Craft of Songwriting

by Barbara McMillen
a Featured Column of Songwriters Notes

Sunday, March 7, 2010


The most common literary device used in songs is the simile, a figure of speech which compares two unlike things by using "like" or "as". Even though similes and metaphors are both forms of comparison, similes allow the two ideas to remain distinct in spite of their similarities.

The simile appears in many a hit song, including the Amanda Bloom song, "The Rose". One listen and you'll find that the song, in fact, is full of similes. "Love is like a river", "Love is like a rose" and so on.

Here are some song titles with great similes:

"Hungry LIke The Wolf," Duran Duran
"Loves Me Like a Rock," Paul Simon
"Cold as Ice," Foreigner
"Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nirvana
"She's Like the Wind," Patrick Swayze
"Fly Like an Eagle," Steve Miller Band

The process for building similes is the same as building your lists of nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives for metaphors. Try comparing words from to separate lists by placing a "like" or "as" between them. You can choose two leave your simile implicit by not further identifying any characteristic of the comparison for the listener, therefore, the listener is left to determine for themselves which feature to apply. Or, you can take it a step further and leave nothing to the listeners imagination by describing explicitly the features for your listener.

Implicit = She walks like a cat
Explicit = She walks as gracefully and elegantly as a cat.

Similes are a really great tool for songwriting, so have fun creating your own!


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