Thursday, March 19, 2009

Post #15 - Songs & Poetic Devices

Is it just me or is there actually a lot of talk about political education rigmarole right now - more than usual, I mean? It could just be that I never really paid attention, since I was only a student and didn't have much experience (or care). Or perhaps its only natural, with our recent switch to a new administration. Still, I've had a lot of thoughts about education policies, and they're bound to creep in here sooner or later. But for now, let's just ignore all the education hoopla. Let's talk poetic devices.

Objective: Identify poetic devices in contemporary media
Materials: CD/Digital copies of designated songs, copies of lyrics (optional)

How you choose to present these songs is up to you. I've used it as bellwork, part of worksheets, or just a quick 5 minute interlude to the day's poetic device review. All of these songs I had copies of in some capacity (my husband's music library or mine), so I didn't have to do any purchasing, but they (mostly) are not obscure songs - you could find them through ITunes or whatever digital music source you use.

I've listed the songs and the poetic devices they exemplify. If you have more suggestions for this list, please share! (especially for hyperbole)

*songs in gold were added by a reader, Julie, March 2010! Thanks, Julie!
**songs in coral were provided by a friend, Jessica, July 2010, who added a few more categories, branching into other literary devices. Thanks, Jessica!

Metaphor & Simile
"The River" - Garth Brooks (both)
"I'll Be" - Edwin McCain (metaphor)
"You're My Home" - Billy Joel (metaphor)
"The Rose" - Bette Midler (metaphor/simile)
"Legend of Wooley Swamp" - Charlie Daniels Band (also: hyperbole)
"Heat Wave" - Martha and the Vandellas (simile)
"Pump It Up" - Elvis Costello (simile)
"Help Me Mary" - Liz Phair (simile)
"Like A Prayer" - Madonna (simile)
"Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well" - Mike Doughty (simile)
"Umbrella" - Rihanna (both)
"Beast of Burden," The Rolling Stones (metaphor)
"She's a Rainbow," The Rolling Stones (metaphor)
"Supermassive Black Hole," Muse (metaphor)
"Hound Dog," Elvis Presley (metaphor)
"I Wanna Be Your Dog," Iggy Pop (metaphor) (also: tone)
"Co-Pilot," Letters to Cleo (metaphor)

"Just The 2 of Us" - Will Smith

Sounds -Alliteration/Assonance/Consonance
"Black Cat" - Janet Jackson (assonance)
"Higher" - Creed (alliteration/assonance)
"Mary Mac" - Carbon Leaf (alliteration)
"Black Betty" - Ram Jam (alliteration)
"The War Was in Color" - Carbon Leaf (alliteration) (also: imagery)
"19th Nervous Breakdown" - Rolling Stones (consonance)
"How You Remind Me" - Nickelback (alliteration)

"Loving Arms" - Dixie Chicks
"Colors of the Wind" - Pocahontas soundtrack
"The War Was in Color" - Carbon Leaf (also: alliteration)
"Across the Universe" - The Beatles (also: personification)
"Viva La Vida" - Coldplay
"When I Go Away" - Levon Helms
"Shark in the Water" - V.V. Brown
"Burning Love" - Elvis Presley
"White Room" - Eric Clapton

Internal Rhyme
"Back in the Day" - Christina Aguilera

"Wind Cries Mary" - Jimi Hendrix -
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - The Beatles
"Ireland" - Garth Brooks -
"Undo It" - Carrie Underwood
"Trouble is a Friend" - Lenka

"Heart Don't Forget" - Tim McGraw
"In Perfect Time" - Jill Barber
"Lying Eyes" - The Eagles

"The Trolley Song" - Judy Garland (Meet Me in St. Louis)
"Boom, Boom, Pow" - Black Eyed Peas
"Yellow Submarine" - The Beatles
"Paper Planes" - M.I.A.

"We Didn't Start the Fire" - Billy Joel
"Turn! Turn! Turn!" - The Byrds
"Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road" - Elton John
"Love Story" - Taylor Swift
"American Pie" - Don McLean
"Bad Romance" - Lady Gaga
"The Hurricane" - Bob Dylan
"Babies of the 80s" - Something Corporate
"Sympathy for the Devil" - The Rolling Stones (also: personification)
"Alive with the Glory of Love" - Say Anything
"Should've Been a Cowboy" - Toby Keith
"Zombie" - The Cranberries
"Eyes Like Natalie Wood" - Kathy Fleishman

"The Stranger" - Billy Joel
"Only the Good Die Young" - Billy Joel
"Somewhere Down the Road" - Amy Grant
"River of Dreams" - Billy Joel
"Panic" - The Smiths
"My Sweet Fracture" - Saves the Day
"Ain't No Mountain" - duet version
"Ain't No Sunshine" - any version

