When you think about figurative language, you may think of poetry or classic novels. You probably don’t think about popular songs from the last several decades. However, many songs on the radio today and in the recent past are full of wonderful examples of figurative language.
What is Figurative Language?
Figurative language is a way of using words or expressions in a non-literal sense to convey a particular meaning or image. It is a form of language that is used to create an evocative, imaginative, or emotional impact on the reader or listener.
Figurative language is often used in literature, poetry, and music to enhance the artistic and creative aspects of the work. It can also be used in everyday speech to make language more interesting and engaging.
Some common types of figurative language include:
- Metaphors: A figure of speech that describes one thing in terms of another, suggesting a resemblance or a connection between them. Example: “Life is a journey.”
- Similes: A figure of speech that compares two things using “like” or “as”. Example: “Her eyes were as blue as the ocean.”
- Personification: A figure of speech in which a non-human thing is given human-like qualities or characteristics. Example: “The wind whispered through the trees.”
- Hyperbole: A figure of speech that uses exaggeration to emphasize a point or make a statement more dramatic. Example: “I’ve told you a million times.”
- Irony: A figure of speech in which the opposite of what is expected or intended happens. Example: “It’s like rain on your wedding day.”
- Onomatopoeia: A figure of speech that imitates the sound of the thing being described. Example: “The clock tick-tocked loudly in the silent room.”
Our Top Picks: Songs with Figurative Language
25. “Wordplay” – Jason Mraz
In Jason Mraz’s song “Wordplay,” figurative language dances through the lyrics. Lines such as “Like a new religion,” uses simile to compare the desire for a new song to the intensity and gusto usually associated with religious devotion.
The lyrics are full of playful metaphors, like “I am the wizard of ooh’s and ah’s and fa-la-la’s,” where Mraz likens himself to a wizard, suggesting he’s a master of creating sounds and melodies that bring up emotional responses.
Mraz even uses personification, like “the melodies inside me,” giving human qualities to melodies, implying that they exist inside of him and are waiting to be expressed.
His clever wordplay and figurative language make this song a fun linguistic adventure, reminding us of the beauty in playing with words.
24. “Come Sail Away” – Styx
Styx’s “Come Sail Away” is a lyrical journey filled with figurative language.
When they sing, “Set an open course for the Virgin Sea,” metaphorically suggests setting a direction for a new, unexplored path in life. It symbolizes a fresh start and the search for freedom.
Another one’s the idea of “climbing aboard their starship,” – a metaphorical way of describing an otherworldly or transcendent experience.The lyrics don’t refer to a literal spaceship but symbolizes leaving to an unknown realm.
The entire song is a poetic mix of metaphors and similes that creates a fantastical atmosphere. Styx’s ability to weave these figurative elements into their music gives “Come Sail Away” its timeless and dreamlike quality, making it a classic rock anthem.
23. “Thinking Out Loud” – Ed Sheeran
Sheeran sings, “When your legs don’t work like they used to before,” figurative language rears its creative head. Here, he uses a simile to compare love to physical abilities.
The line “And I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways,” uses simile by compare the unpredictable nature of falling in love to something mysterious. It highlights that love’s often unexpected and can’t really be fully explained.
The entire song is a beautiful blend of metaphors, similes, and poetic language that captures the essence of love. Sheeran’s ability to paint vivid pictures with words makes this song not just a hit, but a work of art.
22. “Poker Face” – Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” is a lyrical playground of figurative language. She uses metaphors like “I’m not lyin’, I’m just stunnin’ with my love-glue-gunnin,” cleverly represent her captivating and alluring way of expressing affection, implying that her love is like a powerful adhesive.
“Take your bank before I pay you out,”uses the metaphor of “taking your bank” to signify taking advantage or control over a situation, similar to a poker player grabbing their winnings. The song’s title itself, “Poker Face,” is a metaphor for maintaining a composed exterior. Throughout, Gaga’s lyrics use similes and metaphors, making it a pop hit with poetic depth.
