How to Write Non-Visual Lyrics Part 2
A simile isn’t entirely different than a metaphor. While a metaphor refers to one thing as being another, a similar refers to that thing as being like another. The Thomas Rhett chart-topper “Craving You” (David Barnes and Julian Bunetta) is a great example of how a simile is employed. In the song, the singer refers to someone as being like a cigarette and a shot of hundred proof that he’s craving.
One of the strongest uses of this device can be heard in Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (Paul Simon) when the singer says that he will lay himself down like a bridge over troubled water. In “Red”, written and performed by Taylor Swift, Swift uses the device when she tells the person she loves that she’s driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street. In Death Cab for Cutie’s “Crooked Teeth” (Christopher Walla and Benjamin Gibbard), the performer sings about the state line dividing him from his true love when he compares it to the Berlin Wall. The successful use of both devices are found in almost all musical genres and can offer a fresh and unique perspective that adds something different to a song.
Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration to place extra focus on an emotion or an idea. In Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” (Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson), Amy Winehouse tells us that she died a hundred times. In Britney Spears’ ”Toxic” (Pontus Winnberg, Christian Karlsson, Henrik Jonback, and Cathy Dennis), the singer tells the person she’s addressing in the song that they’re “Toxic”.
In “Killing Me Softly” (Roberta Flack), the singer talks about a song by suggesting that it’s “killing her softly”. Obviously, the song, which has also been performed by Luther Vandross and The Fugees, isn’t actually killing her. This example of hyperbole, however, has a greater impact than if she’d have said that the song hurts her deeply.
A poetic approach
While a conversational tone is used in numerous songs, others are successful through the use of richer and more flowery language that is similar to poetry. The language in the GRAMMY-award winning Jason Isbell song “If We Were Vampires” is that of classical poetry when the singer says that the time he spent with his lover is especially precious because they are mortals and it will eventually end. In the Selena Gomez song “Wolves” (Louis Russell Bell, Andrew Wotman, Alexandra Tamps, Carl Austin Rosen, Marshmello, Brian Lee, and Selena Gomez), the lyric shows off some poetic language when the singer expresses that she’s waited so hard and so long to find her lover.
The opening of the song draws in listeners with unique and intense imagery and evocative sentence fragments. The singer says that there’s a heavy blue in someone’s eyes before carrying on down the same line, claiming that those eyes contain wine and water. Bob Dylan might be the king of poetic lyrics but this is a great example of how this device is used in modern music.