How to Write a Song Analysis for English Class
Listening to your favorite music might be an enjoyable pastime, but analyzing a song lets you apply what you're learning in English class to a favorite composition. Figurative language, tone and theme are just a few literary devices you can practice identifying as you write about music. By analyzing these elements, you can gain an greater appreciation for the practical application of the tools of English to songwriting.
Select an original, meaningful song for your paper topic. Consider the emotional depth of the lyrics, the themes and issues it introduces and its creative use of language as you choose a song to write about. For example, "Imagine" by John Lennon, which speculates about what a world full of peace would look like, presents a strong message about countering the effects of violence and spiritual conflict in the world.
Listen to the song with the lyrics in front of you. As you play the song, underline or highlight important lines and phrases that contribute to its meaning, as well as any personal thoughts or responses that come to mind. These reactions can help you shape the analysis of your song when you begin to write.
Introduce your song in the essay by giving some historical background about it, including the songwriter, year and any events that that shaped its creation. For example, "The Rising" by Bruce Springsteen showcases the resiliency of Americans after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Describing this context would be a good way to introduce readers to the song and its theme of survival.
Analyze the lyrics by examining figurative language, phrases that describe something by comparing it to something else. In "The Sound of Silence," for example, Simon and Garfunkel use personification, which gives emotional characteristics to an object, animal or idea. By addressing the song to the "darkness" of nighttime, they emphasize the song's themes of loneliness and isolation. You can also write about the use of rhyme, repetition and other sound devices. In "Bleeding Me" by Metallica, the speaker uses repeated lines such as "I'm digging my way" and "This thorn in my side" to show his struggle in breaking away from addiction.
Analyze the song's use of musical arrangements. Think about how the song's choice of a major or minor key, dominant instruments and texture relate to the lyrics and theme and create a specific mood. For example, the minor piano chords and driving drumbeats of Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain" illustrate the speaker's desolation after the end of a bitter relationship.
Write a conclusion that emphasizes the main theme of the song. If you're writing about Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," for example, you might say that the song encourages people who have been bullied to recognize and celebrate their uniqueness rather than let people's words hurt them. Draw your paper together in a way that shows how the song's lyrical and musical elements illustrate this message.
Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.