Figurative language is a powerful tool used in songwriting to create vivid imagery and convey hidden emotions. Metaphors, similes, and other forms of figurative language allow writers to paint a picture in the minds of their listeners and bring new depths to their songs.
By using figurative language, songwriters can cleverly add hidden meanings to their lyrics while also making them more enjoyable to listen to.
Metaphors are one of the most popular forms of figurative language used in songs. They allow for a comparison to be made between two dissimilar things to indicate a shared characteristic.
Metaphors can be used to evoke a range of emotions from joy to sorrow, and they can even be used to make a political statement.
The following list of songs showcases a variety of songs that use figurative language in the form of metaphors.
All of these songs demonstrate how effective and powerful the use of metaphors can be when used to convey the deeper emotions and meanings of a song.
Classic Songs with Metaphor-Based Figurative Language
1. “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan
“Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan is a classic song that uses metaphor-based figurative language to great effect.
Dylan uses a metaphor to describe how the protagonist in the song feels like a rolling stone that has been cast out of society.
Through this metaphor, Dylan conveys the feeling of being powerless and out of control, but ultimately, how having the freedom to go wherever life takes you can also be empowering.
It is a classic example of how a metaphor can be used to evoke a range of emotions and bring new depths to a song.
2. “I Am the Walrus” by The Beatles
I Am the Walrus by The Beatles is a classic psych-rock song from the iconic 1967 album, Magical Mystery Tour.
The song features a combination of surreal lyrics, musical experimentation, and dreamy atmosphere.
The lyrics, which were penned by John Lennon, draw upon Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” for inspiration, which is further highlighted by the mellotron and cello flourishes found throughout.
The song has become a classic of its genre and a fan favorite, and its influence can still be felt in modern psych-rock music.
3. “Hotel California” by Eagles
The Eagles’ iconic song “Hotel California” is one of the most renowned songs of all time. Released in 1977, the song has become an anthem for its generation, depicting a life of excess and luxury.
The lyrics, which follow a journey of a weary traveler to the mysterious hotel, depict the pitfalls of the California dream.
The song was a huge success, topping the charts in America, Canada and the UK as well as making it to the top of many other countries’ charts.
Its success was mainly due to its unique sound, featuring a range of instruments combined with the band’s signature harmonies.
With its alluring lyrics and captivating melody, “Hotel California” was and continues to be an essential part of music history.
4. “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix
Released in 1967, Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” is one of rock and roll’s most iconic and influential songs.
Incorporating elements of psychedelia, blues, and hard rock, the song is credited with defining the direction of music in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Lyrically cryptic and full of mysterious energy, the song is widely interpreted as a drug-induced psychedelic trip.
The song’s iconic guitar solo and iconic chorus line ” ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky” remain renowned in rock music history.
“Purple Haze” has been covered countless times over the years and remains one of the best-known and most beloved songs of the rock era.
5. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen is a classic rock song that has become a beloved staple of the genre.
Combining elements of rock, opera, and classical music, the song tells the story of a young man coming to terms with his own mortality.
The song also contains a series of complex musical passages that keep the listener enthralled throughout its six-minute running time.
Despite being released in 1975, the song has remained popular to this day and has been covered by countless artists since its initial release.
It is a timeless classic that showcases the musical genius of Freddie Mercury and Queen as a whole.
6. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
This iconic song, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” was released in 1970 by Simon & Garfunkel and remains one of the duo’s most beloved songs.
The track, which was written by Paul Simon, has become an anthem of comfort for many people in times of distress.
It speaks to the idea of having someone to lean on in hard times, and has been covered by artists from all genres and generations.
The song’s timeless and poignant message of comfort has made it a classic, and it remains a popular song worldwide.
7. “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
Widely considered one of the greatest rock songs of all time, “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin is an epic anthem of hope and inspiration.
It is an 8-minute journey that begins with an acoustic guitar and builds to a powerful crescendo of electric guitar and drums.
Robert Plant’s vocals soar over the layered instrumentation, crafting a powerful narrative of life, love, and eternity.
This song has been covered by countless artists over the decades, a testament to its lasting influence on the musical landscape.
8. “American Pie” by Don McLean
“American Pie” by Don McLean is a well-known classic rock song, released in 1971. The 8-minute long track is highly acclaimed and is often referred to as a “rite of passage” for many generations.
