5 Songs Written in Five Minutes

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Songwriting can be a long and laborious process. Other times, the perfect song comes in a burst of inspiration, and within mere minutes.

Lorde wrote her 2013 mega-hit “Royals” in a half-hour, while Elton John penned his 1970 hit “Your Song” with Bernie Taupin in 20 minutes, and Lady Gaga wrote three of her biggest hits (individually)—“Just Dance,” “Poker Face” and “Born This Way”—in just 10 minutes. Working at a different speed, there are a number of other artists who even nailed a song in a fraction of those times.

Here are five songs that came together in five minutes.

“Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” Queen (1979)

“‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ took me five or 10 minutes,” said Freddie Mercury in 1981. “I did that on the guitar, which I can’t play for nuts, and in one way it was quite a good thing because I was restricted, knowing only a few chords. It’s a good discipline because I simply had to write within a small framework. I couldn’t work through too many chords, and because of that restriction I wrote a good song, I think.”

“(You’ve Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party),” Beastie Boys (1986)

It was 1986, and the Beastie Boys were working on their debut Licensed to Ill, released later that year. Drinking vodka and grapefruit juice with producer Rick Rubin, the band started writing “Fight For Your Right” on napkins in the VIP Michael Todd Room at the Palladium.“We wrote it in about five minutes,” said Mike D in a 1987 interview. “I remember we made a point thereof like, ‘Look, we gotta get shit done,’ and we sat at one table, really determined to accomplish something. It was just like it is now, trying to fit everything in.”

“Sweet Child O’Mine,” Guns N’ Roses (1987)

“It was an interesting sort of pattern,” Slash once said about Appetite for Destruction hit “Sweet Child O’Mine. “I never thought it was going to become a song.” Peaking at No. 1, the Guns N’ Roses hit remained on the charts for 24 weeks and was written within five minutes when singer Axl Rose overheard Slash and Izzy Stradlin messing around on guitar riffs in another room and brought his poem/lyrics about his then-girlfriend, Erin Everly, to the song.

“Losing My Religion,” R.E.M. (1991)

R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck was learning how to play the mandolin and happened upon a special riff, and from there, the Out of Time track was born in “about five minutes.” Singer Michael Stipe even recorded his vocals in one take. “I always thought this was the best song on [the album], even before it was a single,” said Buck in a 1993 interview. “I really didn’t expect it to be a hit; I just loved the song and the lyrics.” Originated on mandolin, “Losing My Religion” moves all-around minor chords and explores unrequited love,” with lyrics inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Love In the Time of Cholera,” one of singer Michael Stipe’s favorite authors. First called “Sugar Cane,” the band soon switched the title to “Losing My Religion,” which became the hit single off the band’s seventh album, Out of Time, in 1991, picking up two Grammy Awards in 1992.

“All of the Lights,” Kanye West, featuring Rihanna, Kid Cudi (2010)

Kanye West had retreated to Hawaii after the fallout from interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. There, he started working on his fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Released November 2010, the album produced hits “Power,” “Runaway,” and “Monster” and the final “All of the Lights,” which came together in a “burst of inspiration,” according to co-producer Jeff Bhasker, who started playing the song on the keyboard when West jumped on to add drum hits and the missing pieces. “It was the last day they were spending in the studio in Hawaii and had just come back from playing basketball together,” said Bhasker. “I just came in the room and had my keyboard up and just started [playing], and proceeded to play the beat of ‘All of the Lights’ on a keyboard in front of him [West].”

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