Every song has a story to tell. Even if a song doesn’t have lyrics, the instruments used, along with the key signature and the way each note is played can convey emotion. The music you listen to can make you feel upset, happy, angry, or other emotions. Whether you love Bruno Mars or Beethoven, the one thing that connects all music is a theme. Literary Devices have taken a look at some of the most common themes in famous songs, and have identified these five as the most common.
Coming of Age/ Growing Up
Many songs deal with growing up or growing older. For classic rock fans, “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd is a reflection back to when the singer was a child and was getting advice from his mother. For pop fans, “7 Years” by Lukas Graham is a reflection on the singer’s past up to when he was 20, and what his aspirations will be beyond his current age.
Statements of Discontent
Music can often be used as an expression of frustration with a political situation, or with someone in that singer’s life. For example, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Byrds is a common example used for this category, meant to be a statement against the Vietnam War. Songs such as “Creep” by Radiohead or “Losing My Religion” by REM deal with isolation and feeling lonely.
This theme crosses all genres. It’s something that a worldwide audience can connect to, whether you listen to James Taylor, Randy Newman, or Mariah Carey.
This is yet another theme that spans across genres. Fans of Adele are familiar with this theme found in “Rolling in the Deep” or “Someone Like You.” Some artists choose to stay upbeat with their breakup songs, including “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John and “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.
While unfortunate, your favorite artists go through losing loved ones too, which makes it one of the most popular themes. However, not all of it sounds morbid. The Smiths were a perfect example of presenting this theme in an odd way, by pairing upbeat melodies with sad lyrics.
What theme do you experience the most in the songs you listen to?