15 Famous Songs With Figurative Language

Updated on April 22, 2020
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Carson suffers from a serious case of melophilia. Geeking out on her favorite music artists is her guilty pleasure.

Songs with figurative language are fun to decipher, so let's put our thinking caps on and dig in.
Songs with figurative language are fun to decipher, so let's put our thinking caps on and dig in. | Source

Can you imagine how crazy songs would sound if you interpreted their lyrics literally? Songwriters have their way of bending language to create depth and meaning. Figurative language makes songs more pleasing to the ears. More importantly, it compels listeners to decode exactly what the lyrics are all about.

Many songwriters have admitted that, at times, they'd just write whatever they thought sounded good (even if they didn't understand the words). So, if you're the kind of person who always looks for the meaning behind the songs you listen to, you might not be doing anything other than running around in circles. Still, I find this activity incredibly fun.

Now, let's all have our minds blown as we dissect these brilliant figurative lyrics. (See what I did there?)

15 Songs with Figurative Language

  1. "All-star" by Smash Mouth
  2. "Animals" by Maroon 5
  3. "Amnesia" by 5 Seconds of Summer
  4. "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen
  5. "Chandelier" by Sia
  6. "Demons" by Imagine Dragons
  7. "Fireflies" by Owl City
  8. "Fireworks" by Katy Perry
  9. "God’s Plan" by Drake
  10. "Havana" by Camila Cabello
  11. "Love Story" by Taylor Swift
  12. "New York, New York" by Frank Sinatra
  13. "Roar" by Katy Perry
  14. "Story of my Life" by One Direction
  15. "Happy" by Pharrell Williams

1. "All-star" by Smash Mouth

"I ain't the sharpest tool in the shed."

Figure of Speech: Metaphor

In my mind, this is one of the best songs with figurative language ever written. And the fact that a lot of people get fooled into believing the opposite of the real meaning of the song supports my opinion. While many people say that the song is about doing everything you can to be the next rock star, it actually tells you to stop glorifying celebrities. The line above is just one of the many figurative languages used in the song. It means that when you're ignorant, the whole world will take advantage of you.

2. "Animals" by Maroon 5

"I can smell your scent for miles."

Figure of Speech: Hyperbole

Anybody with a sane mind knows that this line is an exaggeration, a textbook example of hyperbole in action. Adam Levine unleashes his wild, animalistic side. Or maybe he's just that good at delivering the lines of his songs. He says things like "hunt you down, eat you alive" and "I can smell your scent for miles," which are creepy if you think about it literally. But figuratively speaking, they're actually sweet.

3. "Amnesia" by 5 Seconds of Summer

“The pictures that you sent me they're still living in my phone.

I'll admit I like to see them, I'll admit I feel alone.”

Figure of Speech: Personification

Now this one is quite a tear-jerker. I feel the pain and loneliness that this song carries, especially in the second verse. The singer personifies the pictures, as if he wants them to come to life and make things normal again. But the pictures are just that, and he knows deep inside that things just won't be the same.

4. "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen

"Caught in a landslide,

No escape from reality."

Figure of Speech: Metaphor

Freddie Mercury had written hit after hit. His unparalleled songwriting and vocal skills made him a legend in the music industry. Bohemian Rhapsody is just one of his many masterpieces, and despite the song's popularity, a lot of people don't have a clue about the real meaning behind the song.

Mercury never revealed what he wanted to convey through the lyrics, but his bandmates had said that the song was about Mercury's personal traumas. "Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality" could be referring to Mercury dealing with too many problems at once, and there was no way to escape from them.

5. "Chandelier" by Sia

"I'm gonna swing from the chandelier."

Figure of Speech: Metaphor

Sia shot to fame after releasing this song. That shouldn't be surprising considering her awesome voice and the song's impeccable use of figurative language. Swinging from the chandelier is a metaphor used to describe excessive partying. That makes a lot of sense when you factor in the rest of the lyrics. The song tells of Sia's personal troubles in the past, turning to partying, alcohol, and substance abuse to escape pain and loneliness.

6. "Demons" by Imagine Dragons

“And the ones we hail

Are the worst of all.”

