Wednesday Question: Best Non-Rock/Metal Songwriter

Let's step away from the guitar-heavy domain for a sec, OK?

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Following a series of rock and metal-related discussions, we decided to take a little break from the heavy stuff and focus on the distortion-lacking domain.

Specifically, we'd like to talk exquisite songwriters not belonging to the mentioned niche. To make it official, this week's Wednesday Question is:

Who is the best non-rock/metal songwriter?

A slight element of rock can still be present, but the songwriter must not be considered a rocker. There's quality music outside of the rock realm, so there's still plenty to choose from here.

Same rules as always apply - only one suggestion per comment, vote up the ideas you support and vote down the ones you dislike. We'll sum up your votes by Friday and bring you another traditional UG Top 10. Time to show what you got, UG!

540 comments sorted by best / new / date

    jovan.ignatich.
    Best non guitar songwriter?? Probably Johann Sebastian Bach
    Izzy-Sweet
    I see your Johann Sebastian Bach and raise you Ludwig van Beethoven!
    RedLabelRecords
    I'm more of a Tchaikovsky guy myself.
    michaelaurand
    I like his early stuff a lot better, honestly...before he sold out.
    Izzy-Sweet
    It was all good until he wrote Toccata & Fugue in D Minor, by then it was obvious he was totally cashing in on the popular Baroque demographic.
    Cryptikal
    He's a composer though, not a songwriter.
    Tkwndbobo
    Yeah? What does he compose? An essay, no he composes ****ing songs. Instrumentals are songs too, don't discriminate
    Cryptikal
    If the question was posed for best composer I doubt you would have seen folks nominating Dave Mustaine or Bruce Springsteen.
    Kueller917
    No they're not. Songs by definitions are pieces of music with lyrics to be sung, so instrumentals are not songs.
    Izzy-Sweet
    Technically you are correct, but still, it's a petty argument either way.
    Kueller917
    Petty indeed I usually don't care. But the argument was about contrasting composing and songwriting so I don't know why I got antagonized for clarification. If we are just generalizing "songs" to mean all music, I'm voting for Stockhausen.
    mpk3432
    even then, he still wrote loads of operas, cantatas and such, which are all pieces to be sung, so he still qualifies
    henrihell
    Going classic I'd say Jean Sibelius. Maybe not as well-known as the real big names, but his work is stunning!
    pbiggie
    Stevie Wonder! Brilliant arrangements, and brilliant vocals and lyrics.
    maidenbridge666
    I'm shocked I had to scroll this far to find this. Was the first person that popped into my head :/
    l0ld4v3
    Yeah, took too ****ing long for Stevie to get mentioned. Maybe UG readers are not into funk or soul music. For shame
    shadow_murph
    YES! I was gonna say this, surprised it took so long! This man is a genius! I've seen him live a few years back just after mickael jackson passed, he did a tribute for him, he has such a way with words! I love this guy!
    kasrafallen
    Lovely Louis Armstrong
    N-D
    So, talking about jazz - my call is again goes for: Miles Davis
    Machineflame
    I may be wrong, but I don't really consider Miles Davis work's strength to be the songwriting. It's all about the energy, the execution and the contact between the musicians to me.
    DecLepard
    Those guys from ABBA
    liiiam
    YES! I went to an all boys school, and in the gym ABBA's greatest hits was the only cd we had. There's not much funnier than seeing a load of guys trying to be manly and lift heavy weights set to dancing queen
    WholeLottaIzzy
    Tom Waits.
    GeriatricNinja
    Frank Zappa - his jazz & classical compositions are often overlooked due to his off beat sense of humour, but are great works imo
    HitmanJenkins
    Yes! I recall reading somewhere that the only reason Zappa started writing Rock tunes was because no one wanted to play his Classical compositions.
    TomasVerdejo
    I was thinking about this guy, if not, it is time for UG to ask for the best soundtrack compser
    Yabba Who
    Weird Al Yankovic. Seriously. Listen to his originals. And most of the time his parodies are better written and produced than the original songs.
    dacman
    ELTON JOHN
    macgregger
    Bernie Taupin wrote most of his songs...
    The_Wilrus
    Taupin was the lyric guy Elton did the majority of the music including composition for the band.
    The_Wilrus
    Taupin was the lyric guy Elton did the majority of the music including composition for the band.
    Krieger91
    Eminem
    pjn7000
    Speaking of rappers(and I may get some heat)... Notorious BIG
    kashmar88
    If we're talking rap, Atmosphere and Childish Gambino. Because the Internet alone is incredible if you understand it's purpose.
    shlepy
