What is a Chorus in a Song

A song’s chorus is its central message both musically and lyrically. It differs and contrasts with the surrounding parts by design to make it more impactful and make the song work better as a whole. Let’s break down exactly what is a chorus in a song, give some chorus examples of especially famous ones in popular music, and explain what makes it so important in songwriting and music.

what is a chorus

What is a Chorus

First let’s answer the main question and identify what is a chorus. A chorus in a song is the part which repeats typically two if not three times.

9 times out 10, the chorus is (and should be) the most memorable part of a song.

It’s the part you think of when you think of your favorite song.

Popular music revolves around familiar song structures, and the most familiar and commonly used is a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus.

This is because this structure creates a very effective contrast between the parts.

Verses are typically lower energy to build anticipation before the energy explodes on the chorus.

Also and unlike the verse (see verse vs chorus), the music and lyrics typically don’t change in the chorus.

The verses are also typically wordier in terms of lyrics, creating the support for the central and simplified argument which is the main lyric of the chorus. While we get more context in those verses lyrically, it always comes back to that same message in the chorus.

The idea is to repeat them so that they are the main takeaway from the song, not to mention the part which gets stuck in your head.

This is a good point to mention that the biggest and best hook, or the catchiest vocal or musical melody (see hook vs chorus), is almost always saved for and delivered in the chorus.

Chorus Examples

The best way to better convey what is a chorus to give some examples.

I have each of these queued up for right when the chorus hits to better exemplify it.

Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe

I always like to cite Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” because it’s one of the most memorable hooks and choruses of this century so far. Everyone knows the alternating combination of the strings and Carly delivering the now iconic line “Hey I just me you… and this is crazy… so here’s my number… so call me maybe.”

After the second chorus there’s a continuation where you get the “before you came into my life…” which works as sort of a post-chorus or simply an additional part.

This gives us an abbreviated chorus the first time so that it’s more satisfying when we get that additional part the second (as well as the third and final) go around.

The verses are somewhat forgettable in comparison to the chorus. This is in part by design as this creates a very satisfying contrast, not to mention makes that chorus hit that much harder when it does. The verses keep our ears hungry for the part that we know so well, so there’s a kind of subconscious payoff which the song delivers whenever the chorus hits.

While there’s more lyrics in the chorus, the main lyric which I referenced a moment ago is incredibly simple, making it very easy to remember and sing along to, not to mention it reflects the title of the song itself.

While you may justifiably be sick of the song from overexposure, “Call Me Maybe” is a masterclass in pop songwriting and it’s no wonder that it went on to become as big as it did.

Outkast – Hey Ya!

I’ll give the other example which I’ve cited when talking about song structure, Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”. This is another one of the biggest songs from this century so far and once again it’s no surprise that it revolves around a ridiculously catchy yet simple hook, even simpler than “Call Me Maybe”.

It’s so simple that the vocal hook here IS ONLY TWO NOTES! Sure, it masterfully alternates between the two notes while the chords change underneath it, but it’s seriously just two notes. And like “Call Me Maybe”, the song’s title is reflected in the chorus’ lyrics, the major difference being that “Hey Ya” is the entirety of the chorus’ lyric.

It’s hard to argue with the effect.

If you’re trying to write a catchy chorus, one of the best pieces of advice is to make the central and repeated vocal melody hook simple.

While this isn’t a requisite and there are countless examples of songs which have thrived while featuring more complicated melodies, simplicity always works.

This makes sense, because the simpler a melody and lyric is to remember, the easier it is for the masses to consume and digest it, creating the metaphorical ear worm that gets stuck in people’s heads.

The fact that popular music has essentially revolved around the chorus for hundreds of years is a testament to the efficacy of this songwriting structure. It speaks to an innate attraction we have to familiarity which extends to music, and the chorus is right at the heart of it all and likely will continue to be indefinitely in the context of popular music.

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