21. “Fireflies” – Owl City
The song “Fireflies” by Owl City lit up the airwaves in 2009. The song was originally inspired by watching shooting stars during a bout of insomnia during a camping trip. The song feels like lucid dreaming when it’s difficult to separate reality from fantasy, or could work as a metaphor for moving from the innocence of childhood to adulthood. In any case, the song is full of imaginative and creative lyrics that use figurative language to evoke a dreamy and nostalgic feeling.
Personification: The lyrics “Cause I get a thousand hugs / From ten thousand lightning bugs / As they tried to teach me how to dance” personifies lightning bugs attempting to hug and teach the singer how to dance is a whimsical and imaginative concept.
Metaphor: “I’d like to make myself believe that planet Earth turns slowly” creates a feeling of childhood nostalgia when time seemed slower and looser.
Paradox: The chorus has the line “It’s hard to say that I’d rather stay awake when I’m asleep” which presents the paradox between sleeping and being awake.
20. “Hungry Like the Wolf” – Duran Duran
Duran Duran’s 80s hit “Hungry Like the Wolf” is an extended metaphor, comparing a man’s pursuit of a beautiful woman with a wolf on the hunt for its prey. While the premise might seem a bit dated from a modern dating perspective, almost every line lends itself to this metaphor. Additionally, the song’s iconic title is a simile, a type of metaphor that uses the words “like” or “as.”
“I’m on the hunt I’m after you.
Mouth is alive with juices like wine.
And I’m hungry like the wolf.”
There are two similes in the lines above, comparing saliva to wine and romantic desire to a wolf’s hunger.
19. “A Thousand Miles” – Vanessa Carlton
Vanessa Carlton’s hit song “A Thousand Miles,” tells the story of a young woman making her way back home, but remembering that her loved one is no longer there. She sings the line:
“Cause you know I’d walk a thousand miles
If I could just see you tonight.”
This lyric is a use of hyperbole. She obviously cannot walk a thousand miles, but she is expressing how much she misses her ex.
18. “God’s Plan” – Drake
“God’s Plan” is a popular hip-hop that uses figurative language to tell a story of taking the road to fame and wealth while navigating through enemy territory. One line that exemplifies the figurative nature of this song is when Drake states that, “he might go down as G.O.D”.
This metaphor eludes to all the accomplishments and achievements Drake has acquired, which perhaps makes him immortal in the eyes of his fans. If the beat and tune of this song does not catch your attention, the deeper meaning definitely will.
17. “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
Imagery: The song is primarily based on observations, using a combination of imagery and metaphor to demonstrate the wonder of the world.
“I see trees of green, red roses too / I see them bloom, for me and you”: imagery describes the colors and beauty of nature.
“I see skies of blue and clouds of white / The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night”: the lyrics paint a picture of the sky and the contrast between day and night.
“I hear babies cry, I watch them grow / They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know”: imagery that helps us appreciate the endless possibilities of life itself.
“I see friends shaking hands, sayin’, ‘How do you do?’ / They’re really sayin’, ‘I love you'”: a beautiful image of basic human interactions and the love behind them.
Throughout the song, Armstrong employs imagery to paint a picture of a world filled with beauty and wonder. The song’s message of appreciation for the simple things in life and the beauty of the natural world is one that continues to resonate with listeners today, making it a timeless classic.
18. “All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan
“All Along the Watchtower” is a song written by Bob Dylan and made famous by Jimi Hendrix in his 1968 cover version. The surreal song tells the story of a joker and a thief, some say it’s a criticism of the Vietnam War, while others that it’s about the more universal human experience and search for meaning.
Symbolism: The opening of the song drops us directly into a conversation “‘There must be some kind of way out of here,’ Said the joker to the thief.” The joker and the thief are both timeless archetypes who are seen as outsiders to the established order.
Imagery: Dylan uses imagery masterfully with the line “All along the watchtower,
Princes kept the view.” This line uses the visual imagery of a watchtower to show that the established hierarchy is powerful, alert, and hostile to outsiders.
