"Let It Go” — Five Lyrical Lessons For Songwriters
The soundtrack from Frozen topped the Billboard charts again this week. Here are five lessons songwriters can learn from the lyrics of the hit song, “Let It Go."
A theme of deliverance: At its core “Let it Go” is not about letting it go. The song is about deliverance (freedom), a common theme in art and literature. It’s a universal theme we all relate to, no matter what situation we are in. “I’m free” strikes at the heart of the human experience. The idea of deliverance becomes even stronger because the song is sung in first person as well.
Use of metaphors and similes: Like almost all great pop songs, the lyric includes a few basic similes, including, “The wind is howling like the swirling storm inside” and “I’ll rise like the break of dawn.” There are also metaphors like “Kingdom of isolation,” as well as the use of personification: “Heaven knows I tried.” Check your lyrics for a nice sprinkling of metaphors and similes. But don’t overdo it.
Literal and figurative meaning: An extension of the above, the lyric also uses lines that have both literal and figurative meaning. (In addition to the title of the song itself.) This approach adds emotional depth so each listener can make the song his or her own. "It's funny how some distance makes everything seem small” is both literal, because she has escaped to the top of the mountain, but is also figurative because she is reflecting on her life. This type of “double entendre” is an excellent example of great lyric writing.
Perfect rhymes: Also called full rhymes or exact rhymes, “Let It Go” uses lots of one-syllable perfect rhymes. A few examples: seen/queen, see/be, say/anyway, ground/around, small/all. While the use of soft or near rhymes has become increasingly popular in recent years — probably to avoid being cliche — perfect rhymes should be your first choice when creating a rhyme as they are more satisfying.
Short line rhymes: Another characteristic of “Let it Go” is there are lots of internal rhymes or short lines. “The snow glows white on the mountain tonight” as well as “Conceal. Don’t feel” and “…see. I’m free” all give the song a quick, rapid pace, and add to the song’s overall “sing-along-ability.”
Quint Randle is an award-winning songwriter and co-founder of Drums On Demand.