American Songwriter Judges Offer Insights Into Judging the 2024 March/April Lyric Contest Winners

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 March/April 2024 Lyric Contest.

Meet the Judges HERE.

1st Place – “Love Washes Off

By: Michael R.J. Roth

Paul McDonald: This song felt like I was reading something out of an old poetry book. It stood out over any of the other finalists. A lot of times lyrics with this kind of depth and phrasing will float over people’s heads in a world full of fast food songwriting, but I’m a sucker for deep thinking, poetic, and colorful words. Considering this is a lyric competition, I feel like this is one of the strongest out of the batch.

Sharon Vaughn: This was poetic but kept me in the moment. Brilliant use of language.

Jim Lauderdale: The imagery is so unique. It really stands out.

Jensen McRae: Favorite lines:
“And Don Quixote’s last words were lost / in the breath of a windmill in Spain”.

Read Lyrics HERE.


By: Mike Ellis

Paul McDonald: This really touched me. Great artists and writers always push the boundaries. This a howling protest song that reminds me of something to the likes of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane”. It’s a heavy topic, but it’s very real and it brings up an issue that desperately needs to be addressed. The death of Tyre Nichols was a tragedy. While reading the lyrics, I could feel the pain and frustration in the author as well as the pain and suffering that Tyre’s family and friends are having to go through. It’s a terrible situation. We need more artists and songwriters that are willing to stand up for equality and human rights and use their voice for the greater good. Bravo to the author for shining light on this issue and for taking a stand for Tyre and his community.

Sharon Vaughn: Poignant, yet so touchingly human.

Jim Lauderdale: Paints an emotional picture for this real life tragedy. So well done.

Chris Pierce: Tragic and such important lyrics. One of those songs that I wish didn’t need to be written but it’s imperative that they are. Descriptive, good job doing the research and well thought out form.

Declan McKenna: This one I’ve chosen for its hard hitting and direct approach combined with a delicate sense of humanity which are both key to conveying an important message such as this.

Read Lyrics HERE.

Since 1984, American Songwriter’s Lyric Contest has helped aspiring songwriters get noticed and have fun. Enter the 2024 Lyric Contest today before the deadline:

3rd Place – “Shotgun

By: Jason Hardy

Emily Weisband: I LOVE THIS CHORUS. Love how it changes every time. What a unique way to talk about something this real and this deep. Unique enough and clear enough that it took the number one spot for me.

Cassadee Pope: I love the message of this lyric and how it acknowledges we can’t bury certain feelings, but we can choose to not let them control our lives. A lyric told from the perspective of a child learning from a parent always tugs at the heartstrings. 

Marc Broussard: There’s a real rhythm and feel to this that you can immediately get into. I like the message and the conversation between a father and son, it brings a lot of heart to the story. 

Declan McKenna: This is my top pick for its concise, mature and accessible take on a universal theme. It tackles fear and its various dangerous forms while maintaining simplicity and clarity of thought with lyrics that read like an old poem.

Read Lyrics HERE.

4th Place – “Back of His Hand

By: Gabby Patrice Boyle and Marielle Kraft

Jay Knowles: I really like how the structure of the verses and chorus mirrors the cycle of feelings the singer of the songs goes through.

Sharon Vaughn: Made me hold my breath.

Jensen McRae: Favorite lines:
“I believe in second chances / so I give them every time”

Chris Pierce: Very important lyrics and story. Good form and memorable chorus. A story that is unfortunately too familiar to too many. The writer succeeded in my opinion being descriptive, poetic and straight to the point.

Read Lyrics HERE.

Since 1984, American Songwriter’s Lyric Contest has helped aspiring songwriters get noticed and have fun. Enter the 2024 Lyric Contest today before the deadline:

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