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Instructions for Writing a Song Analysis Essay-APA format
- Select an original, meaningful song for your song analysis paper.Consider the emotional depth of the lyrics, the themes, and issues it introduces and its creative use of language and literary elements—similes, metaphors, symbolism, imagery—as you choose a song to critique.For example, “Imagine” by John Lennon, which speculates about what a world full of peace would look like, presents a strong message about countering the effects of violence and conflicts in the world.
- Listen to the song with the lyrics in front of you.As you play the song, underline, or highlight important lines and phrases that contribute to its meaning, as well as any personal thoughts or responses that come to mind.These reactions can help you shape the analysis of your song when you begin to write.
- Introduce your song in the first paragraph of the essay by giving some historical background about it, including the songwriter, year, and any events that shaped its creation.For example, “The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen showcases the resiliency of Americans after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.Describing this context would be a good way to introduce readers to the song and its theme of survival, giving emotional characteristics to an idea.By addressing the song to the “darkness” of nighttime, the songwriter emphasizes the song’s themes of loneliness and isolation.You can also write about the use of rhyme, repetition, and other sound devices.In “Bleeding Me” by Metallica, the speaker uses repeated lines such as “I’m digging my way” and “The thorn in my side” to show his struggle in breaking away from addiction.In “Blowin’ in the Wind”, Bob Dylan poses a series of rhetorical questions about peace, war, and freedom. By using the refrain, “The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind”, Dylan creates impenetrable ambiguity—either the answer is obvious or it is as intangible as the wind.
- Analyze the song’s use of musical arrangements.Think about how the song’s choice of a major or minor key, dominant instruments and texture relate to the lyrics and theme and create a specific mood. For example, the minor piano chords and driving drumbeats of Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” illustrate the speaker’s desolation after the end of a bitter relationship.
- Write a conclusion that emphasizes the main theme of the song. If you are writing about Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”, for example, you might say that the song encourages people who have been bullied to recognize and celebrate their uniqueness rather than let people’s words hurt them.Draw your paper together in a way that shows how the song’s lyrical and musical elements illustrate this message.