RAP SUPERSTAR, 28
"I never been the type to break up a happy home, but I/There's something about babygirl, I just can't leave her alone"
—"It wasn't a personal issue," Nelly says of the song's cheating theme. "But I knew so many people in that situation. I wanted to let people know that they're not in it alone."
NINE-TIME LATIN GRAMMY WINNER, 29
" And in the distance I can see you/With your photos I feel sight/And in the stars I can see your eyes/With your photos I feel sight"
—"When I'm far from my family or my girlfriend, I always look to the stars, and I can see that I'm close to them. It's like a poetry concept of love," says Juanes. "I believe in that."
REGGAE/DANCE-HALL ARTIST, 30
SONG: "GET BUSY"
"Sexy ladies want par with us...in a the/Car with us...them nah war with us...in a/The club them want flex with us..."
—"That's my favorite line," says Paul. A native of Kingston, he mixes Jamaican vernacular into his lyrics, cowritten by Steven "Lenky" Marsden. "It means beautiful women want to have great times with me, they're just chilling out. No problems, everything's okay."
BRITISH SINGER, 23
SONG: "IF YOU'RE NOT THE ONE"
"I'll never know what the future brings/But I know you're here with me now/We'll make it through/And I hope you are the one I share my life with"
—"It's very youthful," Bedingfield says of this song, which he wrote for a girlfriend. "You don't know about forever. You wish you could, but you can't. So I thought, what's the most honest thing I can say? And I told her exactly how it was: 'I hope I love you all my life.' "
LEAD SINGER, DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL, 28
SONG: "HANDS DOWN"
"My hopes are so that your kiss might kill me/So won't you kill me?/ So I die happy"
—"Hands Down" is Carrabba's account of "a really romantic day I had with this girl. It encapsulates how strongly I felt. It's kind of funny asking someone to kill you, but I thought for sure, that's what her kiss would have done."
GRASSROOTS ROCKER, 26
SONG: "THE REMEDY (I WON'T WORRY)"
"I say the tragedy is how you're gonna spend the rest of your nights with the/light on/So shine the light on all of your friends because it all amounts to nothing in/the end/I won't worry my life away"
—Mraz's lyrics were inspired by his good friend Charlie's bout with cancer. Charlie is now in remission, but "The Remedy" has proven to be just that for others. "Nurses and caregivers are actually playing the song," says Mraz, who cowrote it with songwriting trio the Matrix. "And they're finding that people are happier,"
20-YEAR-OLD JAZZ PHINOM
"I can hear the sounds of violins/Long before it begins/Make me thrill as only you know how/Sway me smooth, sway me now"
—Recorded by Dean Martin in 1954 and later by Rosemary Clooney, "Sway" is now Cincotti's most requested cover. "I sing it as if I'm singing to someone," he says.
SONG: "STAY GONE
"I like it this way/Ifs good for my heart/I haven't felt like this/In God knows how long/I know everything's gonna be OK/If you just stay gone"
—When Wayne's older sister split from her husband, "she told me, 'I wish he would just stay gone,' " he remembers. "You hear things like that and, as a songwriter, your radar goes on. It's usually 'Baby, stay.' This was different." Wayne cowrote the song with Billy Kirsch.
LEAD SINGER, ROONEY, 20
"Look at my bursting veins/Now do you see the red in me/It's a sign for the end/Only the end of the red/Will show you my blue side"
—"I wrote 'Blueside' when I was 15, before I went to the airport to go to boarding school. When you go to a new school, you sort of re-create yourself. The chorus talks about showing your blue side, which represented the new me."
Chris Collingwood & Adam Schlesinger
SINGERS, FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE, BOTH 36
SONG: "STACY'S MOM"
"Stacy, do you remember when I mowed your lawn?/Your mom came out with just a towel on/I could tell she liked me from the way she stared/ And the way she said 'you missed a spot over there' "
—"There isn't an actual Stacy," Schlesinger (right) reveals. "But I did have a lawn-mowing service in junior high." "We realized we can write about things we're familiar with," adds Collingwood. "Like growing up in the suburbs rather than pretend to be U2, singing about the clouds."