Music is central to our culture — it is present everywhere from advertising to education. With many unique genres and artists, every person is able to find some type of music that speaks to them. Whether you love complex instrumentals or meaningful lyrics, there is music out there to suit you. Despite being the most popular genre, pop's musical merit is often underappreciated. The genre has a reputation for simple and mindless lyrics, but pop can have a lot to offer. Songs range in theme from love, to loss, to deeply personal emotions, and communicate those themes in complex and thoughtful ways. Any music can be simple or complex, shallow or deep, but these famous pop songs draw in elements of writing that make their lyrics positively poetic.
7 Top Poetic Pop Songs
- "Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman to Have - but I Have It" / Lana Del Rey. Lana Del Rey's poetic pop has graced radios around the world since 2012. Her most recent release, Norman Fucking Rockwell!, continues this trend through every song. The single "Hope is a Dangerous Thing" plays on her signature down-tempo beat and soft piano to support lyrics so slow the verses are almost spoken word. Throughout the song, Del Rey alludes to her influencers, like Slim Arons and Sylvia Plath, to build the aesthetic sense that guides her works. Throughout the song she uses imagery, like pink gowns and blood on her walls, to drive contrast that shapes the song's speaker.
- "Red" / Taylor Swift. Composed almost entirely from simile, "Red" by Taylor Swift is a love song built on figurative language. Swift compares aspects of a relationship to colors: loss as blue, longing as grey, and love as red, so the listener experiences the emotions in greater depth. She uses more concrete imagery to ground the emotions the colors recall, calling on touch and memory to give listeners something in the real world to relate to if the colors are too abstract. Through these comparisons she builds emotions listeners can connect to, strengthening her lyrics with poetic devices.
- "What About Us" / P!nk. P!nk has been writing poetic music since the 90s. In her current albums, many of her songs focus on relationships, but the single "What About Us" takes a more global view. The lyrics are written from the perspective of "we," rather than "I," making the listener part of the song. P!nk uses metaphor in the verses and repetition in the chorus to pose big questions like, "What about love? What about trust?" in a way that asks listeners to consider them in their own lives. These choices make the song an anthem about being human, rather than just a simple love song.
- "Sugar, We're Goin Down" / Fall Out Boy. Pop-punk classic "Sugar, We're Goin Down" mixes word play with punk themes in a breakup banger. Lines like "Drop a heart, break a name" and "A loaded God complex, cock it and pull it" remix common sayings into new meanings with lyrical flow. Pairing these subversion of expectation with images of mausoleums and bedpost notches gives the song its edge, pulling it from pop into pop-punk.
- "Bad Guy" / Billie Eilish. In "Bad Guy," the first track of her first album, Billie Eilish opens her lyrics with strong imagery of a white shirt soiled by a bloody nose, establishing the drama that carries through the whole song. In the chorus, rhyme and repeptition create meter like those used in rap or poetry, as each line in these sections has the same number of syllables, keeping in time with the beat of the song's bass. These devices are used to take shots at people who pretend to be someone they are not with lines like, "So you're a tough guy / Like it really rough guy / Just can't get enough guy / Chest always so puffed guy."
- "Mr. Brightside" / The Killers. "Mr. Brightside's" deceptively simple lyrics get their power from the tension they hold. Telling a story of a relationship spoiled by jealousy, the verses use a middle rhyme of "bed" and "head" to make the reader expect a rhyme scheme, then end without rhyme, leaving the listener to fill in the blank. This transition from verse to pre-chorus use enjambment, along with the unfinished rhyme, to create the tension that is released in the chorus. This dynamic tension is what gives "Mr. Brightside" its power.
- "Hey There Delilah" / Plain White T's. "Hey There Delilah" is a classic 2000s love song. It uses mixed rhymes in its serenade to create a catchy flow, without committing to a formal end rhyme. Similes like, "Times Square can't shine as bright as you," compliment the subject while highlighting the central tension of the work: the distance between her and the writer. The hyperbole of "If every simple song I wrote to you / Would take your breath away / I'd write it all," enforces the longing tone of the lyrics, making the lyrics sound like a ballad.