    Producers in the hip hop game as in the ones who write the beats I would say Madlib, MF DOOM, or J Dilla, even if my comment doesn't cont these right here are hip hop's finest, I can go on with hip hop producers and djs
    GodzillaRAWRRR
    Fuck Eminem, overrated douchebag who's a dick just for the sake of controversy and he copies other people's music and talks fast over it.
    l0ld4v3
    Slim produced most of his shit, and writes his own (and a bunch of Dre's 2001) lyrics. You may not like him, but he does way more than just "copy" other cats.
    jonathan.keeler
    Imogen heap
    rip3149
    Michael Jackson
    p_a_morgan
    John Mayer, easily.
    dewitt
    Han Williams
    Izzy-Sweet
    Robert Smith from The Cure.
    seance
    I agree, but The Cure is probably considered an alternative rock/goth rock/post-punk band to most (all subgenres of rock). Of course they have so much variety, but they are probably considered a "rock" band, technically speaking.
    Izzy-Sweet
    This is true, but the article does allow for artists that have elements of rock. I think they're just asking for music that isn't entirely hard rock/heavy metal. I'll leave that for everyone else to decide, that's just my own interpretation on the issue.
    third(-)eye
    I think The Cure are a little too closely aligned with the rock genre to be nominated for this.
    Izzy-Sweet
    Huh... kinda disappointed that no one likes this... Ah well, it is a reader's poll, I suppose.
    metallideth88
    This is an interesting question. How about Circa 1970 - 1980 JOHN LENNON
    metallideth88
    Why on earth would this get downvotes? I swear UG community can be a bunch of i_d_i_o_t_s sometimes. Downvote me all you want kids. Lennon is the greatest composer EVER!!!!!
    schirripar
    John Lennon was a total rocker his entire life, so why would he be considered in a greatest non-rock songwriters list?
    metallideth88
    I am not sure if I would consider double fantasy rock
    l0ld4v3
    You may not, but the whole world regards Lennon as a rock musician.
    metallideth88
    And this is coming from a guy who considers The Beatles a full blown Rock n roll band. I love them
    metallideth88
    I do dude. I have said several time I am the biggest Lennon fan around. But his last works I am not sure if these are Rock n Roll records
    TryTheKetchup
    And I'd like to say it's Nick Cave.
    metallideth88
    I honestly really hate when people put videos as responses. It takes a lot of space and can be really annoying when scrolling down. There, I said it.
    primus182
    Obviously THOM YORKE
    kasrafallen
    he is my fave songwriter but non-rock topic made me not mentioned him !
    TomasVerdejo
    Well, Thom, apart from Radiohead, is more of an electronic man. If you listen to his solo work, Atoms for Peace or his collaborations with Unkle and Modeselektor, you'll know what i mean
    WholeLottaIzzy
    Obviously Bob Dylan too.
    dave.coleman.54
    Not to mention Neil Young. It's said that Bob hates Heart of Gold because he keeps mistaking it for one of his own
    TryTheKetchup
    Not sure you're absolutely right. Dylan hates Heart of Gold because it's so good he regrets he didn't write it that time.
    seance
    He shouldn't be too jealous with all the great, culturally significant songs he's written.
    The Judist
    Wouldn't Neil Young be considered a rocker though? But otherwise yeah he's the bomb
    schirripar
    I don't understand why everyone seems to think that folk isn't rock. It is a subset of the genre. UG is trying to get people to look into pop, hip hop, and other genres for non-rock/metal songwriters, and the UG community goes to Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and John Lennon.... really? smfh. If you look up rock in the dictionary you see pictures of these guys.
    hairydeadperson
    What an ridiculous statement. Folk music came way the hell before folk music, so how could folk be a subset of rock? And Dylan was primarily a folk artist, who experimented with rock.
    dewitt
    It's clear that you meant to say folk came before rock, but it's kinda funny the way it reads. Folk is without a doubt not a subset of rock, but there is plenty of stuff that would straddle the fence, much of Bob Dylan's work included. He has plenty of stuff that only has its genre defined by the instruments present on the recording. One of his folk songs could be played the same way but with an electric guitar and drums, and suddenly it becomes a rock song. In short, the line is blurry and sometimes not much of a line at all.
    dewitt
    It's because most of the people here are les than 20 years old, and for most of their lives, rock has almost exclusively meant hard rock/radio metal when it comes to the media. They don't realize that rock covers much much more than just distorted guitars and angsty lyrics.
    third(-)eye
    Folk was around longer than rock, so I wouldn't say it's a subgenre. Folk ROCK is a subgenre, though.
