Julia Michaels And Authenticity In Writing

So much of what I do has its roots in writing.

Even the words that come out my mouth often begin being typed on a screen or scribbled on a page.

Some of the writers are most admire are songwriters. People like the amazing Shelly Peiken, who’s book ‘Confessions Of A Series Songwriter‘ I highly recommend.

And there’s also a lot of inspiration I take from Julia Michaels who has an absolute mastery over the current pop hits you’ll hear on the radio and on the hottest streaming playlists of the moment.

Julia wrote Justin Bieber’s ‘Friends’ and the lyrics have a lesson for all of us who seek to become more authentic in our writing.

When you’re taught to write, you’re taught to develop a wide vocabulary, to avoid repeating the same word, to try to find an alternative. To edit and polish your writing. But that’s not how people speak. And when people try to apply those rules to writing quotes or speeches, or even on social media which much more lends itself to writing the way we speak, you end up with something that looks fake and over engineered.

In ‘Friends’, the song takes the point of view of an individual on the phone to a former partner. Calling, supposedly to see how their mother is, but with a very transparent ulterior motive.

And so Michaels writes, in the pre chorus:

‘ Know we didn’t end this so good
But you know we had something so good’

Note the repetition of ‘so good’ which many writing purists would consider clumsy and repetitive.

And then again in the chorus itself:

‘Can we still be friends?
Doesn’t have to end.
And if it ends…can we be friends?’

More repetition..couldn’t she think of a better final line?

But that’s how conversations go. That’s how people actually speak and that’s why Julia Michaels is having so much success right now. The fact Justin Bieber is having the hit with this is no co-incidence either – the audience this track is pitched at values authenticity far more than it values slick songwriting. They genuinely believe that Bieber could phone a girl up and say those words over the phone to her. You don’t care about vocabulary or rules when you’re in an emotional exchange like that.

It for the audience, it all builds up the notion of Justin Bieber being real in a world where so many are fake.