Examples Of Figurative Language In Popular Songs

Figurative languages are words and expressions used in poems and songs to convey various meanings and interpretations from the literal meaning. Figurative devices play major while writing. Appropriate use of figurative devices can enhance the work and create a deep level of meaning that a listener can enjoy while decoding. It is effective to communicate an idea that is not easy to understand because of its abstract nature or complexity. Songwriters use figurative language to stimulate emotion, help listeners to form mental images. One of the main reasons for using these devices is to make a connection with the listeners so that they can sink deep into the sea of the writer’s thoughts. For a detailed list refer to this article: //literarydevices.net/figurative-language/. Here are a few examples of figurative languages in songs:

My heart will go on – Celine Dion

Every night in my dreams
I see you, I feel you…
Love can touch us one time
And last for a lifetime…
Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on

The above lines use hyperbole in the line ‘near far, wherever you are…’. The songwriter exaggerates the way to illustrate the main character’s presence to the listeners. At the beginning of the song ‘Every night in my dream I see you I feel you’, the writer uses imagery to create a visual impact of the singer’s dream and her beloved. ‘Love’ is personified in the lines ‘love can touch us one time’.

 Move Like Jagger – Ben Minadeo

Just shoot for the stars if it feels right
And aim for my heart if you feel like it…
Kiss me ’til you’re drunk and I’ll show you all the moves like Jagger
I’ve got the moves like Jagger

In the above lines, the singer uses the simile in ‘I’ve got the moves like Jagger’. Here the singer is comparing his dancing skills with Mick Jagger’s because Mick Jagger is known for a unique dancing style. There is also consonance and assonance in ‘Ay Ay Ay Aaay’ and “Oh yeah oh”, with the sounds of /a/ and /y/. The hyperbole is used in the line, ‘Kiss me till your drunk’, which is an exaggeration. People get drunk from drinking too much alcohol.

Let It Go – Idina Menzel

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen…
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I’ve tried…
Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore.

At the beginning of the song, the singer has used hyperbole. For example, ‘The snow glows white on the mountain tonight’. In reality, snow doesn’t glow. We can see the personification and simile in the following lines ‘The wind is howling like the swirling storm inside’. Here the wind is personified and it is compared by a wolf’s howl.

Skyscraper – Demi Lovato

Skies are crying, I am watching
Catching teardrops in my hands…

You can break everything I am
Like I’m made of glass
Like I’m made of paper

The entire song is an extended metaphor of struggle and overcoming. Here the singer has used oxymoron in the line ‘its long way down, but I am closer to the clouds up, here’. The writer has used two opposites ‘up and down’ in the same verse. In the lines, ‘Skies are crying’, skies are personified. In the verse ‘you can break everything I am, like I’m made of glass’, has a simile. Here the singer is comparing herself to glass and a piece of paper to show her vulnerability.

Big Girls Don’t Cry – Fergie

I hope you know, I hope you know
That this has nothing to do with you
It’s personal, myself and I
We got some straightening out to do
And I’m gonna miss you like a child misses their blanket
But I’ve got to get a move on with my life
It’s time to be a big girl now
And big girls don’t cry
Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry

In the above line, the singer compares her emotions and missing a person to a little child who lost his or her blanket. There is a consonance, the sound of /l/ in the 3rd line, ‘It’s personal, myself and I’. The repetitions like ‘hope you know and don’t cry’ add an emphasis to the singer’s emotions as she tries to convey the message to her love.

Fire Work  – Katy Perry

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag…

Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards..

Come on let your colors burst…

You’re original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds

The song is filled with many figurative devices and known as one of the best to learn them. In the first line, ‘Do you ever feel like a plastic bag’, there is a simile. Here the singer compares a person to a plastic bag which used to store things or perhaps a garbage cover. Later in line, there is a metaphor, ‘Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin’. Here the singer is trying to compare the weak-minded persons to a thin paper or a tissue paper. There’s another simile, in line ‘just own the night, like the fourth of July’. In the line, “Come on let your colors burst”, the sound of /r/ is a consonance.

Chandelier –  Sia Furler

Phone’s blowin’ up, they’re ringin’ my doorbell…
And I’m holding on for dear life,
won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light,
’cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Help…

‘Phone is blowing up’ is hyperbole, as the doorbell sounds do not affect the phone. ‘But I’m holding on for dear life’, is also another hyperbole because she is not actually going to die from the doorbell sound. The sounds of /n/ in the first line and the sound of /l/ in the 4th line are consonance. The sound of /o/ in the first line is assonance.

Fly Me To The Moon – Frank Sinatra

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like on
A-Jupiter and Mars…
You are all I long for, all I worship and adore

In the first three lines, the singer uses hyperbole. He exaggerates the facts and wishes to fly to the moon and play in the stars. He also believes there are seasons like spring on the planets Jupiter and Mars. Lines 3 and 4 are also imageries.

Grenade – Bruno Mars

Easy come, easy go, that’s just how you live, oh
Take, take, take it all, but you never give
Shoulda known you was trouble from the first kiss
Had your eyes wide open; why were they open? (Ooh)

Gave you all I had and you tossed it in the trash
You tossed it in the trash, you did
To give me all your love is all I ever ask
‘Cause what you don’t understand is

The 2nd and 4th lines have alliteration. The sounds of /t/ in ‘Take, take, take it all, but you never give’ and the sound of /w/ in ‘Had your eyes wide open; why were they open?’ Line 1, ‘Easy come, easy go’ is an idiom to tell about a person who doesn’t take the relationship seriously. In the 5th line, ‘Gave you all I had’ is hyperbole as no person can give ‘all’ their possessions to someone even if they are close.

I am a rock- Simon & Garfunkel

A winter’s day
In a deep and dark
December…

It’s sleeping in my memory
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died…
I am a rock
I am an island…

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries.

The phrases ‘ I am a rock’, I am an island’ are metaphors and it used as a comparison for personalities. In the lines ‘ love is sleeping’,  feelings ‘ die’ and ‘ a rock feels no pain and the island never cries’ are used as personification. The imagery used in the following phrases, ‘freshly fallen silent shroud of snow’, ‘a fortress steep and mighty’ and ‘ past experiences spurred this commitment’. Also the repetition of /d/ sound is alliteration in ‘dark and deep December’. Anaphora is evident in ‘I am a rock, I am an island’. Here ‘I am’ is repeated to emphasize the speaker’s emotional experience and his solitude.