What is Metaphor?
Metaphors are devices usually used in poetry, novels, movies, and books to make a comparison between two things. In music, the comparison often connects with themes, popular gossip of the time, or connects to other songs.
If the artist or writer is comparing or portraying a person, action, feeling, place, or thing as being something else, then they are utilizing a metaphor.
Here are 10 examples of metaphors from popular music.
List of Metaphors from Popular Music
• Hound Dog – by Elvis Presley
You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog
Quit snoopin’ ’round my door
You can wag your tail
But I ain’t gonna feed you no more
In this song, the singer (who was actually Big Mama Thorton’s song) berates his significant other, comparing her to a dog that just won’t leave him alone.
• The Dance – by Garth Brooks
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d have had to miss the dance
In this song, Brooks is comparing something as simple as a one song dance to life. He says that we could avoid the pain of losing people, but he would have to miss all of the joy they bring to life.
• I’m Already There – by Lonestar
I’m the sunshine in your hair
I’m the shadow on the ground
I’m the whisper in the wind
I’m your imaginary friend
In this country classic, Lonestar sings to their children while they are away on tour. The band compares themselves to the daily things that their children would see in an effort to let them know that they will always be with them, even when they are away.
• Hotel California – by The Eagles
Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
They livin’ it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise (what a nice surprise)
In this song, the Eagles compare the fickle, temporary, and false nature of all the glamor found out west in Hollywood-land to that of a short stay in a hotel. No one knows how long they are going to be famous, so they have to make the most out of it.
• Waterfalls – by T.L.C
Don’t go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to
I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all
In this song from the 90s, the R&B trio each take a turn telling a story about someone who got caught up in something that hurt him. It was a metaphor warning us not to go chasing things that are beautiful, like waterfalls, but might actually hurt you.
• Everything – by Michael Buble
You‘re a falling star, you‘re the getaway car.
You‘re the line in the sand when I go too far.
Ever the romantic, Michael Buble uses his song “Everything” to tell his wife that she means everything to him. He compares her to multiple things throughout the song, each showing that she is the best part of him.
• Firework – by Katy Perry
‘Cause, baby, you‘re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you‘re worth
Katy’s anthem of self-love is a great example of metaphors and similes. The overarching metaphor is that everyone is a firework: unique, special, and capable of doing great things.
• Titanium – by David Guetta
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
You shoot me down but I won’t fall
I am titanium
In this dance classic, she compares herself to one of the strongest metals. She is showing that no matter what you throw at her, or how much you try to knock her down, you won’t succeed.
• Every Rose has Its Thorn – by Poison
Every rose has its thorn,
Just like every night has it’s dawn,
Just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song,
Every rose has its thorn
Here Poison is taking a popular metaphor and putting it to song. Just like the flower that is so beautiful and beloved, this woman has a side that can really hurt. In a second metaphor, the heartbreak felt is comparable to that of that felt in traditional westerns.
• I’ll Make a Man Out of You – by Mulan
With all the force of a great typhoon
Be a man
With all the strength of a raging fire
In this sometimes overlooked Disney classic, Mulan leaves her family and acts like a man to keep her father from war. This metaphor compares how she should act to a fire or a typhoon: strong, brave, and leaving wreckage in her path.
There are so many songs that people think mean one thing, but they are actually about something else altogether. Metaphors are everywhere in popular music, keep an ear out and you might just hear a few yourself!