It tells the story of the death of Buddy Holly, and the changes that the world experienced in the aftermath.
The song has been covered by a variety of artists, including Madonna, and has been featured in many films and television shows.
The message of the song, “The day the music died”, has resonated with fans for decades, and is a reminder of the importance of music in our lives.
9. “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor
Fire and Rain” by James Taylor is an instantly recognizable classic folk-rock song that has been covered by various artists since its release in 1970.
The song is a deeply personal reflection of Taylor’s struggles with depression, loss, and his search for clarity in the face of intense feeling.
While the song has been interpreted in various ways, the underlying message of resilience and hope remains consistent.
It is a timeless story of the struggles of life and how we can move forward despite them.
10. “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel
“The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel is an iconic and timeless song that speaks of the power and impact of silence.
The song describes a world where the ‘words of the prophets’ are often ignored and are drowned out by the ‘Sirius din’.
This classic track has become a staple in popular music, and its introspective lyrics explore the importance of communication, the power of silence, and the importance of being heard.
The song’s simple yet powerful melody and poignant lyrics have stood the test of time, and remain relevant in today’s world.
Modern Songs with Metaphor-Based Figurative Language
11. “Chandelier” by Sia
“Chandelier” by Sia is an upbeat, electro-pop anthem about the pain of living life in the spotlight, but also the freedom that comes with it.
The song’s vivid lyrics are full of metaphors and figurative language, making it a great example of modern songwriting.
Sia’s signature soaring vocals carry the message of the song, which explores the idea of living in a house of broken dreams, but embracing it and finding the freedom in letting go.
The song’s chorus is a powerful reminder to the listener to “swing from the chandelier” and to take risks and enjoy life.
12. “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay
“Viva la Vida” by Coldplay is an iconic song that has been a fan favorite since its release in 2008.
With its uplifting melodies and powerful lyrics, it has become an anthem for many. It is an alternative rock song from the band’s fourth studio album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, and was released as the lead single for the album.
The song speaks of a journey with its lyrics about liberation, freedom, and revolution. It has been covered and sampled by many artists, and has been used in various films and TV shows.
Even today, it continues to be a powerful and timeless song that resonates with many.
13. “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran
“Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran is a beautiful love ballad about the importance of cherishing a relationship and never taking it for granted.
The song, which was the third single released from Sheeran’s second studio album, X, was certified for selling over two million copies in the UK.
The track was written by Sheeran, Amy Wadge, and produced by Jake Gosling and is considered one of Sheeran’s most successful releases.
With a combination of acoustic guitar and Sheeran’s heartfelt lyrics, the song is a timeless classic that has become a wedding favorite for many couples.
It is a reminder to appreciate and honor the relationships we have with our significant others and to never take them for granted.
14. “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele
“Rolling in the Deep” by Adele is an emotional and powerful song that seamlessly blends elements of pop, soul, and R&B.
The lyrics of the song have a deeply profound meaning that many listeners have related to their own lives.
Adele’s powerful vocals drive the song and her emotion shines through with each line. The song was a massive success and topped the charts in many countries.
It was also nominated for multiple awards and won three Grammys. The song has become a classic and a staple of Adele’s career.
15. “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift
“Blank Space” by Taylor Swift is a song about the ups and downs of a tumultuous relationship. It is a playful yet passionate portrait of a relationship, focusing on the highs and lows of love.
The song is set against a folk-pop backdrop and features Swift’s signature melodic vocals. It also contains a catchy chorus and a memorable hook.
The lyrics of the song discuss the confusion and frustration that can be brought on by a relationship and the feeling of love and loss that can come with it.
Swift’s lyrical prowess shines through as she captures the complexities of a relationship in a way that is both relatable and captivating.
16. “Royals” by Lorde
The song “Royals” by Lorde was an instant success, becoming a global hit and propelling her into the limelight.
The song is a commentary on the excesses of modern society, where people are obsessed with the trappings of wealth and fame.
The lyrics are a reminder to stay grounded and remember the simpler pleasures in life, and the song has become an anthem for the younger generation.
The song’s catchy melody and catchy chorus have contributed to its success, as well as its lyrical content.
The song has become a symbol of rebellion against the status quo, and has inspired millions of people all over the world.
