Hugh at ZephyrHillMusic
Behind the Lyrics: Maren Morris - The Bones
In this series of ‘Behind the lyrics’ I’ll be taking a closer look at what makes certain songs have the ability to take us deeper than just enjoying the bop! I’ll be looking at a wide range of country artists, from Billboard toppers to the undiscovered and unsigned. I’ll uncover the story between the lines and highlight where the lyrics are special, unique or generally making me say “I wish I’d written that!”.
This month I’ve chosen a big song, and there is an interesting backstory to this one too.
The awards and list of successes for this song alone tell you it must be something special:
No 1 on Billboard Hot Country Songs where it stayed for 19 weeks
No 1 on the Adult Contemporary & Adult Pop Songs Charts
2020 CMA awarded as single / song of the year
Nominated for Best country song at the 2021 Grammys
2021 BMI Pop Song of the Year (certifying it as a crossover hit)
Another amazing result of the song is that it propelled Laura Veltz (one of the co-writers) to become the first female to reach No 1 on Billboard’s songwriters charts for five consecutive weeks.
This song is the result of a collaboration between some lifelong friends, and was born out of a shared moment of significant changes in each of their separate lives; pregnancy, getting married, and moving house. Now this could be a first, but an estate agent is credited for the title. When the bones of something are good then at its core it's okay. Principally the song is about resilience and the ability to withstand whatever the world throws at you.
Laura Veltz offers a great insight into spotting a stand out song idea; hearing her estate agent talk about houses as if they were people, triggered her songwriter antenna. She says;
“Where you hear humanity being expressed in an idea then there is usually a good concept”.
People and emotions should always remain central to your song idea if you want to truly connect and communicate to your listeners.
Let’s look at the lyrics. The overall structure of the song is very simple, two verses, a long chorus, and a bridge.
Verse 1 has strong alliteration and vowel rhyming (assonance), and in those first opening two lines we are told a lot. Everything was going to plan, then life took us sideways. This is an empowerment song, so it is equally confident; we are alright, we are going to make it through.
The chorus is really big, seven lines, top and tailed with the title, and everything expresses that the relationship is strong like a house. The chorus neatly rounds off with a perfect summary:
“The house don't fall when the bones are good”
Interestingly there are lots of imagery details in the chorus and the bigger more zoomed out life perspective stuff is in the verses. Quite often that is the other way around.
Verse 2 brings in the personal stuff. This is a classic (because it works so well) method. From Verse 1 to 2 we go from generalised to specific. The strong alliteration from Verse 1 isn’t duplicated but we still have the re-assuring vowel rhyming or assonance. I love the really human observation:
“Can't even mess it up although we both try”
A quick note for you in case you wonder why I might seem over analytical on the technicalities of the lyric. These methods subconsciously help the listener feel comfortable and familiar with the lyric. It’s worth spending time really crafting the words to achieve this. When this is done badly trust me, you notice and personally it can really put you off some songs. Remember, good songs are not written, they are re-written.
The bridge, although not adding anything new lyrically, works very well as a strong reflection of the chorus, just expressed in a different musical way.
So what have we learnt this month; listen to your estate agent. No, that can’t be it?!
Listen to conversations and expressions people use, and look for the humanity in them. It might just give you the perfect idea for a Billboard No 1.
Until next time.
Written by: Hugh Webber
Hugh has over 20 years experience as a songwriter and creative collaborator. Personally mentored by Kinks frontman Ray Davies, and a year at the London Songwriting Academy. Find out more here.
(c) Jimmy Robbins, Laura Veltz, Maren Morris
We're in the home stretch of the high times
We took a hard left, but we're alright
Yeah, life sure can try to put love through it, but
We built this right, so nothing's ever gonna move it
When the bones are good, the rest don't matter
Yeah, the paint could peel, the glass could shatter
Let it break, 'cause you and I remain the same
When there ain't a crack in the foundation
Baby, I know any storm we're facing will
Blow right over while we stay put
The house don't fall when the bones are good
Call it dumb luck, but, baby, you and I
Can't even mess it up although we both try
No, it don't always go the way we planned it, but the
Wolves came and went and we're still standing
Bones are good, the rest (baby, it don't really matter), the rest don't matter
Paint could peel, the glass (oh, the glass, oh, the glass) could shatter
Bones are good, the rest (ooh), the rest don't matter (ooh-ooh, ooh)
Paint could peel, the glass, the glass could shatter (yeah)