"Pray for You" - Jaron & The Long Road to Love
"Your Lucky Day in Hell" - Eels
"Makedamnsure" - Taking Back Sunday
"Mad World" - Gary Jules
"Love Will Tear Us Apart" - Joy Division
"Ask" - The Smiths
"LDN" - Lily Allen
"Cruel to be Kind" - Letters to Cleo OR the original

"See You" - Saves the Day
"Never Said" - Liz Phair
"Way Down Here" - Kenny Chesney
"Aladdin Sane" - David Bowie
"Material Girl" - Madonna

"Caught in the Crowd" - Kate Miller-Heidke
"Billie Jean" - Michael Jackson

"Ode to Billie Joe" - Bobbie Gentry
"Breaking Up" - Rilo Kiley
"Paint it Black" - The Rolling Stones
"Love Her Madly" - The Doors
"Three Crosses" - Randy Travis

"Regret" - New Order
"Under My Thumb" - The Rolling Stones
"We Could Be So Good Together" - The Doors
"Born in the USA" - Bruce Springsteen
"Why Can't I Be You?" - The Cure
"Every Breath You Take" - The Police

Short Story Plot Chart
"Folsom Prison Blues" - Johnny Cash
"Last Kiss" - Pearl Jam
"Bohemian Rhapsody" - Queen
"Don't Stop Believing" - Journey
"Watching the Detectives" - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
"My Hometown" - Bruce Springsteen
"The Thunder Rolls" - Garth Brooks
"Maggie May" - Rod Stewart
"Hotel California" - The Eagles
"The Ballad of John & Yoko" - The Beatles

I can't speak to the appropriateness of ALL of these songs, since some I haven't yet heard. So listen and use your best judgment.

source: Gateway Summer Institute & me


  1. Hey, I love this idea! I'm always looking for more ways to bring in music to the classroom. It's more relevant to language arts than most teachers give it credit for. What about having students bring in their own examples of songs that employ these techniques? (Provided they're school-appropriate, of course!)

  2. How coincidental - we're doing poetry right now too! Like you, I am always looking for ways to fit music into the curriculum, as students remember better when music is used. I even create snippets of songs to put into my introduction PowerPoint presentations. For instance, I used Boom, Boom, Pow by the Black-Eyed Peas for onomatopoeia,Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown for consonance, How You Remind Me by Nickelback for alliteration, Back in the Day by Christina Aguilera for internal rhyme, and Black Cat by Janet Jackson for assonance. I am fortunate to have a projector in my room, as this helps with visuals as well as PowerPoints. Right now we are working on metaphor and simile and have to work with the goal of explication of poetry. However, maybe I'm just too dense at this hour of the night, but I'm not seeing the onomatopoeia in At the Zoo by Simon and Garfunkel. I can see personification there though. Right now my kids are not quite to the "light bulb" moment with metaphors and similes - so I'll keep working with it. I hope you have a great week! J

  3. Julie - I'm so glad you found my blog and were able to add to my list!! Finding contemporary songs that have poetic devices is hard for me, just because I don't always keep up with what's "in" with the music scene. Those are great and I will definitely add them here.

    As for "At the Zoo," that should have been removed, you are so right! It was on a list I received at a workshop as "onomatopoeia," so I put it up here, having never heard it. I then looked up the lyrics when teaching a week later and could not understand why the facilitators put it there! I forgot to take it off this list, so I will fix that, thank you!

    Hope you get that "light bulb" moment with your kiddos soon! I'm sure they're well on their way to lighting up the classroom. ;)

  4. I just wrote a lesson on this for my 8th grade kids coming up this fall.

    Here are a few that I chose from my playlist if you are interested:

    The Lighthouse's Tale- Nickel Creek which contains personfication, Alliteration, and hyperbole

    Take a Bow-Rihanna---we are going to talk about the whole song as a metaphor

    Shine On- Jet contains Personfication and Hyperbole

    Evacuate the Dance Floor- Casada which contains personfication, simile, Hyperbole, and metaphor (it has some reference to drinking and drugs, but I think we can get away with it)

    Replay- Iyaz contains simile, hyperbole, and metaphor

    Knocks you Down- Keri Hilson w Kanye West and Ne-yo contains Onomatopoeia, personificaiton, metaphor (this song has some mild swearing so I had to get a clean version from youtube

    Cowboy Cassanove- Carrie Underwood

    I love your blog! Did you ever find more songs that relate to teach tone with?