Metaphor: The line “Two riders were approaching” raises the suspense levels of the final verse and foreshadows a change to the established order. It also alludes to the dread and mystery of Yeat’s poem The Second Coming, which ends “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
Personification: The lyrics “And the wind began to howl” use the personification of the wind howling in response to the approaching danger posed by the two riders.
“All Along the Watchtower” is only 3 terse verses with no chorus but the controlled use of language adds drama and intrigue.
17. “Chandelier” by Sia
A pop anthem by the musical genius Sia, “Chandelier” embraces figurative language to explore the alcoholism and substance abuse that runs rampant during parties. The talented artist uses the perfect blend of her amazing voice and figurative language to convey her need to indulge in extreme behaviors.
Metaphor: “I’m gonna swing from the chandelier”, evokes the phrase “swinging from the chandelier” which is used to describe the activities of a wild party with people doing wild, silly things and having a good time.
Paradox: But instead of swinging by the chandelier to have a good time, we hear “But I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down, won’t open my eyes.” The singer uses the image of holding on for dear life in the midst of a party to symbolize her desperation.
Hyperbole: With the line “Party girls don’t get hurt” the singer uses hyperbole to explain how young women in the party scene use drugs and alcohol to stay numb and suppress pain.
In this beautiful song, Sia uses figurative language to describe her battles with alcohol and substance abuse and the personal troubles she endured in her past. Although Sia touches on her personal troubles, it is a song that many people can still resonate with.
16. “Fireworks” by Katy Perry
This upbeat pop song is a must-have for this list. In addition to having an uplifting upbeat melody, this catchy song is all about self-empowerment and embracing your inner confidence.
Metaphor: In the chorus, Katy Perry sings, “Baby, you’re a firework.” This line compares a person to a firework, implying that they are bursting with energy, awe-inspiring, and capable of lighting up the world.
Simile: In the bridge, Perry sings, “Like a lightning bolt, your heart will glow.” This line uses a simile to compare the intensity felt in your heart to a lightning bolt, emphasizing its power.
Onomatopoeia: The refrain “Boom, boom, boom” uses onomatopoeia to create the sound of fireworks exploding in the listener’s mind.
Hyperbole: The line “You don’t have to feel like a wasted space” uses hyperbole to exaggerate the feeling of worthlessness. The idea of a wasted space is taken to the extreme, emphasizing the importance of feeling valuable.
Imagery: Throughout the song, Perry uses vivid imagery of fireworks to describe the feeling of empowerment and self-confidence. Lines like “ignite the light and let it shine” create a visual and auditory experience for the listener, emphasizing the powerful feeling of being alive.
15. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
If you are looking for a song to lift your spirits, you may want to consider giving “Happy” a listen to. Listening to this upbeat song, you cannot help but feel happy.
The song is sung by talented artist Pharell Williams, who uses his unique voice to convey a wonderful message. Although some of the lines in this song are written in figurative language and metaphors, it is still fairly easy to comprehend.
Personification: The lyrics “here come bad news talking this and that” uses personification to describe bad news as a person, emphasizing its negative impact on our lives.
Simile: The chorus “Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof” uses a simile to compare the listener’s mood with the boundlessness of a room without a roof — a feeling of happiness so intense that it can make you feel like you’re floating above everything else.
Hyperbole: “I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space” uses hyperbole to show the singer’s sense of expansive possibility and boundless joy.
Metaphor: “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth” – This line uses metaphor to equate the feeling of happiness with a sense of truth and authenticity.
14. “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel
The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel is a lament sung in first person until the last chorus. It chronicles the singer’s struggles to overcome loneliness and poverty in New York City. While some have speculated it was written an attack on Bob Dylan, Simon said it was written during a time when he felt like he was being unfairly criticized.
Imagery: The line “In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade” uses the image of a boxer standing alone to the singer’s own isolation and strength.
Hyperbole: “I have squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises” indicates that the narrator has wasted his energy on empty promises and lies.
Repetition: While the lyrics “After changes upon changes, We are more or less the same; After changes we are more or less the same” was not included in the Bridge Over Troubled Water album, they’ve been included on subsequent recordings. It uses repetition to drive home the unchanging nature of individuals.
