Pages Navigation Menu

Similes As Song Ideas

Similes As Song Ideas

Updated 11/25/14

Similes are great songwriting devices in lyrics.  But, they have dangers that are amplified when you use them as a hook.  Let’s take a look at a song with a simile for the hook and see what makes it work.

We’ll use Randy Houser’s “Like A Cowboy” written by Houser and Brice Long as our example, and take a look at some key elements that help keep it “real”.

 

How Do The Verses Work With The Simile

 

Verse 1

Sets the context for the simile. There’s nothing more iconic than the rodeo to represent the stereotype of a cowboy.  Yes – I did say stereotype.  In this case though, it’s not a bad thing.

Because being a cowboy has a stereotype, the simile doesn’t have to be explained as much, and the songwriters can be a little vague if they need to be. This provides them with some flexibility in the lyrics.

Verse 2

Focuses on reinforcing the line “Well baby you know I can’t stay long. / You wake up, I’ll be gone. / Until then I’ll hold on, like a cowboy.”

The speaker talks about having her close to him always, but he can’t give up what he does, but promising to always come back.

The writers didn’t explain anything about being a cowboy. They stuck with “the rodeo life” but related it back to the idea they established in the chorus – can’t help being who he is. Which writes to the title “Like A Cowboy.”

 

Randy Houser “Like A Cowboy”

 

 

How Does The Chorus Work With The Simile

 

This is a love song.

The speaker wants the other person to wait for him. But the speaker can’t give that person what they want, he is who he is – sort of the cowboy riding into the sunset.

But – notice that doesn’t happen.  Why?

Because the songwriters knew how to create a song idea that was unique and original.  They didn’t succumb to the simile’s stereotype!

Your first temptation with a simile will be to overdo the stereotypes. They’re easy to write in so they’ll be your first editing issue.  Which ones help, and which ones hurt?

Unfortunately, there’s no formula.

If your simile starts becoming comical, you should step away from the pen! For example, hanging his hat, kicking off his boots – all believable in the real world. But unbuckling his gun holster, a little less contemporary, and talking to his horse is just comic.

This chorus has a number of stereotypes: the singing cowboy, the cowboy riding into the ranch the hero, but, they stop.  The lyrics then switch to “in the moment” details.

This is a great lyrical device!  In one line it turns the speaker into a real person, not just a stereotype.

In turn, the line “and I’ll hold on – like a cowboy,” might be a stretch for bravery, but it gets a pass for being over the top.

Why?  Because a relatable scene for the listener has been set.

 

Notice What’s Missing

 

There’s no bridge.  Good choice!

Since the bridge would give a different perspective on the song idea, you risk blurring the simile.  Since the song’s all about being a simile, why do that?  They wisely left it out and just repeated the chorus twice.

 

“Like A Cowboy” Lyrics

 

VERSE

Every time I fall I get back up again,
Cinch my saddle up and find me another wind.
Let it take me where it wants to go.
Another one horse town, another damned old rodeo.

I know this life is crazy, but I’ll be home soon baby:

 

CHORUS

I’ll ride in on a sunny day,
Sing you a song, steal your heart away, like a cowboy.
Hang my hat like I’m here for a while,
Kick off my boots and drive you wild, like a cowboy.
Well baby you know I can’t stay long.
You wake up, I’ll be gone.
Until then I’ll hold on, like a cowboy.

 

VERSE

I keep your picture tucked inside my old hat.
It brings me luck, I need a bunch of that.
This midnight winding road runs through my blood.
I can’t give it up, like I said I would.

I know it’s hard on you but like I always do:

 

CHORUS 2X

I’ll ride in on a sunny day,
Sing you a song, steal your heart away, like a cowboy.
Hang my hat like I’m here for a while,
Kick off my boots and drive you wild, like a cowboy.
Well baby you know I can’t stay long.
You wake up, I’ll be gone.
Until then I’ll hold on, like a cowboy.

OUTRO

Every time I fall I get back up again,
Cinch my saddle up and find me another wind . . .

 

More Simile Songs

 

Luke Bryan’s “Roller Coaster” written by Michael Carter and Cole Swindell

This song uses the scene to really drive home the analogy trying to be made between how the roller coaster ride and the feelings the speaker has. The chorus focuses on telling the listener about the twists, turns and upside-down stomach feeling that occurs over the weekend. The only real physical reference to the roller coaster is the tracks. Great writing here!

Maroon 5’s “Animals” written by Adam Levine, Benny Blanco and Shellback

There are no specific references to an animal in this song, which is the device that makes the chorus work so well.  It sticks to vague animal behavior references, which allow the listener to never get into a situation where the imagery doesn’t seem realistic. So in this case, general works better than details.

 





2 Comments

  1. great lesson.

    • Thanks! Let me know if there are any topics that would help you with your songwriting. Happy to add to the site!

Leave a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest