A lot of things are important in music but melody is king. Timing is crucial, style, tempo and other things are very important but melody is the principle thing.
Melody equals power
I think that it is melody that gives music it’s potency. It is the melody that conveys the message in the music most directly to the listener. When music is not melodic it may be hypnotic or engaging on some level, but will lack the power that music can have when it is melodic.
Melody gives music greater appeal to the majority of listeners. The reason why Beatles music is still popular today is that it is melodic. Even in guitar solos, shredding can be spectacular (and I love it) but if it is not melodic then the listener will be left cold once they have gotten over the ‘Gee Wizz’ factor. Solo’s by players like David Gilmore for example are epic because they are melodic. Other technicians of the guitar may be able to run rings around David Gilmore in number of notes, but their solos will be weaker if they are not melodic. Having both melody and great technique is an awesome combination!
Melody is Communication
Music is really a universal language. At it’s best it is the language of the heart. Even the Bible refers to music in these terms (Ephesians 5:17). When music is melodic it conveys what is in the heart of the musician, more directly to the heart of the listener. It is melody that has the power to cross mental or even cultural boundaries and speak directly to the heart of the listener.
Music involves technique as well as communication and this is where it can go astray, I think. The technicality in the mastery of ones instrument can lead the musician to a ‘Braniac’ place where music becomes more like mathematics rather than heartfelt communication. Technical ‘gymnastics’ are good to develop ones skills but I believe a wise musician will allow melody to dominate his or her playing.
My wife will often comment on music that I listen to and say, “that’s muso music”. What she really means is that, even though I enjoy it, it’s not doing anything for her. In other words, not speaking to her. I’ve heard other people comment that certain musicians and singers are “hard work to listen to”. I remember listening to an Al di Meola interview in which he commented that it was mainly guys that would come to the Return To Forever shows that he played. Most females present were there with their husbands or boyfriends. He realised that his music was only speaking to, potentially, half the population of his listeners.
Melody is king.