Metaphor: In the final verse, the line “he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him till he cried out in his anger and his shame” the narrator’s personal struggles are compared to the physical blows that a boxer receives.
Allusion: While the song is not overtly religious, Simon indicated in an interview that the terms “workman’s wages” and “seeking out the poorer quarters” came from his readings of the Bible when he was writing the song and give the song a timeless flavor.
“The Boxer” uses a variety of figurative language techniques to explore themes of perseverance and regret. The song’s metaphors, hyperbole, imagery, and repetition create a vivid story of an individual struggling to find their place in the world.
13. “I’m Like a Bird” by Nelly Furtado
“I’m Like a Bird” is a song by Canadian singer Nelly Furtado, released in 2000. The song’s lyrics use figurative language to convey the singer’s desire for freedom.
Symbolism: The title “I’m Like a Bird” is symbolic, the phrase “free as a bird”has long been used to indicate that someone is completely free, without care or restraints.
Simile: The line “I’m like a bird, I’ll only fly away” uses a simile to compare the singer to a bird, emphasizing her desire for freedom and need to break free from the constraints of her current situation.
Hyperbole: The line “I’m so bored, I’m going blind” uses hyperbole to emphasize the singer’s sense of restlessness and ennui.
Imagery: The line “You’re beautiful, that’s for sure / You’ll never ever fade” uses imagery to emphasize the enduring quality of the person’s beauty.
Metaphor: The line “I don’t know where my soul is, I don’t know where my home is” uses a metaphor to contrast the desire for freedom with the singer’s sense of displacement and disorientation.
It has a joyful tune and a hopeful message that is truly uplifting. In the song, Nelly speaks of not knowing where she is going or where her home. Although the line is a bit melancholy, listeners are reassured she will get to her destination by taking flight.
12. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day
If you’re looking for a more rocking version of figurative speech in song, try “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day released in 2004. As one of the classics, this song takes listeners on a journey through a boulevard of hopelessness and loneliness.
Metaphor: The memorable line “I walk a lonely road, the only one that I have ever known” uses metaphor to compare the narrator’s life to a lonely road, emphasizing the sense of isolation and disconnection that he feels.
Imagery: The line “I’m walking up the stairs that lead to nowhere” uses imagery to create a vivid picture of the narrator’s aimless wandering and sense of futility.
Personification: The line “The city sleeps, and I’m the only one, and I walk alone” uses personification of a city sleeping to emphasize the singer’s sense of alienation even amidst a city of other people.
Allusion: The line “I’m walking down the line that divides me somewhere in my mind” alludes to a mental struggle that the singer is going through, emphasizing the internal conflict that is adding to his sense of isolation.
If you are into rock music, this one may be right up your alley. In the song, Green Day describes the feeling of being alone in a world of broken dreams. Ironically, their use of figurative wordplay of feeling alone allowed them to connect with their legions of fans who have experienced similar feelings of isolation and disconnection. If you have yet to hear this rock anthem, give it a listen!
11. “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons
The song “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons tells the story of a young man who was always different from his peers. He uses that difference to ultimately find fame and success. It’s a song that celebrates the power of believing in yourself and uses figurative language to speak to the challenges people face in the pursuit of their goals.
Metaphor: The line “I was lightning before the thunder” uses a metaphor to describe the speaker’s rapid rise to fame, emphasizing the idea of striking with quick and powerful force.
Hyperbole: The line “I’m a world-changer, rearranger / Ain’t nobody fresher than my clique” uses hyperbole to exaggerate the speaker’s impact and influence, emphasizing the sense of confidence and pride.
Allusion: The line “We don’t deal with outsiders very well / They say newcomers have a certain smell” alludes to the idea of social exclusion and the sense of discomfort that can arise when encountering something new or unfamiliar.
Imagery: The line “The lightning and the thunder, they go and they come back” uses imagery to create a sense of dynamic energy and movement, evoking the power and beauty of natural forces.
