Literary Devices in Song Lyrics

ImageJustin Timberlake is a well known singer, but who knew that his song lyrics could exhibit so many different literary devices?

Within the music industry, one of the major ways that artists and songwriters connect to their audiences is through emotion. When we listen to their songs, we can feel the happiness or sadness that they feel, and connect with them in a way. These people use music to share their thoughts and feelings with us, so without the use of literary devices, such as similes or metaphors, it would be a lot more difficult to relate to them.

For example, in Justin Timberlake’s new song, Mirrors, we can spot metaphors and similes in almost every other line. This song is about his love life and he shares with us how deeply he cares for another person. He sings,

Cause I don’t wanna lose you now
I’m lookin’ right at the other half of me
The vacancy that sat in my heart -metaphor
Is a space that now you hold -metaphor
Show me how to fight for now -metaphor
And I’ll tell you baby, it was easy
Comin’ back into you once I figured it out
You were right here all along
It’s like you’re my mirror -simile
My mirror staring back at me -metaphor
I couldn’t get any bigger
With anyone else beside of me
And now it’s clear as this promise -simile
That we’re making two reflections into one
Cause it’s like you’re my mirror
My mirror staring back at me, staring back at me

When I first listened to this song, the lyrics in the hook immediately caught my attention. Justin Timberlake uses terms such as mirrors and vacancy to help us better understand the love that he feels for the person he is singing about. Without being so literal, he finds a clever way to compare things to his thoughts, and that makes it easier for us to visualize his feelings. (“Vacancy” can’t sit. “Space” can’t be held. “Mirrors” can’t stare at you.) When he sings, “It’s like you’re my mirror” or “It’s clear as this promise”, he also is comparing different things to one another. (His lover is like a reflection to him, and he’s saying that a certain promise is now very obvious.)

Ultimately, every musician/artist uses literary devices in their work. It helps the songs flow well and helps the listeners/viewers relate to them more. The uses of these devices also bring a deeper meaning to the lyrics. We may not know it, but there may be “secret” or “hidden” messages that singers are sharing in their lyrics. We just have to think about what they are comparing and how those things can be compared to one another. Music is a wonderful thing in which we can express ourselves and our emotions. It makes songs more important and gives language a whole different meaning. Nowadays, as people are becoming more intelligent and songs more diverse, we see several unique ways that literary techniques can be portrayed in music.

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