There's no getting away from the fact that while music is often about finding new ways to tell universal stories, some things just work. And songwriters, video makers and pop stars all know that in order to get their music to the widest possible audience, it helps to use some familiar tricks that have been proven to work in the past.
Call it inspiration, call it lineage, here are a few things that pop stars do a lot, because pop fans seem to like them a lot.
1. Calling a song Let It Go
Some song titles crop up frequently. Crazy, for example, is listed in Wikipedia as the title of 42 different songs, from artists as wildly different as Aerosmith, Gnarls Barkley and Willie Nelson. I Believe is even more popular, being used as a title by 53 listed artists, including EMF, Bon Jovi and R.E.M.
Let It Go sits somewhere in-between at present, with some 45 notable songs being listed under that title. Def Leppard, Alexandra Burke and Keyshia Cole all have songs with that name, and there are the recent hits by James Bay and Idina Menzel, suggesting that a new wave of songs about acceptance might even oust the sturdy surety of I Believe from its lofty perch.
Ever the revolutionary in terms of pop spelling, Prince's version was entitled Letitgo.
2. Dramatic key changes
Hallelujah is a song that is commonly believed to be difficult to improve. It was before Alexandra Burke recorded her cover version as the winner of the 2008 series of The X Factor, and it still is now. However, one trick missed by both Leonard Cohen - when painstakingly writing it - and Jeff Buckley in his celebrated 1994 cover, was the addition of a key change in the latter stages, just to pep things up a bit. Granted, it robbed the song of some of its understated sense of grace, but you can't have everything.
Modulation is an astonishingly effective trick. A song as giddy as Reach by S Club 7 may have found itself running out of steam without that last-minute sugar rush to try and maximise the excitement. And it doesn't necessarily have to take place just before the last chorus. My Generation by The Who jumps up a key four times in just three minutes, and that includes the extended fade-out where the band play like a set of house keys in a blender.
3. Mic checks
Modern pop likes to minimise the amount of time spent between vocal noises, and one way a singer or rapper can grab the spotlight before they are due to start work is to make some kind of noise during the song's introduction. There are two common ways to do this. The first is to make a nonverbal noise - a rhythmic grunt, a laugh, or a melismatic run of vowel sounds - just to reassure everyone that the performer is at the mic and they're ready to start. The second takes that idea and adds verbal communication, so a performer might insist on their headphones being turned up, to create the illusion that this is all happening in one take. Or they might quickly say (or even sing) their own name.
Producers have also seen the wisdom of staking out this valuable stretch of sonic real estate, and will happily insert some vocal trademark or other during a song's opening beats, although few are as dogged as DJ Khaled, who rarely lets a song out of his studio without adding the shouted "ANOTHER ONE!" and "DEEJAY KHHHHHALED!" clips that are his hallmark of quality.
4. Vocal fry
There is probably a scientific study underway that seeks to work out whether vocal fry - that croaky noise at the back of the throat that sounds a little like the scooter motor in your voice has just been switched off - has had a greater impact on the way people sing or on the way they talk.
What's undeniable is that it has become a key part of the expressive arsenal of both speech and song. Britney Spears uses it a lot, as does Justin Bieber. And while some voices just have a natural grain to them, to anyone attempting to convey such a high state of emotion it sounds as if their voice is being torn apart by raw feeling, risks awakening the lizard.
5. The emotional journey
Life is tough, and sometimes it's helpful to hear from people who've had to weather more than the occasional storm in order to offer hope in bleak moments. Whether it's because of unsettling times or simply because of the unsettlement of the core audience at which they are aimed, pop songs that look back on an emotional journey are a hugely popular thing at the moment.
And it doesn't matter if the artist looks back with as much consideration and rueful grace as Drake does in Started from the Bottom or youthful bewilderment as Lukas Graham in 7 Years, so long as you've done a thing, it took a while, and you're emotional about how it went, it's pop music.
6. Slowmo video
This comes up a lot, and it doesn't really seem to matter if the song is fast or slow. When filming a video, the way to add visual gravitas to a lyric, especially one that is audibly delivered with great emotional emphasis, is to film it in slow motion. Actually, you film a sped-up, Alvin and the Chipmunks version of the song (hoping that your artist doesn't giggle too much), then play it back at normal speed to get the required effect.
And what an effect! Hair moves with a sinuous, supple waft, as if seen under water; facial expressions move slower, really underlining all the feelings the song is trying to get across; and any physical gestures with the hands or shifting body posture look intentional and stately. All music genres use it because it always works: slow mo is the grace-maker.
7. Songs about songs
Songwriters reference other songs in their own songs for lots of reasons, most often to make the person listening to the song feel an affinity with the person singing it. It's the teenaged Ed Sheeran and his mates singing Tiny Dancer in a car (Castle on the Hill), Corinne Bailey Rae paraphrasing Bob Marley (Put Your Records On), or Tom Petty citing Del Shannon on the radio as the definitive soundtrack of his wild youth (Runnin' Down a Dream). And because song lyrics are a curated reality, it's a safe bet that no hard-hitting lyric has ever been written about looking back fondly as you remember dancing around the house to Mr Blobby or Gangnam Style.
Sometimes, as is seemingly the case with Noel Gallagher, it's because the phrases and titles of his record collection exist in a kind of mental dictionary of phraseology to be pilfered at will, whether by throwing in Beatles song titles into his lyrics - "The fool on the hill, and I feel fine" in D' You Know What I Mean? - or, in the case of Morning Glory, writing about listening to a song and then playing with the title afterwards: "Another sunny afternoon / Walking to the sound of my favourite tune / Tomorrow Never Knows what it doesn't know too soon."
8. Ballad stools
Sincerity is a matter of posture, and when a pop performer has a lovelorn ballad and promises of love and devotion to deliver, the sheer weight of emotion is enough to put anyone's back out. That's why, in the crucial opening verses, they'll line up some seats for added lumbar support. Rest up, get limber and ready for the big push in the final choruses.
9. Red cups
Solo made the first disposable plastic cup in America, and their most popular colour is red, so they've been a party staple for years. That's why artists are keen to use their product in their videos (because that's what parties look like) and also work references to them into their songs.
Miley Cyrus inserted the line, "Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere / Hands in the air like we don't care," in to her mournful party anthem We Can't Stop. And country star Toby Keith wrote an entire song about them, called Red Solo Cup, in which he sang, "A red Solo cup is cheap and disposable / And in 14 years they are decomposable / And unlike my home they are not foreclosable." Which are responsible sentiments that speak volumes to party animals the world over.