The figurative language used in “Thunder” adds to the song’s motivating message, encouraging listeners to embrace their individuality and pursue their dreams. The song has become a popular anthem for empowerment and self-confidence, inspiring people around the world to “feel the thunder” and seize their opportunities.
10. “Rain on Me” by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande
The lyrics of “Rain on Me” use a combination of figurative language devices to convey the idea of embracing one’s struggles and turning them into a source of strength. It contains several examples of figurative language:
Simile: “It’s coming down on me, water like misery” is a simile comparing the rain to hardships and discontent.
Metaphor: Extending the comparison of rain to misery with “I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive,” this line celebrates being alive, even if under less-than-ideal conditions.
Hyperbole: “At least I showed up, you showed me nothing at all” exaggerates the contrast between the speaker’s effort and the other person’s lack of effort.
9. “Hotel California” by The Eagles
“Hotel California” by The Eagles is a classic rock song that uses explores the hedonistic excesses of the 1970s. The different types of figurative language add to the dreamlike, surreal quality of the song, and help to create a memorable and haunting image of the Hotel California.
Metaphor: The hotel itself is used as a metaphor for addiction — evident in lines like “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave” or “We are all just prisoners here of our own device.”
Allusion: The line “Her mind is Tiffany twisted” alludes to the famous jewelry brand Tiffany’s and is used to mean someone whose values have been warped by materialism and status.
Irony: The chorus of the song, which includes the lines “Welcome to the Hotel California, such a lovely place, such a lovely face,” is ironic and paradoxical, highlighting the difference between illusion and reality.
Imagery: Throughout the song, the lyrics are filled with vivid imagery, such as “shimmering light,” “mirrors on the ceiling,” and “pink champagne on ice.” These images help to create a surreal and decadant atmosphere.
The figurative language used in the song “Hotel California” adds depth and meaning to the song, creating a haunting and memorable experience for the listener.
8. “Love Story” by Taylor Swift
In “Love Story,” pop singer Taylor Swift delivers a loving portrayal of unrequited love. In her love story, Taylor describes forbidden love through the use of various types of figurative language.
Metaphor: The line “Our song is the slammin’ screen door, sneakin’ out late, tapping on your window” uses a simile to compare the couple’s love to a song, emphasizing its intense and spontaneous nature.
Allusion: The line “Cause you were Romeo, I was Juliet” alludes to Shakespeare’s famous tragic love story, emphasizing the intensity and passion of the speaker’s feelings.
Simile: In the line “Our love was like a fairy tale,” the simile compares the couple’s love to a fairy tale, emphasizing its epic, magical and idealized nature.
Hyperbole: The line “I’ll be waiting, all that’s left to do is run / You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess” uses hyperbole to exaggerate the sense of adventure and excitement in the couple’s love story.
Imagery: The line “We were both young when I first saw you / I close my eyes and the flashback starts” uses imagery to create a visual image of the speaker remembering the first time she saw her love interest, emphasizing the intensity and vividness of her memories.
Taylor Swift uses figurative language in “Love Story” to add drama and emotional intensity to the song. The song has become a pop classic and a fan favorite, showcasing her talent for crafting relatable and memorable lyrics.
7. “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra’s classic New York, New York is another must-have on the list of figuratively speaking songs. Throughout the song, Frank uses the metaphor of leaving “these small town blues” to be “king of the hill” in New York City as an anthem to ambition. There are several lines throughout the song with hyperboles and metaphors.
Metaphor: In the famous chorus line “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” New York City represents the ultimate challenge to tests one’s skills and resilience.
Personification: The line “These vagabond shoes are longing to stray” uses the personification of “vagabond shoes” to represent the speaker’s restless spirit and desire for adventure.
Hyperbole: The line “I’m king of the hill, top of the heap” uses hyperbole to exaggerate the speaker’s desire for success and dominance in the city, emphasizing the sense of achievement and triumph.
Metaphor: The line “These little town blues, are melting away” uses a metaphor to explain how the speaker’s sadness and longing are overcome by the excitement and energy of the city.
Allusion: The line “I’ll make a brand new start of it, in old New York” alludes to the city’s history and legacy, suggesting that the speaker is starting anew in a place with a rich and vibrant past.
