Pop is such a nasty word these days. It's almost a dirty word in some musicians' minds. It embodies the image of selling out and not being true to where you came from.
In essence, Pop is short for popular, and doesn't every musician want to be popular? But how do you get the ordinary musician, slugging it out in bars and open mic nights, to rise to a level of popularity that will bring success? A song.
In my opinion, and let me add that I dove back into some of my producing text books for inspiration, is that a popular song has to leave an impression. Your audience has to leave the venue singing your songs. Everybody and their grandmas knows what a hook is. It's a little bit of melody that is repeated and memorable. When I think of the Rolling Stone's "Satisfaction," I think of that famous guitar riff. The hook can be anything really, just as long as it's repeated and memorable.
Another thing that I've found important, to me, in a popular song is "singability." I've got to be able to sing along with a song for me to really like it. This a very huge reason why I've never like that thrash metal whatever they call growling, grunting, and screaming into a mic. [Don't get me wrong, metal is cool. Metalica... I can sing to that.] Most of the most historically popular songs are relatively easy to sing along with. "At Last," "Moon River," "Hard Day's Night," "Imagine," and "Proud Mary" are all examples of hugely popular songs, instantly recognizable, and easy to sing along with.
Along with "singability," there has to be musicality. Inherently, everyone knows when a song is just a little off. Something that is just not quite right and makes you squirm a bit in your chair. We've all heard it, and most likely during the auditions segment of American Idol. Sometimes I come across an artist on My Space that could be really really great if maybe their song was a bit smoother.
I'll just add that I'm a sucker for a clever and thoughtful lyricas well. Radiant is one of my favorite local bands here in Dallas, and Levi Smith writes some of the best lyrics. Lyrics that I want to quote and that inspire me. That makes an impression on me as a listener.
Of course, all the spit shine polish that a snazzy producer can bring won't make a lick of difference if the song is a dud.
Now I turn it over to you, Reader. I want to know what you think are important elements to a POPular song.