As the Modern Language Association (MLA) states in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th edition), all words and ideas borrowed from outside sources must have citations in a research paper. This rule includes lyrics from a song, regardless of whether you quote or paraphrase the words, summarize the point, or discuss the beat or structure of the tune.
The in-text citation indicates the person who wrote the words, developed the idea or created the art you refer to in your paper. Therefore, the name you include in the citation for the song depends upon how you use the information in your paper. If you focus on the lyrics, use the lyricist's name; if you focus on the artist's performance of the song, use the performer's name in the citation or the context of the sentence. Because songs typically are not sold in printed form, do not use a page number. The citation might look like (Adele), or it might be worked into the context of the sentence, like this: "According to Adele's lyrics. . . ."
Works Cited Entry
The Works Cited entry gives more detailed information about the sources cited in your paper. Begin your citation with whichever person you used in the text, which will typically be the artist. Use the person's last name followed by his first name with a period at the end. Then type the song title in quotation marks with a period, using headline-style capitalization. Insert "By" (without the quotation marks) and the name of the writer if it is different from the performer, or insert "Perf." (without the quotation marks) and the name of the performer if you began with the writer and the two differ. Place a period after this. Include the name of the album, italicized, with a period after it. Type the manufacturer, a comma and the year followed by a period. Place the medium type at the end, such as CD or LP. The finished entry might look like this:
Adele. "The Mistake." The Hits Album (italicized). Columbia, 2012. CD.