The diverse figurative language used in “New York, New York” creates a vivid picture of the city, emphasizing its energy, diversity, and iconic landmarks. The song has become a beloved anthem for New Yorkers and non-New Yorkers alike, capturing the essence of what makes the city so unforgettable.
6. “Let It Go” by Idinia Menzel
“Let It Go,” sung by Idina Menzel, is the feature song of Disney’s hit film, Frozen. The song appears at a pivotal moment when Elsa has run away after accidentally using her carefully kept secret ice powers in front of a crowd. She decides to “let it go” and be herself, magical powers and all. The song is an extended metaphor, relating Elsa’s complicated feelings about her abilities to an ice storm. While Elsa’s situation is unique, ultimately it’s a relatable song about the struggle for self-acceptance.
Metaphor: “My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around,” the simile compares the chaos of the speaker’s emotions to the complex and chaotic patterns of fractals.
Simile: In the line “The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside,” the metaphor of a “swirling storm inside” represents the speaker’s internal turmoil and emotions, creating a sense of chaos and confusion.
Hyperbole: The line “It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through” uses hyperbole to emphasize the speaker’s determination to explore and push herself beyond her perceived limits.
Imagery: The line “Let it go, let it go, and I’ll rise like the break of dawn” uses imagery to compare the speaker’s transformation and liberation to sunrise, emphasizing the idea of rising up and emerging into the light.
The enduring popularity of Let It Go proves the power of figurative language in songs. Overall, the song creates a sense of empowerment and transformation, emphasizing the idea that we can all find strength and freedom by letting go of our past and embracing our true selves.
5. “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel
The Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel is filled to the brim with metaphors and imagery that create a haunting and thought-provoking atmosphere. Already for the poetic and paradoxical title, it’s clear this will be a
Personification: From the opening lyrics, “Hello darkness, my old friend / I’ve come to talk with you again” darkness is personified as a friend to talk with and indicates the singer’s weary emotional state.
Metaphor: “Because a vision softly creeping, Left its seeds while I was sleeping, And the vision that was planted in my brain” combines the personification of the vision creeping along with a metaphor of new ideas being planted seeds in one’s mind.
Imagery: To create a dramatic contrast between the gray “cobblestones” and “cold and damp”, the narrator’s eyes are then “stabbed by the flash of a neon light”, That split the night” creating a vivid mental image.
Paradox: The song addresses the paradox of life in a modern city”People talking without speaking / People hearing without listening”
Simile: The penultimate verse includes the lines “But my words, like silent raindrops fell, And echoed in the wells of silence” which uses simile to equate his words to silent raindrops” and harkens back to
The song is a great example of how powerful language can be in creating a memorable and impactful piece of art.
4. “Halo” by Beyonce
This list of songs cannot be completed without adding a song from Queen B. In her song “Halo”, Beyonce uses figurative speech to describe her love as angelic. Throughout the song, she uses various types of figurative language to highlight the intensity and purity of romantic love.
Metaphor: In the line “Everywhere I’m looking now, I’m surrounded by your embrace,” the metaphor of being “surrounded by your embrace” suggests a sense of safety, security, and intimacy.
Personification: The line “You hit me like a ray of sun, burning through my darkest night” personifies the ray of sun, suggesting that it has the power to illuminate and bring warmth to the darkness.
Hyperbole: In the line “Baby, I can see your halo, you know you’re my saving grace,” the hyperbole exaggerates the intensity of the speaker’s love, emphasizing the idea that he is a kind of divine being.
Imagery: The line “I can feel your halo, pray it won’t fade away” uses imagery to suggest the fleeting and fragile nature of love, emphasizing the idea that even the strongest emotions can be fleeting.
“Halo” uses figurative language to create a sense of emotional intensity and intimacy. It remains a popular love song for the beautiful imagery exploring the power and complexity of romantic love.