17. “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons
Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons is a powerful song that speaks to the inner strength of people facing turbulent times.
The driving, anthemic beat and inspiring lyrics are meant to empower listeners and encourage them to be their best selves despite challenging times.
The song has become a symbol of hope and strength in times of adversity, and its popularity has led to it being featured on various soundtracks, as well as its original breakout moment in the movie trailer for The Host.
With its message of hope and resilience, “Radioactive” is a powerful song that will stand the test of time.
18. “Some Nights” by fun.
“Some Nights” by fun. is a song that has become an anthem for many. It captures the feelings of loneliness and uncertainty that come with growing up and trying to figure out who you are.
Its powerful lyrics and catchy beat make it a favorite for many fans.
Along with its uplifting message of hope, the song is a reminder that it’s ok to not always have all the answers and that it’s important to persevere even when you feel like giving up.
19. “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw
Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw is a heartfelt ballad that encourages us to be kind and humble no matter the situation.
The song is an ode to living life with kindness and understanding and it speaks to the importance of treating others with respect.
The lyrics urge us to take the time to appreciate the small things in life and to focus on being selfless rather than selfish.
McGraw’s powerful vocals on this track carry the song’s message of love and compassion to its listeners.
20. “Take Me to Church” by Hozier
“Take Me to Church” by Hozier is a powerful song that speaks to a person’s spiritual journey, longing for connection, and understanding.
The song goes beyond traditional worship by using imagery of a church in a slightly more abstract sense, as a sanctuary for the self.
By expressing this idea in a song, Hozier encourages people to find their own path to true understanding, as opposed to merely relying on traditional practices or religious texts.
The song is also musically captivating, with a gentle yet driving melody and Hozier’s stirring, soulful voice.
All of this combined makes “Take Me to Church” an intense and meaningful experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Lesser-Known Songs with Powerful Metaphors
21. “Cough Syrup” by Young the Giant
“Cough Syrup” by Young the Giant is an insightful song with powerful metaphors. The narrator of the song is struggling with the pressures of life, from trying to fit in and achieving success, to the general feeling of being trapped in a certain situation.
The narrator compares this feeling to being stuck in a dream or nightmare that just won’t end. The metaphor of the cough syrup being used to numb the pain and dull the senses further emphasizes the narrator’s feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
Despite the powerful metaphor, the song has an upbeat, optimistic quality to it, as if the narrator is determined to overcome their struggles and find a way out of the dream.
22. “World at Large” by Modest Mouse
This song, “World at Large” by Modest Mouse, captures the complexity of our lives as humans.
Through simple yet effective lyrics, lead singer Isaac Brock paints a picture of the world we live in—filled with uncertainty, pain, and beauty.
Brock’s thoughtful, poetic words show us that while life can be difficult, it can also be incredibly beautiful and worth living.
The gentle, wistful melody and warm instrumentation provide a fitting backdrop to Brock’s words, making the song an inspiring and thought-provoking piece of music.
23. “Two Birds” by Regina Spektor
“Two Birds” by Regina Spektor is an uplifting, contemplative tune that celebrates the joys of life and the beauty of nature.
The song’s chorus, which is repeated throughout the track, speaks to the power of embracing the moment: “One joy shared by two / One life shared by two / One love shared by two birds.”
Regina Spektor’s soothing vocals and vibrant melodies paint a vivid musical landscape that evokes the feeling of being two birds, soaring through the sky in perfect harmony.
The song is both an ode to the joys of nature and a reminder to take the time to revel in life’s beauty.
24. “Burning House” by Cam
Cam’s song “Burning House” is an emotional ballad about the consequences of a failed relationship.
Her powerful and raw vocals tell the story of a woman desperately trying to save a broken relationship, but ultimately coming to the realization that it’s time to let go.
The lyrics reflect the pain she is feeling, as well as the regret of not being able to fix the relationship.
The song is a reminder of the importance of being honest with yourself and those around you, even when it is difficult to do so.
It is a beautiful and heartbreaking track that will resonate with anyone who has ever experienced a broken relationship.
25. “Brick” by Ben Folds Five
“Brick” by Ben Folds Five is a powerful and emotionally charged rock ballad, exploring themes of heartbreak, depression, and youth.
