Why do some songs and poems sound more beautiful and esthetic? Have you ever tried to decipher the hidden meaning behind songs with figurative language?
What Is Figurative Language in Songs?
Figurative language in songs refers to words and phrases that are interpreted differently from their literal meaning.
List of the Top Songs with Figurative Language
#1. A Thousand Years by Christina Perri
“A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri is a song that eulogizes the pains and pleasures of young love. It talks about waiting for that one person all your life and finally getting to meet them. But the person you waited so long for is afraid of getting hurt and is reluctant to let their guards down. This song tries to tell the person that you would never do anything to hurt them and continue to be patient and shower them with love.
The following lyrics serve as a beautiful metaphor for those feelings.
“I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid
I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more.”
#2. Happy by Pharrell Williams
With the perfect title and the perfect beat, “Happy” is a beautiful song with insane notes and a powerful meaning. Sung by talented artist Pharell Williams it’s a song you need to listen to when you wish to lift your somber spirits.
The line “I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space” is a metaphor for the overwhelming sense of happiness and positivity when you feel like you’re floating in the air.
#3. Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
Freddie Mercury and his rock band, Queen, shook up the music industry with their unparalleled songwriting and impeccable vocal skills. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was one of their masterpieces that marked their strong presence in the rock world and paved their path to superstardom.
The song has some great pieces of figurative language like:
“Caught in a landslide
no escape from reality.”
This line is considered to be a metaphor for life and its adversities. Another popular interpretation of the song is that it narrates a tale of a young lad who is on the run for murder. He’s aware of his eventual fate and points at him getting caught and punished for his actions. Some fans have theorized that the song is most certainly about Freddie Mercury’s coming out.
#4. What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
“What a Wonderful World” is Louis Armstrong’s most iconic song ever. Its lyrics beckons the listeners to notice the beauty of little things around them, and the chorus beautifully pulls the piece together.
“I see skies of blue
And clouds of white
The bright blessed day
The dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.”
Featuring beautiful alliterations, meaningful metaphors, and a simple tune, this is a song that’s timeless and memorable.
#5. Fireflies by Owl City
This famous song by Owl City sure doesn’t require any introduction as it lit up the airwaves back in 2009. With lyrics that are as catchy as they are confusing, “Fireflies” is a mix of several figurative languages rolled into one.
For example, “cause I’d get a thousand hugs, from ten thousand lightning bugs” is a hyperbole, and “cause they fill the open air, and leave teardrops everywhere” is personification where the fireflies assume human-like qualities.
Fireflies don’t leave teardrops but the words paint some incredible mental images in the listener’s mind. Some believe these lyrics are just a lucid description of a dream, whereas few others believe it to be a melancholic song about time moving too quickly and a commentary on a person’s transition from the innocence of childhood to adulthood.
#6. Hotel California by Eagles
One of the Eagles’ most iconic songs, “Hotel California” topped the Billboard chart for straight 19 weeks. Touted as one of the best musical creations of the 21st century, this masterpiece is well-known for some other reasons too. From excess materialism to hedonism to satanism, this is one song that has garnered several strange and unusual interpretations from listeners around the world.
One of the popular interpretations of the song is that the album is a metaphor for the band’s path to success and fame. For example, in the line “Welcome to Hotel California”, Hotel California is presumed to signify the record industry. Some theories say “Hotel California” itself is a metaphor for California, LA, or anyplace in America.
#7. God’s Plan by Drake
This upbeat, hip-hop song by Drake is full of figurative languages. It’s a song that describes Drake’s path to success, fame, and wealth as he navigated through the hurdles and obstacles that were thrown his way.
The line “might go down as a G.O.D.” is a clear metaphor that describes his feats and achievements that might render him immortal in his fans’ eyes.
#8. New York, New York by Frank Sinatra
The song that gave New York the nickname, “The City that Never Sleeps”, “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra is a true classic. Full of metaphors and hyperboles, the song is essentially a tribute to the city of New York that is synonymous with the hustle culture.
The line “I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps” is hyperbole that aptly captures the essence of this feeling.
#9. Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran
The ’80s hit, “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran is a long metaphorical song that speaks about lust, love, and nature’s instinct. It likens a man’s pursuit for a beautiful woman with a wolf on the hunt for its prey.
“I’m on the hunt, I’m after you.
Mouth is alive with juices like wine.
And I’m hungry like the wolf.”
In the lines above, “wine” refers to “saliva,” and the wolf’s hunger points at a man’s romantic desire. Moreover, the song’s iconic title is a simile.
#10. Demons by Imagine Dragons
This runaway hit by Imagine Dragons has more than one meaning hidden in its lyrics along with a bunch of figurative languages.
The lyrics “But with the beast inside, there’s nowhere we can hide” say that the first step towards conquering your inner demons is acknowledging that you have a dark side. The lyrics “No matter what we breed, we still are made of greed” speaks about a person’s regular conflicts of right and wrong and the long path towards figuring out the correct decision.
“When you feel my heat look into my eyes, it’s where my demons hide” is a metaphor where demons represent a person’s dark side.
#11. Firework by Katy Perry
This upbeat pop song by Katy Perry created quite a spark when it was released in 2010. With its uplifting tune, catchy lyrics, and brilliant chorus, “Firework” is a perfect antidote to a drab and dull day. It’s also full of figurative languages with the title itself being hyperbole.
The term “firework” refers to people’s inner light and glory. And the line “Cause there’s a spark in you, you just gotta ignite the light, and let it shine” is also a hyperbole that talks about hope and about embracing your flaws and uniqueness.
#12. I Am a Rock by Simon and Garfunkel
“I Am a Rock” by Simon and Garfunkel is possibly one of the saddest and most melancholic songs of all time. It’s a story of a young man who, after being deeply hurt by his loved ones, chooses to be a hermit to avoid further pain.
The lyrics “I am a rock; I am an island” are metaphors for the man’s love for solitude. The phrases “A rock feels no pain and the island never cries” and “silent shroud of snow” are used as personification.
“I am shielded in my armor” and “I’ve built walls” are metaphors for withdrawing and alienating oneself.
#13. Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day
This classic song by Green Day was a rock anthem during its heyday. The lyrics “I walk a lonely road, the only one that I have ever known. Don’t know where it goes, but it’s home to me, and I walk alone” talks about the trials and tribulations associated with following one’s dreams.
“I walk this empty street, on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, where the city sleeps. And I’m the only one, and I walk alone” talks about the lonely path that is riddled with a “boulevard” of hardships and broken dreams.
#14. Love Story by Taylor Swift
As a huge fan of “Romeo and Juliet”, pop singer Taylor Swift composed this song to give a happy ending to their love story.
One of its most interesting lines “You were Romeo, I was a scarlet letter” is a metaphor. The scarlet letter was a sixteenth-century term for people who committed crimes. Hence, the line here says that the guy she is in love with is her crime.
#15. I’m Like a Bird by Nelly Furtado
In the song “I’m Like a Bird”, Nelly Furtado compares herself to a free bird using similes. With a joyful tune and an uplifting message, this song speaks of the freedom to live and love.
“I’m like a bird, I’ll only fly away
I don’t know where my soul is
I don’t know where my home is”
And baby all I need for you to know is, each and every single day
I know I’m going to have to eventually give you away”
The above lines have a joyful yet melancholic tinge to them. It speaks about her reluctance to commit as she doesn’t know where she is going or where her home is. All she wishes for is the freedom to do things as she pleases.
A Few Parting Words
So, these are some of the most popular songs with figurative languages. Were any of your favorites included? Go on, give them a listen today and see if you can spot any more hidden meanings.