Figure of Speech: Irony

This song is about conquering your personal demons, and the first step to making that happen is to recognize that you have a dark side. It's just a matter of figuring out what you should make out of it. The figurative device used in this song is irony. In this line, the singer tells us that the celebrity, friend, or colleague we look up to might turn out to have the darkest side.

7. "Fireflies" by Owl City

"And leave tear drops everywhere."

"As they tried to teach me how to dance."

Figure of Speech: Personification

Everyone was singing along to this song back in 2009. The lyrics are as catchy as they are confusing. I love this song because of the different ways it uses figurative language. For one, "cause I'd get a thousand hugs, from 10,000 lightning bugs" is a hyperbole. Meanwhile, "and leave tear drops everywhere" and "as they tried to teach me how to dance" are examples of personification.

8. "Fireworks" by Katy Perry

"'Cause there's a spark in you.

You just gotta ignite the light

And let it shine."

Figure of Speech: Hyperbole

Don't you just love to sing "Fireworks" whenever you're feeling down and lonely? I particularly like the buildup to the chorus. Again, we see hyperbole in this song when Katy Perry says "cause there's a spark in you" and "you just gotta ignite the light." These two lines tell us that we shouldn't run out of hope and that it's on us to make things turn out the way we want them.

9. "God’s Plan" by Drake

"Might go down as a G.O.D."

Figure of Speech: Metaphor

"God's Plan" is a song about Drake's road to fame, his immense wealth, and his enemies who never seem to run out of ways to bring him down. Drake says "might go down as a G.O.D." which is clearly a metaphor to describe his many achievements in life, perhaps making him immortal in the eyes of his fans.

10. "Havana" by Camila Cabello

"Half of my heart is in Havana ooh na na."

Figure of Speech: Hyperbole

Every time I hear this song, it plays in my head nonstop. It's just so catchy. Of course, the lyrics are great, too. She uses figurative language to describe how much she misses someone because they're far apart. Who hasn't felt that way?

11. "Love Story" by Taylor Swift

“You were Romeo, I was a scarlet letter."

Figure of Speech: Metaphor

Taylor Swift said in an interview that she's a big fan of "Romeo and Juliet." She wanted to give their love story a happy ending, so she came up with one of the best songs with figurative language. The part where she sings "You were Romeo, I was a scarlet letter" is particularly interesting. Scarlet letter is a term used in the 1500s to refer to people who committed crimes. Essentially, she's saying that the guy she's in love with is the reason why she committed the "crime" of disobeying her own family.

12. "New York, New York" by Frank Sinatra

“I want to wake up in a city, that never sleeps.”

Figure of Speech: Hyperbole

Liza Minnelli was the first singer to bless the world with this song's wonderful lyrics. But it was Frank Sinatra who took it to another level. Thanks to this song, New York City got the nickname, "The City that Never Sleeps." That makes sense literally because New York is full of businesses operating 24/7. Figuratively speaking, however, it tells us that in New York, you always have to be at your best.

13. "Roar" by Katy Perry

"I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath."

"I've got the eye of the tiger!"

Figure of Speech: Idiom

Katy Perry revealed in an interview that she wrote this song after learning many things following her failed marriage with Russell Brand. She said that the goal of the song is to offer self-empowerment. The lines "I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath" and "I've got the eye of the tiger" stand out the most. This relates to Katy's confession that she used to keep all her feelings inside instead of speaking up for herself. But she has since learned to appreciate and love herself instead of always taking other people's feelings ahead of her own.

14. "Story Of My Life" by One Direction

"I spend her love until she's broke."

Figure of Speech: Metaphor

The more I think about this song, the more I realize the real meaning behind it. I think that the singer tries to describe his life story as giving it his all he's in love but not getting the same kind of love in return. "I spend her love until she's broke" is a metaphor that seems to depict a girl loving him for a while but turns the other way even after everything he has done.

15. "Happy" by Pharrell Williams

" I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space."

Figure of Speech: Metaphor

This song has the perfect title. You just can't help but feel happy when you hear Pharrell's one-of-a-kind voice hit those insane notes. He says "I'm a hot air balloon that could go to space," but he's definitely not alone. Surely, you've experienced that overwhelming positivity and happiness that you just feel like you're floating in the air.

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