15 popular songs that took a surprisingly short amount of time to write

Lorde/ RoyalsLorde wrote ‘Royals’ in half an hour.
  • Some of the most successful songs in history were written in under 30 minutes.
  • Pop songs like Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance,” Adele’s “Hometown Glory,” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella” were all written in less than 20 minutes.
  • Older songs like Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” and David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” were also written quickly.
  • Dolly Parton said she wrote two songs – “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love you” – in one evening.
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For some musicians, it takes months or even years to perfect a song that will be loved by millions. However, there are some musicians who have written famous songs in under 30 minutes.

Musicians from across different genres – rap, country, and pop – have struck gold after taking a few minutes to write a song that would become a chart-topper.

Here are some of the quickest hit songs ever written.


The Beastie Boys said they wrote “(You’ve Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)” in five minutes.

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Beastie Boys in “(You’ve Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)” music video.

When the Beastie Boys released “(You’ve Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)” in 1986 it was written to poke fun at frat boys and their party lifestyles, but the song was ironically embraced by frat boys and the band became stars. It all started with the group writing the iconic song on napkins.

“It was summer 1986,” Mike D. told Penthouse Magazine. “We wrote it in about five minutes. We were in the Palladium with Rick Rubin, drinking vodka and grapefruit juice, and ‘Fight for Your Right’ was written in the Michael Todd Room on napkins on top of those s—- lacy tables. I remember we made a point there of like, ‘Look, we gotta get s— done,’ and we sat at one table, really determined to accomplish something. It was just like it is now, trying to fit everything in.”


Lady Gaga wrote her breakout single “Just Dance” in 10 minutes.

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Lady Gaga in the “Just Dance” music video.

In 2009, Lady Gaga jumped into the spotlight with her hit single “Just Dance.” She wrote the song with producers RedOne and Akon in Los Angeles. She told Heat magazine in the UK that it took a surprisingly short amount of time to write.

“It’s been unbelievable the way the song has crossed over into the mainstream,” she told Heat magazine. “It took 10 minutes to write.”

The track hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart and stayed in the charts for 13 weeks.


Adele also wrote her debut song, “Hometown Glory,” in under 10 minutes.

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Adele in the “Hometown Glory” music video.

Before Adele was an internationally renowned musician, she was a teenager fighting with her mother about where she should go to university. Adele wanted to stay in London and study there, but her mother wanted her to see more of the UK and to study in Liverpool. In response, Adele locked herself in her room and wrote “Hometown Glory” in under 10 minutes as an ode to the city of London.

“It’s called ‘Hometown Glory’ and it was all about how I felt about London and stuff like that. I actually wrote it on guitar, and I was at school at the time,” she told Billboard. “I actually find this song really emotional now because since so much has happened since I wrote it, and it’s been like 11 years since I wrote it. So my whole career has happened, and it’s one of my favourites still, to this day.”


When U2 was getting kicked out of a recording studio for going over their time, they wrote their song “40” in 10 minutes.

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Bono singing.

At a show in Denver, Colorado, on November 7, 1987, U2’s lead singer, Bono, told the crowd how their 1983 song “40” was made.

“When we were making our third record,” Bono said at the concert, “we were being thrown out of the studio by the studio manager because we had overrun or something – and we had one more song to do. We wrote this song in about 10 minutes; we recorded it in about 10 minutes; we mixed it in about 10 minutes; and we played it, then, for another 10 minutes. And that’s nothing to do with why it’s called ’40.'”


Likewise, Ed Sheeran said his single “Photograph” “fell out” in 10 minutes.

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Ed Sheeran in the “Photograph” music video.

While on tour, Ed Sheeran heard a few notes from Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid. The notes reminded him of a recent heartbreak, so he decided to write a song around it.

“I wrote it with Johnny from Snow Patrol and he just had a loop on his laptop that he just put down that was just a three-note piano thing,” Sheeran told Capital FM. “I just started singing over that, ‘Loving can hurt, loving can hurt,’ and then the song just kinda fell out within about 10 minutes.”

The result was “Photograph,” which was released in 2015 and reached No. 4 on the Billboard charts.


Ray Charles wrote “What’d I Say” in under 15 minutes while improvising at a live show.

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Ray Charles performing “What’d I Say.”

In 1958, Ray Charles and his band were booked to play a gig from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at a Pittsburgh dance hall. At 12:45, Ray Charles realised he had exhausted the band’s entire catalogue and had no other songs to play. Worried he would lose the paycheck if he didn’t play for the full allotted time, the singer told the band to follow his lead. For the next 15 minutes, Ray Charles improvised a song that the audiences loved.

He recorded the song, now known as “What’d I Say,” in New York City, and it was released in 1959.


Kanye West said he wrote “All Falls Down” in 15 minutes.

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Kanye West in the “All Falls Down” music video.

Kanye West told the New York Times that he originally had trouble finding his voice in the world of music, but when he did, everything happened very quickly.

