How To Write Songs Like Brian Molko from Placebo

Brian Molko, the androgynous vocalist and songwriter of British rock band, Placebo. The band had established themselves since the 90’s and has built a cultish fan base that fills sold-out arena tours around the world.

I’ve always found Molko’s lyrical structure to be visually designed yet honest. Although, some songwriters believe the wordy way of writing is just an excuse to not be honest, but that’s just not the case with Brian Molko. The way he expresses desire is like he is delicately painting it explicitly.

Personally, I’ve been more attracted to visual and wordy writing. I find honest writing to be too lazy and easy. You can find examples of honest writing almost everywhere in the mainstream music, from Nicki Minaj to Nickleback.

But, for now we are going to dissect the writing construction of Brian Molko, and how you can apply his lyrical genius capacities as inspiration for your songwriting.

Paint A Picture

Not literally, but through words. Think that you’re writing a screenplay of your ideas, that way, your words can strike an image to the listener and is brought to life effectively.

Every You Every Me – Placebo

The way I see it, this “Sucker Love” is infatuation based on lust. Molko uses physical analogies to describe how he is only using a person to fill his sexual needs simply because there is no one else. He paints a visual picture of this idea, hence, “My heart’s a tart, your body’s rent. My body’s broken yours is bent.”

Tell A Story

Burger Queen – Placebo

If you don’t know Molko’s backstory, then you might be slightly confused with what this song might mean. Even so, you might get the idea that this is something about someone who does not belong where they currently are.

What Brian has said live before playing this song:
“This is song about being gay, on drugs and goth in Luxembourg.”

He described in the song that he felt depressed, discriminated and looked down upon because he was goth, gay and on drugs. It simply was not a good place for him, and that’s how this song came about. The way he uses third person storytelling in lyrics makes it more compelling to learn and figure out what the song is about.

Be Explicit

Placebo has been known not only for their explicit music videos, but with their explicit lyrics as well. Not necessarily in swearing, but crude in a way on how he combines the ideas of violence, sex, and religion.

Song To Say Goodbye – Placebo

You can be incredibly offensive without saying one single swear word, if you choose the right words correctly. That’s what Brian Molko exactly did in this song. “You are one of God’s mistakes. You crying tragic waste of skin.” It conveys anger more subtly yet you feel the intensive rage. The way to reduce the use of swearing is to find more offensive imagery and describe it poetically.

Now that you’ve learned and understood Brian Molko’s style of songwriting, you must still remember to use your own personal approach in writing your own songs. It’s true that everybody copies, just don’t copy-paste. It’s good to take inspiration from someone, just don’t lose yourself in that process.

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