What is a hook in a song? If you write or sing songs, this is something you need to know. A hook is the catchiest part of a track that engages the listener – and we have some superb song hook examples to demonstrate the difference a hook makes to a tune.
Read on to develop knowledge of this magic song ingredient and recognise where and how it fits into the world of modern music.
What is a hook in a song?
Hooks are found in almost every genre of music that’s played on mainstream radio. It may be a phrase, a lyric, a motif, lick or a riff. It could be melodic or it could be lyrical. But the key is, it’ll be catchy. The hook is the standout moment in the song and because it’s so good, you’ll hear it several times in the song. There may also be several hooks in one piece. So where might you find the hook – or hooks – in the song? Here are some of the places to look for them.
- Rhythm pattern
- The beat (this may be linked to the rhythm, but not all rhythm hooks will have a beat as such)
- Background instrumental
- Lyrics (often the case with rap)
What is the meaning of hook in a song?
A hook is so named because it ‘hooks’ the listener. It’s sometimes described as an earworm. Streaming and instant online content have meant that listeners have less patience than they used to. Nowadays, songwriters need to grab the attention of the listener – and fast. How do they do this? With a killer hook.
What is the difference between a hook and a chorus?
This is often an area of confusion. Is the hook the chorus? The answer is, it can be, but isn’t always – hence the reason they’re often mixed up. Both are often catchy, but some hooks don’t fit the format of a chorus and work well in other sections of the song, or overlaid on top of the chorus or melody. A song may have a chorus but not a hook. And it may have a hook but not a chorus. Although most songs will have both.
Song hook examples
Attempting to explain a hook can be tricky. It may be that you just need to hear a selection, to understand how they work and where they fit. Once you listen to a few, you’ll probably realise you were already familiar with the concept. Almost every charting song will have at least one hook these days.
#1 I Will Always Love You covered by Whitney Houston
The simplest example of a hook is where it correlates with the chorus. In Whitney Houston’s version of I Will Always Love You (originally written by country legend Dolly Parton), the hook is right there in the chorus and in the lyric. So it is both a lyrical and melodic hook.
#2 Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen
Sometimes the hook is almost hidden. Here’s an example of an instrumental hook in Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe. Do you find you can’t help but sing along? Chances are it’s not just the easy tune that reels you in. It’s that backing repeat of the chorus motif.
#3 Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
Next up we have an intro hook from an iconic singer. Lady Gaga’s quirky style includes her eclectic hooks. Can you spot it here? It’s the ‘Oh, oh oh oh’ at the beginning, which makes a later return.
#4 Superstition by Stevie Wonder
Often found in soul and funk music, Stevie Wonder is an expert at the lyrical hook. Here it is kicking in on the electric guitar after the beat. It’s a challenge to listen without wanting to move your feet. That’s the power of a hook. A rhythm hook will always have everyone up on the dance floor.
#5 Started at the Bottom by Drake
Lyrical hooks are often found in rap, but not exclusively. Even in rap and hip-hop they can be sung or rapped – or in the case of Started at the Bottom by Drake, both. This hook communicates what the song is all about. So you remember the theme and intention. When this happens, it’s likely the writer began with the hook and added the verses afterwards. The song hangs on the hook in this case.