These posts on songwriting are not written from a professional point of view. These are just my thoughts as I experience new aspects of the craft. The best part of these posts will be your input.
In 2003, I took a group of about 20 college students to Passion One Day in Sherman, Texas. I learned a lot of lessons on that trip. I learned that I shouldn't take a group that big to something that intense. It wasn't an easy, feel-good conference. It was a sleep in tents through Texas thunderstorm, worship for 24 hours in the Texas heat retreat. I should have just taken a few people that were really ready for something like that.
I also learned the power of a memorable worship song. That was the gathering where Chris Tomlin debuted "Holy is the Lord". A worship song that has swept through churches all over the world. I remember him playing that brand new song, that no one had ever heard and before you knew it, 30,000 people were screaming that chorus to our God. That night, our group went to a hotel room to talk, worship and pray together. As we started our worship, I could still hear "Holy is the Lord" in my head, and as I played that simple, three chord progression, we worshiped God in that hotel room with that chorus:
Holy is the Lord God Almighty
The earth is filled with His glory
When you think of all the great songs that we sing, I would dare say that all of them have that memorable melody line that hooks us from the first note. We walk around humming and singing it. We say things like, "That song is stuck in my head." or "Now, I'm gonna be singing that all day." That can be annoying, but it's always a sign of a well written melody.
I have a theory. I'm still testing it, and it's proving to be true for me. The theory is all about how memorable a song is. When I write a song, I usually record it real quick into my cell phone. I do that just in case I forget it. I do this because I don't totally trust my theory. My theory is that if a song is good, I'll remember it the next day. The songs that I end up keeping and liking are songs that I don't have to refer to my cell phone. There's been several times that I've scrapped a song idea, because I don't remember it. It didn't stick, so I decide it has no future. It wasn't memorable.
Still a theory, but it's been pretty consistent for me.