Writing is always the big unknown when it comes to production planning. Sometimes the inspiration hits immediately, other times it’s like pulling teeth. With a ‘Year in Review’ there is the added uncertainty about what is going to happen between the time you write it and the time it is produced and released.
This year, as we do most years, we started in August, compiling lists of the big events of the year and identifying the song we want to use. This year we chose “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin because (i) it is in the public domain, meaning we do not have to get approvals to use it and (ii) it is mind-bogglingly catchy and infectious.
With the song chosen, we started writing lyrics the first week of September. There are two parts to writing our songs. The first is finding the “hook”. What’s the catchy line or phase that will serve as an anchor for the rest of the lyrics? The second is filling in around the hook with great gags.
Writing is an iterative process. We write, throw away, write, throw away, write, throw away, etc. The hardest thing about the process is killing your “babies”, meaning getting rid of lyrics you love but ultimately decide do not serve the piece as a whole. Ultimately, with “Never a Year Like ‘09” we had 11 versions of the lyrics before they were final. You can download a spreadsheet that shows the evolution of the lyrics over the course of the production by clicking here. You can see that the earliest versions were basically scratches of ideas whereas the differences between version 10 and version 11 are barely noticeable.