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Ryan Waczek’s “Broken” Is The Ultimate Earworm

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When I was 16, I had a part-time job washing dishes at a local pub. During one shift, Kelis’ “Milkshake” popped into my head and nothing I did could get it out.

18 years later, the same thing happened. Though this time the song in question was “Broken” by Ryan Wackez (ft. Ruhde). And thankfully, I was just washing up after dinner; my career has moved on a bit.

When it happened with Kelis it felt like torture. No amount of dishwasher loading or ferocious baking tray scrubbing could get rid of the music in my head.

Now though, I realise it’s just because Chad Hugo and Pharrel Williams had written a great song, and Kelis had made it pop.

A song’s mission is to stay with you, and that’s what Ryan Waczek has managed to make happen as well.

The washing up must be a coincidence.

For a song to get stuck in your head, the song has to have the right ingredients.

“Milkshake” had me with a dairy-based treat I love. “Broken” had me with the chorus, production, lyrics and theme. A pretty decent earworm if ever there was one.

But out of everything, it’s probably the hook of “Broken” that gets into you the most. The big electronic chorus sees the instrumentation take over the vocals to enter the magical space between “dance banger” and “emotional singer-songwriter ballad”.

You may say that it falls into the modern pop cliché of instrumental choruses, but you’d be wrong. The instrumental aspect of the chorus isn’t all-consuming and there’s certainly a strong lyrical element there. But this song does have clichés.

Long drives and sunsets

It may be a line born from personal experience, but it’s not going to win an award for the most creative lyric of the year.

Is that a bad thing? Nope.

Not everything has to be complicated.

There’s a painfully simple line in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief which goes, “A wooden spoon was on fire.” While it is a child of its context, it’s possibly my favourite piece of fiction writing.

Clichés and simple imagery are used for a good reason; because they resonate. And a lyric that resonates is a lyric that sticks.

Your only promise was a broken one

Whether it’s because I am trying to teach my five-year-old daughter the importance of keeping pinky swears, or just the mutually incompatible nature of a broken promise, this is a line that hit home.

It’s so central to the themes of the song. Honesty, loyalty and how sometimes relationships aren’t always what they seem.

These are all things we can relate to, and that’s another reason why it will stick. You may listen to it at surface level, or you may decide to go deep, but those central themes, backed up by that big chunky chorus will get in there.

And if you get the dishes done at the same time then that’s a rather nice bonus.

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