What Is a Hook?

Photo of Sinead O'CONNOR
Sinead O'Connor performing on stage, 1990. Redferns / Getty Images

"You can't catch a fish when your fishing rod is missing a hook." The same principle applies when crafting a song.

In music, the word "hook" refers to that part of a song that catches the ear of the listener. In other words, it's a lyrical line or melodic phrase that makes the song memorable. In this context you can say songwriting is somewhat like fishing; make your hook strong and appealing and you'll be able to catch 'em and reel 'em in.

The hook may be the title of the song, a lyrical line (usually repeated) that summarizes what the song is about, a rhythmic passage or an instrumental part called "riff." It is mostly evident in pop music; songs that have made it to the top of the charts have unforgettable hooks. Here are some examples:

Don't You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds

"Don't you forget about me
Don't, don't don't don't
Don't you forget about me"

With Or Without You by U2

"With or without you
With or without you, oh
I can't live with or without you"

Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O'Connor

"Nothing compares
Nothing compares to you"

I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston

"And I will always love you
I will always love you"

You're Beautiful by James Blunt

"You're beautiful, you're beautiful
You're beautiful it's true"