    HitmanJenkins
    Some of his stuff is Rock orientated, but a lot more of it leans towards Folk and sometimes Country from my listening experience.
    metallideth88
    Bob Dylan is not Rock?
    seance
    He has been. Most of his classics are simply considered "Folk" so I guess it's not technically rock. Of course, he wouldn't say he's rock or folk.
    dewitt
    Well if you'd consider most of his work to be folk, what does that make actual folk? Bob Dylan has ventured into straight up rock, but most of his material is inarguably folk rock.
    Dani_G
    I never thought I'd write this, but Eminem is pretty good too
    dave.coleman.54
    True, not the biggest rap fan, but within his genre I think the way he constructs his rhymes shows moments of genuine genius
    rightintwo
    I agree. Not a rap fan at all but I give him credit for what he does. The songs are quite catchy, rhymes are brilliant and also funny every now and then. And as I said - I'm NOT a rap fan at all but if I say that his stuff is catchy then it must be something brilliant.
    K33nbl4d3
    Slightly off-topic, but why's it got to be "Not a rap fan, but..."? Surely if it's good, it's good, right? Why qualify it like that?
    rightintwo
    I emphasize "NOT a rap fan" because I don't listen to it at all. Sure, you are absolutely correct - if it's good then it's good but since I am not a rap expert and don't listen to it then I feel that I need to point it out. Eminem is the only rapper who has caught my attention in the past and I feel (and hear) that he creates music like a professional musician and works really hard to be one of the best rappers out there.
    l0ld4v3
    Should dig deeper into hip hop producers and beat makers, there are some real metal/rock/jazz fans doing hip hop.
    Dani_G
    I've always been partial to Dr. Dre. I would in no way say that I am a massive fan of rap either, but those two guys write some pretty good songs
    shlepy
    Madlib, Jay Dilla, MF DOOM, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, DJ Sub Rocks of KMD, Lench Mob, the 45 King, Q Tip, Guru, Spin Master Mike, Nujabees, I don't there's a lot more, there's so much good stuff in hip hop
    JAHellraiser
    If you're "not a rap fan" then your opinion isn't valid. and for the record there are tons of rappers who are better than eminem.
    Aryan Death Man
    Michael Jackson
    jamie_hough
    I don't think he actually wrote that many of his songs did he? I know he was involved with them and obviously added his style to things, but I think the majority of his massive songs were written for him? I may be wrong though, happy to be corrected on that.
    Aryan Death Man
    He didn't compose all of his songs but,He wrote the best ones. Beat It,Billie Jean,Smooth Criminal,Liberian Girl,Bad,Black Or White,Blood on The Dance Floor..just to name a few
    Floyd Phoenix
    Jackson actually wrote and co-produced a lot of his songs, somewhat surprisingly, especially after Thriller, and his biggest songs (excluding Thriller itself) were written by him. To be honest I was surprised when I found out, but the dude was a creative genius.
    TryTheKetchup
    I'd love to know who's that one, who keeps disliking all the comments here. Is the butthurt really so hard? I just can't get it, if you're not interested in anything but rock/metal just don't visit the article maybe.
    H3LLB0Y
    I doubt it is a single person, but if you can't handle a downvote, just don't visit UG maybe?
    6-String_Madman
    Richard Wagner. He was METAL even before metal existed.
    icanhasgodmode
    Mozart
    shredsta
    His compositions were phenomenal. He wrote some very good sonatas and symphonies but his weren't that great that's my opinion.
    shredsta
    *His compositions were phenomenal. He wrote some very good sonatas and symphonies but his songs weren't that great but that's my opinion.
    N7Crazy
    He doesn't have any "songs", he was a composer - Almost all classical musicians listed here are ineligable since most of them are composers, not songwriters (and no, the two are not synonyms). But for UG apperantly, that doesn't matter, it's much better to pretend one is musically sophisticated, though I'd bet not a single on here (including myself) could name over ten classical songwriters (not composers) if they had a gun to their head. (Inb4 people googling classical songwriters to prove me wrong)
    TryTheKetchup
    Martin L. Gore of Depeche Mode.
    Rimfrost
    I´d go with David Gahan (best three songs on the new album: all Gahan and his second solo album is pure win :p), but both are awesome.
    TryTheKetchup
    Yes, Gahan is great too, but the time he really writes songs is non-ordinary. Gore does the most job in DM fold.
    metallideth88
    Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the Deaf!!Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the Deaf!!Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the Deaf!!