Taking on the perspective of a young man who has been rejected by the woman he loves, the song examines how such a devastating experience can lead to feelings of emptiness and isolation.
Drawing on Ben Folds’ signature musical style, the song has become a classic, inspiring generations of music fans everywhere. Its poignant lyrics and memorable melodies have made it a staple in the genre.
26. “Flowers in Your Hair” by The Lumineers
“Flowers in Your Hair” by The Lumineers is a nostalgic ode to days gone by. The song’s acoustic guitar-driven melody combines with its upbeat yet sweet lyrics to evoke a sense of nostalgia for simpler times.
With its catchy chorus and uplifting message, the song is sure to bring a smile to anyone who hears it.
At its core, “Flowers in Your Hair” is a celebration of the fleeting moments of joy in life and a reminder to appreciate the small things.
27. “Shake It Out” by Florence + The Machine
“Shake It Out” by Florence + The Machine is an inspiring, uplifting song that celebrates the idea of overcoming life’s struggles and maintaining a strong sense of hope and resilience.
The song’s upbeat, danceable sound and passionate, powerful vocals create a sense of joy and liberation.
The lyrics address common themes of self-doubt, fear, and the power of resilience, providing listeners with an affirming anthem of self-love and empowerment.
The song is an absolute classic and has been covered by a variety of artists due to its powerful message and feel-good vibes. It’s the perfect anthem for anyone in need of a bit of encouragement.
28. “Lost in the Supermarket” by The Clash
“Lost in the Supermarket” by The Clash is a classic punk rock song that captures the sense of alienation and confusion often associated with consumer culture.
The lyrics are sung from the perspective of a shopper overwhelmed by the bright lights, loud noises, and endless aisles of the supermarket.
The narrator is unable to make sense of the experience and finds himself completely lost in the bewildering, chaotic atmosphere.
The song serves as a powerful indictment of modern-day consumerism and its effects on our lives, while also providing a powerful musical narrative of the experience.
29. “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons
The Cave by Mumford & Sons is an uplifting song that encourages listeners to be brave and take risks in life.
To quote the chorus: “I will hold on hope, and I won’t let you choke, on the noose around your neck, and I’ll find strength in pain, and I will change my ways, I’ll know my name as it’s called again.”
The lyrics are a reminder that we can all make the most of our lives, no matter what obstacles we face. The song also speaks of love and its ability to help us overcome our fears and doubts.
The powerful and upbeat music brings the message home, urging us to take charge of our lives and embrace adventure.
30. “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men
“Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men is an anthemic folk-pop song that celebrates the wonder of connection, despite the awkwardness that often comes with it.
It’s a captivating anthem of resilience and unity that celebrates the simple joys of an intimate conversation, while also acknowledging the complexities of communication.
With its soaring chorus and accessible lyrics, the song is both joyous and touching, making it a timeless classic. It’s a universal reminder of the power of connection and the importance of cherishing each moment with those around us.
In conclusion, using metaphors in songwriting is an effective way to add a layer of emotion and depth to the lyrics. It can be seen in songs from various genres and time periods, including hip-hop, rock ‘n’ roll, country music, jazz, and pop.
By utilizing figurative language through the use of metaphors, songwriters have been able to better connect with their audiences and create a powerful impact with their songs.
Metaphors are an essential tool for songwriters to convey meaning in a deeper way and add musical depth to the listener’s experience.
What is figurative language?
A figurative language is a form of expression that uses words to paint a vivid picture. It is often used to put an emphasis on a particular feeling or concept by using creative imagery and comparisons. Examples of figurative language include metaphors, similes, personification, and hyperbole.
What is the difference between literal and figurative language?
Literal language is straightforward and conveys a literal meaning. For example, the statement “I am hungry” means that the person is in need of food. On the other hand, figurative language does not convey a literal meaning but instead conveys an idea or feeling. For example, the statement “I’m starving” is figurative and conveys a sense of urgency or extreme hunger.
What are some songs with figurative language for metaphors?
There are many songs that contain figurative language for metaphors. For example, the song “Lose Yourself” by Eminem contains many metaphors, such as “His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy” to convey his nervousness at the moment. Additionally, the song “Firework” by Katy Perry contains metaphors such as “Baby you’re a firework” to emphasize the beauty in someone’s uniqueness.