A lot of songs are written to tell a story, evoke an emotion, or just be plain descriptive. Figurative language is basically saying one thing but meaning another, and it can really come in handy for songwriters. Here is a list of 20 songs with some sort of figurative language in them.By the way, if you’re searching for songs with figurative language, you may also like some of our other playlists, like kid cudi songs, and songs with numbers in the title.
Black Dog – Led Zeppelin
This song is written about the singer’s depression and how he feels like he is chained down by it. He feels like there is a black dog on his shoulder all the time, weighing him down. He feels like he is stuck in an eternal confusion that leaves him feeling helpless.
Fast Car – Tracy Chapman
This song is about hoping for a better life and in the second verse it describes how hard that would be: “Gonna take some time to do the things we never had.” This line suggests that if she gets this better life, it will not come easy. It’ll take effort and time to be able to do the things they never had, but she believes it will be worth it.
The House That Built Me – Miranda Lambert
This song is about a woman who blames her rough childhood for the way she is now as an adult. In the chorus she sings: “I’ve got roots going down deep/ Into the soul of this small town.” She feels like her childhood in this small town is what shaped who she was, which contributed to how she became the person she is now.
Darkness on the Edge of Town – Bruce Springsteen
This song describes how Springsteen felt about his hometown while he was trying to become successful as a musician. Although he loved it back there, he felt like there was no opportunity for him and he had to leave.
Hey Ya! – Outkast
The entire song is written in list form and uses repetition to emphasize certain words and phrases. This is a fun, upbeat song, and describes the dance moves that the singer wants to see his lover perform with the phrase “shake it like a polaroid picture”.
Hey, Soul Sister – Train
The lyrics are filled with similes in this song. The verses are basically the singer describing how he feels about the girl whom he has had his eye on for some time now. He is asking her if she wants to go on a date with him.
Human – The Killers
This song is sung from the perspective of a girl who was created by people and feels like she doesn’t belong. She feels lonely and alienated, and the lyrics describe this: “Are we human? Or are we dancer?” She is trying to figure out what it means to be human.
Lithium – Nirvana
This song is about addiction. The person in the song is depressed and miserable, but feels like he can’t get through it without his drug of choice. He believes that if he doesn’t have his “lithium” then he’s just going to go insane.
Lose Yourself – Eminem
Although this rap song is about the rapper’s struggles with being a new, white musician in a predominately black industry, it can also be translated as overcoming an addiction. In the song, Eminem says that he only has “one shot” to succeed and his success hinges on whether or not he can overcome his desire for self-medication.
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) – Arcade Fire
This song is about the aftermath of the singer’s lover leaving him. He feels empty, hopeless, and lost without them around. The lyrics suggest that he used to feel like there was something inside his heart, but it doesn’t beat anymore because she’s gone.
One Step Closer – Linkin Park
This song is about the cycle of abuse. In it, the singer says that he is “One step closer to the edge and I’m about to break.” This suggests that his anger and frustration could lead him to do something drastic, like end up hurting someone else or himself.
Dear Prudence – The Beatles
This song tells of how the singer feels the need to escape from his normal life, which he describes as being “like a mad dog’s broken chain.” He wants to be free by pruning all of the difficult parts of his life, so he sends Prudence away.
I Don’t Like Mondays – The Boomtown Rats
This song tells the story of a girl who was crazy. It is written from her perspective, and she explains how she shot an AK-47 at anyone who came near the school’s front door because “it was Monday.”
In My Head – Jason Derulo
This song describes how realistic and imaginative the singer can be. He imagines that he is with the girl of his dreams, but then suddenly switches to being on stage. He describes both scenarios vividly, comparing them back and forth throughout the song.
It’s My Life – Bon Jovi
This song describes how the singer is tired of people telling him what to do. He has lived for too long letting other people influence him and holding him back. He has to learn for himself what he wants and what makes him happy, not what other people want from him.
Give Up the Goods (Just Step) – Mobb Deep
This song is about a drug deal gone wrong. The “goods” they are referring to is heroin or cocaine. One of the men tries to switch the drugs with flour at the last second, to which the other man takes offense. This results in them fighting over the drugs and both are killed.
Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
The song is actually about the novel “Tropic of Cancer” by Henry Miller. The lyrics in this song are very descriptive in terms of what he’s saying about how much he loved that book, and then applying it to his own personal life.
Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
This song is about the main character’s “comfort zone.” He does not want to leave it because he doesn’t want to face reality, but at the same time he wants someone to be able to knock him out of it because he feels like there is nothing for him outside of that.
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
This song is about a young man who has just killed someone, and he is trying to convince himself that he didn’t do it. He goes through all the emotions of what would happen to him if he did kill someone, which leads up to his realization that he actually did do it.
London Calling – The Clash
This song is about London, but it is written as if England were under attack from a nuclear apocalypse. It describes how the people of London would “put up a wall of sound” to fight against the bomb coming their way.