Evaluating Song Lyrics

by   |  02.10.10  |  Evaluation and Critique, In-Class Writing Assignments, Poetry

Group Assignment:

  • Compare the lyrics from U2’s song “All I Want is You” on the handout to the lyrics from one of the three songs in Etheridge’s essay “Music as a Safe Haven” (525-31).
  • Of the two songs, which lyrics represent better poetry—which has a more effective argument, and how do you know?
  • Post a paragraph or a list in response to the questions above as a comment to this blog post. Be sure to introduce the songs you selected by title and note the names of the people in your group.

Other Resource:

Sharon L. Williams Andrews provides the following “Song-Analysis Questions” for her Introduction to Poetry course at Louisiana State University. Before posting your group’s response, consider Andrew’s questions below to generate possible criteria for your evaluation:

  1. What is happening in the song?  Does the song tell a story?  Does it describe a scene?  Does it paint a picture?
  2. Are there characters in the song?  Who are they?  What do you think they are like?  How can you tell?
  3. If there’s an “I” in the song, does that “I” represent the song- writer’s point of view?  Or, is the song-writer (the “I”) just adopting a persona for the sake of the song? How can you tell?
  4. Describe the “world” of the song: the setting, the mood, the time, the place, etc.  What are your clues?
  5. What about images in the song?  Are there sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch images?   What function do they serve?
  6. What about the “sound” of the lyrics (not the music, but the words themselves)?   How do they impact your understanding of the song’s meaning?
  7. What about figures of speech or poetic devices (like metaphor, rhyme scheme, symbolism, etc.)?   Why does the songwriter include these devices?
  8. What about the music?  How does the music add to the text?  Does the mood of the music complement the mood of the text?  Why?  Where?  Does it contradict the mood of the text?  Where?  Why?
  9. Notice the title of the song: How does it add to the meaning?
  10. What does the song “mean” to you?  What’s the songwriter’s and/or the singer’s “argument”?  How does he or she want to change your thinking and/or your actions?
  11. Is the song or songwriter controversial?  If so, what issues are at the center of the controversy?  What do you think about the song’s controversial nature?  If the song is congenial, why do you think it appeals to such a wide audience?
  12. What differences of opinion in your group did you notice?  What were the reasons for the differences?
  13. What do the song’s lyrics reveal about human nature?  Is the song personal, political, or both?  Has your chosen song or the songwriter had any influence on our culture?  Whom do you think has been influenced by this song, and what is the extent of its power?

Work Cited

Andrews, Sharon L. Williams. “SONG LYRICS AS POETRY – Group Assignment.” English

2027. slwandrews.net. 30 Mar. 2009. Web. 8 Feb. 2010.