Good literature is recognized by its creativity, and what is one of the best displays of creativity, if not figurative language?
All the lyrics to songs are essentially poetry. Songwriters and lyricists have used their wide range of vocabulary and included figurative language in their songs.
The use of figurative language in the music industry made understanding the lyrics more interesting.
Here is a list of some songs that make extensive use of metaphors and figurative language and paint emotional scenarios just by crooning the lyrics.
Song # 1: Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd
Child abuse was at the height of its peak in the 90s when this song came out. Pink Floyd did what they do best and released a song as a means of protest to effectively fight against it.
Bricks and walls have been used as metaphors to describe separation and being emotionless throughout time. Being at the receiving end of abuse makes you build walls around you, and trusting someone becomes difficult.
‘Another brick in the wall’ signifies how the teachers are one of the reasons those walls have been put up and messed with a child’s mental health.
To deeply influence their audience to grasp the gravity of the lyrics, all the band members of Pink Floyd built a wall brick-by-brick when performing this song live.
The addition of each brick to the wall was emphasized where teachers were mentioned.
Song # 2: Rain On Me by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande
Many forms of water, such as rain and tears, have been the go-to metaphors to spell out grief and struggle in history.
This song is about a woman calling out her ex-lover for leaving her and not loving her enough.
The woman talks about empowering herself and respecting herself enough to let go in the face of struggle. Her lover didn’t love her, but she loves herself enough to show that she’s strong even when she feels at her lowest.
Song # 3: What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
The master of jazz ‘Satch’ sang this song about the beauty of this world, and he amplified its beauty by adding exceptional adjectives in it.
This song talks about how one finds simple beauty in every aspect of the world, and even a bright sunny day or a dark night is something beautiful to behold.
This song talks about how people find happiness when they see something wonderful in the world, like a rainbow after a long rainy day.
Song # 4: Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran
This song is a perfect example of using more than one type of figurative language at the same time.
This song uses both similes and metaphors. The man is personified as the wolf (a similie) who lusts after a woman and hence is hungry like the wolf (a metaphor).
He is the alpha male and will scour the city till he finds the woman he wants and make her his mate.
Song # 5: Girl On Fire by Alicia Keys
Fire has been used to illustrate so many things in the history of figurative language passion, anger, comfort, activity, controversy, or even hurt.
In this song, Alicia Keys talks about fire in the sense of motivation. The girl is on fire because she’s motivated to reach new heights and become the best despite the many catastrophes happening in the world.
This girl burns so brightly that you can’t take your eyes off her. She’s struggling, but she will do anything to fulfill her dreams, and her burning passion for doing just that will light her way ahead.
Song # 6: Sad Songs (Say So Much) by Elton John
One of the most popular types of figurative language is an alliteration because of how easy it is to use.
The use of the same sound in each line made even simple poems become masterpieces. Elton John uses alliteration in this song which gels perfectly with the harmonious music.
Song # 7: Come Sail Away by Styx
‘Come sail away’ is another way of calling one to the adventure of life.
The lyrics are simple, and the voyage out to the sea is actually the journey of one’s life in the face of the unknown.
Lyricist Dennis talks about how memories of the past pick at your mental peace. You try to live your life and struggle through another day despite those memories dragging you back and under.
Song # 8: Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone by Bill Withers
Hyperbole is a powerful way of expressing many different things, especially grief. The exaggerated statements signify the emptiness you feel in the absence of a loved one.
Bill Withers talks about this in his song, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. Bill Withers expresses his grief at the going away of his lover.
He exaggerates how the sun does not rise when his lover is not with him, and even if it does, he doesn’t feel the sunlight. His life becomes dark, and his home becomes just a lifeless house.
Song # 9: Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler
Bonnie Tyler compares her love to this rarely appearing celestial event.
Tyler’s lover was like a ray of sunshine in her life, but since the day that he broke her heart, there’s only darkness.
Like the moon blocks out the light of the sun during the solar eclipse, her life also has only darkness in it after her lover left her.
Song # 10: Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
This song is famous for its appearance in the famous boxing series ‘Rocky’ because of its motivational lyrics.
The metaphor is used to compare a man with a tiger.
A man who is also a fighter possesses the same instincts and abilities as a tiger. He has the will to survive; therefore, he must always be one step ahead of his rival and be aware of his actions.
If you’re as careful as the tiger in your challenge, only then can you get the glory and become a survivor.
Song # 11: Fireworks by Katy Perry
Fireworks are bright and colorful and always catch the attention of everyone nearby when they go out.
This is how Katy Perry thinks everyone should be when she used fireworks as a metaphor for humans. Sometimes all you have to do is take the first step in the direction you want when you are feeling down.
That spark is enough to set you off to achieve your dreams until you become an eye-catching firework show. Check out the music video of the song here for the full experience.
Song # 12: The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel
We covered a lot of different aspects of figurative language in the article. One final type is the use of real or imaginary events to spell out how you feel.
Simon and Garfunkel use the story from the Old Testament about the Israeli disbelievers building a golden calf and worshipping it to spin their own lyrics fashioned on imaginary events:
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
However, perhaps the most popular lyrics from the song are the following:
Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
These lyrics signify how darkness and misery have become friends because of how frequently it visits.
We hope you enjoyed reading this blog on ’12 Songs with Figurative Language’, and some of them touched the chords of your heart.
Do you know of any more songs with figurative language? If ‘Yes’, feel free to share them in the comments section below.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.