“Before, when I wanted to rap, my raps sounded like a bit like Cam’ron; they sounded a bit like Mase; they sounded a bit like Jay-Z or whoever,” he told the New York Times. “And it wasn’t until I hung out with Dead Prez and understood how to make, you know, raps with a message sound cool that I was able to just write ‘All Falls Down’ in 15 minutes.”

“All Falls Down” was released in 2004 and peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard charts.


Music producer The-Dream wrote “Single Ladies” for Beyoncé in 17 minutes.

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Beyoncé in the “Single Ladies” music video.

The-Dream walked into a recording studio, joking that he would be the one to write Beyoncé’s next big single. Turns out, he was right. He ended up writing two songs that night. One of them was never released, and the second was “Single Ladies,” which he said took him 17 minutes to write.

“Usually those songs that take the small amount of time are usually the bigger ones because you’re not thinking about it,” The-Dream told Genius. “It’s just a mood.”

In 2008, “Single Ladies” was released and Beyoncé reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts.


“The-Dream” also wrote Rihanna’s “Umbrella” very quickly.

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Rihanna in the “umbrella” music video.

When The-Dream entered the studio one day, he heard the beats that producers Kuk Harrell and Tricky had already recorded, and they inspired The-Dream to write “Umbrella” in one, swift recording.

“I said, ‘Man, turn the mic on.’ He’s like, ‘We’re not ready. We just started moving this s— around. We’ve got to plug it up. We’ve got to get it right.’ I’m like, ‘Turn the mic on.’ I maybe had to go back and change four words but I sung it from the top to the end – exactly as is, how you hear the song today. Right now,” The-Dream told Dazed.

Rihanna released “Umbrella” in 2007, and it topped the Billboard charts.


Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote “Your Song” in 20 minutes.

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Elton John performing “Your Song.”

Elton John’s lifelong lyricist, Bernie Taupin, said he remembers writing “Your Song” on the kitchen table in London.

“The original lyric was written very rapidly on the kitchen table,” Taupin told the Independent. “If I recall, [it was] on a particularly grubby piece of exercise paper.”

When he sent the lyrics on to Elton John, the musician spent a very short amount of time composing the hit song.

“It came out in about 20 minutes, and when I was done, I called him in and we both knew,” he told Rolling Stone. “I was 22, and he was 19, and it gave us so much confidence.”

In 1970, “Your Song” was released, and it has since become a classic.


Taylor Swift wrote her hit “We Are Never Getting Back Together” in 25 minutes.

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Taylor Swift in the “We Are Never Getting Back Together” music video.

Taylor Swift was in the studio writing a different song when inspiration hit for “We Are Never Getting Back Together.” It all started when a guy walked into the studio and told Swift that he heard she was getting back together with ex-boyfriend, to which she responded with the now-famous lyric.

“That was not the case! After he left, I explained the story to Max and said, ‘We are never ever getting back together’ and someone said we should write that,” Swift told Digital Spy. “I just grabbed the guitar and it just happened very randomly. It was hilarious. We wrote the song in 25 minutes.”

She added, “I really didn’t expect this song to be what it’s turned into.” The song was released in 2012 and reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts.


Lorde wrote her career-defying single “Royals” in half an hour.

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Lorde in the “Royals” music video.

Lorde told Billboard that she was able to write her single “Royals” very quickly.

“Yeah, I was just at my house, and I wrote it before I went to the studio,” the singer said. “I wrote it in like half an hour – the lyrics, anyway. I wrote all the lyrics and took them to the studio and my producer [Joel Little] was like, ‘Yeah, this is cool.’ We worked on that and on two other songs on the EP in a week, and just did a little bit every day.”

She released the song in 2013 and it climbed to the top spot on the Billboard charts.

“It’s weird, because obviously when I wrote it I had no idea it would be a big deal or anything,” she told Billboard.


Over the course of one afternoon, David Bowie wrote “Life on Mars?”

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David Bowie in “Life on Mars?” music video.

One afternoon, David Bowie was running errands in England when he couldn’t get a tune out of his head. He told the Mail on Sunday that he decided to head home and write the song at the piano.

“This song was so easy. Being young was easy … I took a walk to Beckenham High Street to catch a bus to Lewisham to buy shoes and shirts but couldn’t get the riff out of my head,” he said. “Jumped off two stops into the ride and more or less loped back to the house up on Southend Road. Workspace was a big empty room with a chaise lounge; a bargain-price art nouveau screen (‘William Morris,’ so I told anyone who asked); a huge overflowing freestanding ashtray and a grand piano. Little else. I started working it out on the piano and had the whole lyric and melody finished by late afternoon.”

The result was “Life on Mars?” which was released in 1971.


Dolly Parton wrote not one but two successful songs in one day.

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Dolly Parton performing “Jolene.”

In an interview on “The Bobby Bones Show,” Dolly Parton said she wrote two of her biggest hits in one night. When she was asked when she wrote “I Will Always Love You,” she answered, “In 1972, I wrote, it. At the same time I wrote ‘Jolene.’ That was a good writing day.”

Although she doesn’t give the exact amount of time she spent writing each song, it’s clear that she wrote the two hits very quickly if it happened in one evening.

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