3. “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen’s beautiful song “Hallelujah” failed to get much recognition until Jeff Buckley covered it. It has gone on to become one of the most covered songs in music history. There is much speculation about the song’s meaning, but Cohen has only said that it is an attempt to find joy in the many messes of life. The song relates the Biblical story of David. It is an iconic example of using figurative language to explore themes of love, faith, and redemption.
Metaphor: The line “Love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah” suggests that love can be painful and imperfect, just like the broken parts of a song.
Irony: The use of the phrase “the holy or the broken Hallelujah” is ironic because the word “holy” is typically associated with perfection and purity, while “broken” suggests imperfection and flaws.
Hyperbole: In the line “I did my best, it wasn’t much, I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch,” the hyperbole exaggerates the singer’s sense of failure and disconnection.
Allusion: The line “She tied you to a kitchen chair, she broke your throne and she cut your hair” alludes to the story of Samson and Delilah from the Bible, in which Delilah betrays Samson by cutting his hair, emphasizing the idea of betrayal and loss.
Imagery: “Your faith was strong but you needed proof/You saw her bathing on the roof/Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya” gives strong visual imagery and alludes to the biblical story of God testing King David when he sees Bathsheba bathing.
The various forms of figurative language in “Hallelujah” creates a sense of emotional depth and complexity. The song explores themes of love, loss, and redemption in a way that has made the song a timeless classic.
2. “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys
Alicia Key’s song “Girl on Fire” is a powerful anthem of self-discovery and empowerment. Keys uses the extended metaphor of fire throughout the song to send a powerful message to women.
Metaphor: The song’s title itself is a metaphor, as “girl on fire” represents a person who is full of passion, ambition, and energy. This metaphor and imagery is reinforced throughout the song with lyrics like “This girl is on fire.”
Imagery: The line “She’s living in a world, and it’s on fire” uses the image of a world on fire to create a sense of an urgent and dire situation.
Allusion: The line “We got our feet on the ground, and we’re burning it down” alludes to the idea of both being practical and fomenting revolution, suggesting a sense of social and political transformation.
Hyperbole: In the line “She’s walking on fire, but this girl is on fire,” the hyperbole exaggerates the woman’s strength and determination, emphasizing the idea that she is truly unstoppable.
Personification: The line “Looks like a girl, but she’s a flame” uses personification to give the abstract concept of a flame human qualities, creating a sense of empowerment and vitality.
The rich use of figurative language in “Girl on Fire” emphasizes the power and strength of women, celebrating their determination to overcome challenges and succeed against all odds. Through the figurative use of fire as a metaphor, the song inspires listeners to pursue their dreams with passion.
1. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is arguably Queen’s most popular song and one of the most famous rock songs of all time. It tells the story of a young man who has killed someone, gone on the run but knows that he will eventually be caught and punished. Fans have speculated that the song is a metaphor for something more, but no one knows.
The song contains some outstanding elements of figurative language, such as:
Metaphors: “Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.” This line is a metaphor for feeling stuck by what is going on in your life and not being able to escape.
In the line, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”, the singer uses the metaphor of “real life” and “fantasy” to suggest a sense of confusion and uncertainty.
Personification: The line “Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening me” uses personification to give human qualities to the natural elements of thunder and lightning, creating a sense of fear and chaos.
Symbolism: The phrase “Scaramouche, Scaramouche, can you do the Fandango?” uses the symbol of Scaramouche, a stock character from Italian theater, to suggest a sense of playfulness and frivolity.
Allusion: The line “Bismillah! No, we will not let you go” alludes to the Islamic phrase “Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim”, which means “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful”, to suggest a sense of religious defiance.
Hyperbole: The line “I see a little silhouetto of a man” uses hyperbole to exaggerate the smallness of the man’s silhouette, creating a sense of whimsy and humor.
Overall, the elaborate use of figurative language in “Bohemian Rhapsody” adds to the song’s emotional impact, creating a sense of drama, humor, and surrealism that has made it a beloved and enduring classic in popular music.
So many songs include elements of figurative language. It gives artists a way to express themselves and adds another dimension to some of our favorite songs. You’ll be surprised how many uses of figurative language you begin to notice on the radio.