How to Analyse Lyrics

Lyrical Structure & Style

How to Analyse Lyrics

Given there will be many song and lyric examples throughout this course, let’s spend a moment examining how we approach listening critically to material. 

The piece we’ll look at is called ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well’ (any version is fine).

CONSIDER THE LYRIC

Spend a moment listening to this song and reading the lyrics, then consider the following:

  • The ‘voice’ the composer uses. Is it consistent? What is the tone he achieves. Is it angry? Happy? Resigned?
  • Is it clear to the listener what the message of the song is? Can you sum it up in 10 words or less?
  • The development of the story. Does it have a beginning, a middle and an end? Is there an emotional arc?
  • Is there a clear creative intention?
  • How does the concept/conceit of the song heighten the emotional impact?

I Get Along Without You Very Well – Lyrics

‘I get along without you very well
Of course I do
Except when soft rains fall
And drip from leaves, then I recall
The thrill of being sheltered in you arms,
Of course I do
But I get along without you very well.

I’ve forgotten you just like I should
Of course I have
Except to hear your name
Or someone’s laugh that is the same
But I’ve forgotten you just like I should.

What a guy, what a fool am I,
To think my breaking heart could kid the moon
What’s in store, should I phone once more?
No, it’s best that I stick to my tune

I get along without you very well
Of course I do
Except perhaps in spring, but I should
Never think of spring
For that would surely break my heart in two’

ANALYSING THE LYRIC

The song has a concept or conceit built into the lyric; a device that, if it wasn’t for the fact that it is designed to heighten the emotion of the song, you could almost call a gimmick or a trick. 

The song starts with the title statement and then follows it with a lyric that essentially contradicts this statement, so we very quickly realise that the protagonist is most definitely not coping in the way we’re initially led to believe.

Lyrical Analysis Activity

Let’s practice being a lyrically perceptive listener!

Have a listen to these songs:

  • Ray LaMontagne – Such A Simple Thing
  • Joni Mitchell – Blue
  • Chance the Rapper – Same Drugs
  • Harry Styles – Watermelon Sugar
  • Johnny Cash – I Walk The Line

Now write down your interpretation of the following: 

  • What is the song’s content – its story, situation, and theme?
  • What is the song’s message?
  • How is the lyric structured? What sections are there?
  • What type of language is being used? How is imagery used?
  • How is rhyme being used?
  • How does the lyric make you feel? How do you think the writer has managed to evoke this feeling in you, the listener?

 

Top Tip

We’ll look at many different song examples in this course, so it’s important you begin to cultivate an analytical approach or ‘active listening’ to songs you hear throughout your daily life. This will help you put the analytical skills you learn on this course into practice.