American Songwriter Judges Offer Insights Into Judging the 2023 January/February Lyric Contest Winners

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

In response to feedback from the American Songwriter Community, the esteemed contest judges were asked to share some insights into their winner selections. Read below for insights into how the panel of judges picked the winners for the January/February Lyric Contest.

1st Place – “The Woman in Black” By Tracy Richardson

Dave Bassett – the line “I was the girl in white a few years back, Now I’m the woman in black” hit me as a great turn of phrase utilizing the flip from girl to woman and white to black effectively and efficiently and in an original way. Great meter and flow as well in the chorus. A story clearly told and easy to understand but not over-complicated with too many details. Also, I was immediately engaged emotionally and was at the same time able to hear this as a song with melodies popping into my head as I read. For me, it is a huge feat to create that distinction between just being a Poem and feeling like a song.

Judy Stakee – Loved the lines Was in a woman in white, now I’m a woman in black” and I felt the sadness and vulnerability in each line of this story. Simple but very poignant.

Lyrics:

We stood in those long lonely lines

 It seems like a hundred times

 Waiting to pay our respects

 Wond’rin’ which one would be next

 Now we know…

 I’m not ready, you’re too young

 Now the plans we made are comin’ undone

 I’m your steady, you’re my rock

 Now the earth is shakin’ and it wont stop

 I was the girl in white a few years back

 Now I’m the woman in black

 The hardest thing I’ve ever done

 Was callin’ our daughters and our son

 There ain’t no way to break someone’s heart tenderly

 But you would’ve done it so much better than me

 I’m not ready, you’re too young

 Now the plans we made are comin’ undone

 I’m your steady, you’re my rock

 Now the earth is shakin’ and it wont stop

 I was the girl in white a few years back

 Now I’m the woman in black

 I still feel you

 But damn I miss you

 I’m not ready, you’re too young

 Now the plans we made are comin’ undone

 I’m your steady, you’re my rock

 Now the earth is shakin’ and it wont stop

 I was the girl in white a few years back

 Now I’m the woman in black


Since 1984, American Songwriter’s Lyric Contest has helped aspiring songwriters get noticed and have fun. Enter today before the deadline:


2nd Place – “Borders & Fences” By Herbert Wolven

Sharon Vaughn – “The metaphors of the fences are quite soulful…” 

Dave Bassett – “I was immediately engaged by the title and then by the open, desolate feeling of love, loss and searching. The phrase “some hold me out and some hold you in” really summed up the title’s purpose and defined the conflict well. I was able to grasp the meter and flow without much effort and that is what made me feel that this lyric was more than great poetry but could also be a great song.”

Sarah Siskind – “The lyrics translated a certain maturity.  I liked the unexpected twists like “some hold me out and some hold you in.”

Lyrics:

There’s trees that line this highway, Fields turning green

Miles and miles of farmland with nothing in between

No matter where I go, you’re always on my mind

Can’t run away by crossing state lines

and those borders and fences

tell me where I’ve been

some hold me out

and some hold you in

a few are broken, some I need to mend

Borders and Fences, tell me where I’ve been

The night sky’s filled with lightning, clouds in shades of grey

I keep having a vision the rain can’t wash away

It was the last time that I kissed you, you became a part of me

Now I remember how love’s supposed to be

and those borders and fences

tell me where I’ve been

some hold me out

and some hold you in

a few are broken, some I need to mend

Borders and Fences, tell me where I’ve been

Every day this highway shows me something new

I’ve crossed the great divide where rivers cut through

and I’m looking for direction to a place I thought I knew

Hoping to find the way back to you

and those borders and fences

tell me where I’ve been

some hold me out

and some hold you in

a few are broken, some I need to mend

Borders and Fences, tell me where I’ve been

and I’m trying to find…. where that fence line ends.

3rd Place – “Love Was A Lie” By Benjamin Mason

Pam Sheyne – “This is a well-structured song lyric with a solid storyline and great use of repetition strengthening the title and concept.  I felt compassion for the main character of the song and loved the descriptive imagery of the storyline.  However, I would have loved to have heard more about the “you” in the song and how that person made you feel”.

Lyrics:

RAISING BABIES, WHO’S GOT TIME?

 I’VE GOT MY NAME ON A NEON SIGN

 UP ON STAGE IN PRETTY BLUE LIGHT

 I DON’T NEED TO GROW UP TONIGHT

 I HAD FLASH AND SNAKE SKIN BOOTS

 TOO MANY GIGS TO PUT DOWN ROOTS

 LOVE WAS A LIE IN A MOTEL ROOM

 LOVE WAS A LIE ‘TIL I MET YOU

 MY FIRST CHILDREN WERE MY SONGS

 THEY WERE HAPPY WHEN YOU CAME ALONG

 WHEN YOU LEFT AND THE HOUSE TURNED COLD

 THEY WERE ALL I HAD TO HOLD

 I HAD FIRE AND A BRUSH WITH FAME

 NOW NOBODY’S CLAPPING AND CALLING MY NAME

 LOVE WAS A LIE BUT I MADE IT SOUND TRUE

 LOVE WAS A LIE ‘TIL I MET YOU

 SHADOWS RUN THROUGH THIS OLD HOUSE

 IN GOLDEN LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT

 FINGER PRINTS ON WINDOW PANES

 FROM LITTLE ANGELS WHO FLEW AWAY

 PRECIOUS GHOSTS WHO STAY WITH ME

 THAT’S THE BLESSING OF MEMORY

 LOVE WAS A LIE I FINALLY SAW THROUGH

 LOVE WAS A LIE ‘TIL I MET YOU

 LOVE WAS A LIE I FINALLY SAW THROUGH

 LOVE WAS A LIE ‘TIL I MET YOU


Since 1984, American Songwriter’s Lyric Contest has helped aspiring songwriters get noticed and have fun. Enter today before the deadline:


4th Place – “A Stone’s Throw From The Sun” By Jim Allen

Sarah Siskind – I always love strong opening lines in a song, and these first couple of lines drew me in.  I also love the sentiment of danger being too close to the sun but not all the way as to burn.

Lyrics:

She pulls the daylight from the dark

moving mountains with her heart

paints the valleys green and gold

when she weeps the rivers flow

rain and thunder

and I wonder what’s to come

a stone’s throw from the sun

Shadow dancer with the moon

waves her hand

and the deserts bloom

you can tell she’s been around

a million ages in this town

her beauty plundered

and I wonder what’s to come

a stone’s throw ftom the sun

and if you listen she’ll confide

all her secrets deep inside

with a whisper on the breeze

a hurricane she weaves

from a butterfly

Seven oceans in her eyes

gazing as the glaciers slide

one more mother on the run

beneath the shadow of a gun

tonight she’s praying

for the light of day to come

a stone’s throw from the sun

and if you listen she’ll confide

all her secrets deep inside

with a whisper on the breeze

a hurricane she weaves

from a butterfly

and I wonder what’s to come

a stone’s throw from the sun

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