 60 second piece that will easily cut down into the proscribed 30
second and 15 second cut downs. The 30 utilizes the first verse and the refrain from the end. The 15 would have the line “best day ever” It can also be altered to be sung as “Best Day Ever” without the refrain Best Day of My Life being included. Continue to be distracted here