Popular Music

Research Article

A typology of ‘hooks’ in popular records*

Gary Burns

What is a ‘hook’? Delson's Dictionary defines it as ‘[t]hat part of a song, sometimes the title or key lyric line, that keeps recurring’ (Hurst and Delson 1980, p. 58). According to songwriters Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, hooks are ‘the foundation of commercial songwriting, particularly hit-single writing’. Hooks may involve repetition of ‘one note or a series of notes … [or of] a lyric phrase, full lines or an entire verse’. The hook is ‘what you're selling’. Though a hook can be something as insubstantial as a ‘sound’ (such as da doo ron ron), ‘[i]deally [it] should contain one or more of the following: (a) a driving, danceable rhythm; (b) a melody that stays in people's minds; (c) a lyric that furthers the dramatic action, or defines a person or place’ (Kasha and Hirschhorn 1979, pp. 28, 29).


* An earlier version of this article was presented at the convention of the American Culture Association, Wichita, Kansas, April 1983.