That song got stuck inside my head.
Before a recent screening of “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” a promotion for the film was playing on a loop with a snippet from its “Catchy Song.” As the chorus repeated over and over that “this song’s gonna get stuck inside your head,” I found that very thing happening on a level so maddening I had to put my headphones in and play something else, anything else, to drown it out.
How did you end up writing “Catchy Song?”
I’d wanted to do this kind of thing for a long time. But the opportunity to write music for an animated movie is few and far between, and it usually goes to Broadway people. I didn’t know whether I’d be good at all. But I wanted to at least try. The filmmakers liked my stuff enough to let me take a crack at it.
What was your objective with it?
At first we were going more in the direction of a song that is supposed to drive you insane, something that sort of feels creepy and brainwashy.
And so I thought about it for a while and then, one day I was showering and I start screaming, “This song’s gonna get stuck inside yo! This song’s gonna get stuck inside yo!” So I wrote an annoying version of that. But eventually the movie’s story changed and it needed to be a somewhat enjoyable song.
Was it daunting to think about how to follow up “Everything Is Awesome”?
Yes, there’s no way to make a more annoyingly catchy song than “Everything Is Awesome.” So we thought, let’s look at the audience and acknowledge that we know this in an impossible task, and let’s lean into the meta-ness and take it one step further. We wouldn’t necessarily have to write a catchier song, we would just say that the song is super-catchy.
Did you try additional ideas before settling on this?
Yes, we had a song called “All Is Amazing.” We actually recorded a version of it but never used it. It was almost the exact same thing as “Everything Is Awesome” except every lyric was tweaked just a tad and every melody tweaked just a tad. In the end, we found that it was funny in the room, but after putting it all together it wasn’t that funny.
And then there was this other idea where the song would be called, “It’s Hard to Follow Up a Hit Song.” So you can see the territory we were playing around in.
What music were you listening to when thinking about this?
I listened to a lot of Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande. Also a lot of K-pop. There’s something very specifically bubblegum there with just a teaspoon of creepy. The producer Max Martin’s theories on writing a catchy song are very eloquent. They boil down to this: find a catchy melody, keep the same amount of syllables every verse and every chorus, hit the melody at the same rhythm every time, and hammer it into the audience’s brain by repeating it over and over. I definitely took that advice.
Did it take a while to get what you wanted?
We’d produced so many different versions of this song and were struggling to find the right sound. I knew Dillon Francis through a friend, so we sat down with him and he took our descriptions of what we were looking for. When we heard his demo, everyone just breathed a sigh of relief. And on top of that, throw in T-Pain on that chorus, who was incredible. I had written maybe 20 different verses for that song. Then we found That Girl Lay Lay. She came in and freestyled her verses. We sat there in shock and I just threw out all the verses I worked on for a year. So this song would not be what it is without them.
Do you have a technique for getting rid of an earworm?
Just go listen to any Beatles song. They’re the perfect example of a band doing what pop music is supposed to do but doing it in a great way that is sustainable.
Do you feel bad for parents whose kids may want to hear this on repeat?
I would feel bad if I wasn’t the person who has heard and heard and heard this song for a year. There’s no way anyone’s ever going to listen to this song more than me.