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Best Metaphor Song? “Smoke”

Best Metaphor Song? “Smoke”

A Thousand Horses‘ debut single “Smoke” (Southernality) is the first debut single since Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried” (The Foundation) to go to number one on the Billboard Country Airplay Chart, reaching that distinction this week.

Why is this song so good?

Well, besides the gritty, Southern rock blues vocal delivery by Michael Hobby, it’s the songwriting brilliance of Ross Copperman, Jon Nite and Michael Hobby!

If you had to set the bar for a great metaphor song – this one would be it.

 

 

The Metaphor
Using smoke to describe a woman – risky!

 

Basically, a metaphor is a device used to create a comparison.

It doesn’t use “like” or “as” as part of that comparison – that’s a simile. And, you’ll notice in the bridge of this song, the writers eventually use a simile to make a direct connection between smoke and the woman. But they do it toward the end of the song. Neat trick to use both so well.

A metaphor is a more direct comparison than a simile because it doesn’t use distancing words such as “like” or “as” – a metaphor by it’s nature encourages a more direct connection between the thing being referenced (smoke) and the thing being talked about (the woman).

 

TIP:  For metaphors to work, they can’t break down!

 

What do I mean by that?

You never end up laughing about how his girlfriend is shaped like a cigarette, or wondering why anyone would compare a person to nasty-smelling cigarette smoke.

The connection can’t become comic.  For example, if there had been a reference to how smoke crawled through the rafters of the bar . . . and you apply that to the girlfriend . . . the visual in your head gets a little strange – unbelievable – comic.

Great news – never happens with this song!

 

The Imagery & Allusion
Why use the attributes of one thing to describe another?

The short answer – fewer words needed to get across a bigger meaning.

Think about it . . . by calling on the imagery of something else, I don’t have to explain that “a woman is a habit very much like smoking and the unbreakable pattern created by the dependence on nicotine, the feeling of inclusion during social events when drinking, and the overall relaxation derived from the product.”

Who wants to hear that in a song?!

More great news – there’s no need to, because smoke/smoking is a fairly universal image, brings up very visual references for people, and as a result doesn’t require any description of its own in the language of the song.

It’s a great metaphoric idea.

 

How Does The Language Work?
It stays true to the image being described & alluded to always!

 

Let’s compare some lines to the connections we’re asked to make as a listener:

  • She comes rolling off the tip of my tongue – definitely thinking cigarette smoke here, “she” is odd, but OK I’ll go with it
  • First thing I want when I start drinking – universal yes for a cigarette and can tie to a woman
  • Breathing her in, breathing her out – habit and part of breathing, works for both
  • Once I pick her up, can’t put her down – emphasizing the habit, works for both

Then the Chorus just flat out tells us “she’s smoke” which is where the tricky part begins.

The writers have now committed to the metaphor so have to be very careful about the parallels they make. In Verse 2 they’ve merged the two, then make them very distinct things – celebrating the fact that both are part of the hanging out experience.

  • She floats around like a ballroom gypsy – yes smoke meanders around, and you can visualize a woman dancing through a bar/ballroom just having a good time
  • Goes great with beer and whiskey – check – both are great in those two scenarios and fit
  • One in my hand and one on my lips – works either way for either one!

 

Picking The Right Metaphor
Is this a cigarette song – or a smoke song?

You’ve probably noticed by now that a lot of the references are more to smoking and cigarettes than smoke.

But – notice the song’s not called “My Girlfriend’s Like A Cigarette”

It could have been and it’s probably been written by someone somewhere – so why not write it that way?

  1. Because no woman would want to see herself in those terms – a bad habit tied to cancer and who knows what else. It comes off as derogatory, and
  2. The smoke metaphor is far more mysterious, giving the song attributes beyond the literal act of smoking, raising it above just a bad habit.

 

A Thousand Horses “Smoke” Lyrics

Note: internal rhyme  (yellow) , end rhymes  (blue) , other device  (purple) 

VERSE
She comes rolling right off the tip of my tongue so  easy .     [A]
She’ll be the first damn thing I want when I start  drinking .     [A]
I’m  breathing her in, breathing her   out ,     [B]
once I pick her up I can’t put her  down  . . .     [B]

CHORUS
She’s  smoke :     [C]
I pull her in nice and  slow .     [C]
She’s a habit and I can’t let  go ,     [C]
Blowing rings around my  heart .     [D]
The one she  stole .     [C]
Watching her sway and  go ,     [C]
It’s killing me and I  know  –     [C]
Can’t stop her once you  start      [D]
 She’s smoke .     [C]

VERSE
She’ll go floating around like a downtown ballroom  gypsy .     [A]
She goes great with ice cold beer or a shot of  whiskey .     [A]
Put one in my hand, her on my  lips      [E]
Man, that’s as good as it  gets      [E]

CHORUS
She’s  smoke :     [C]
I pull her in nice and  slow .     [C]
She’s a habit and I can’t let  go ,     [C]
Blowing rings around my  heart .     [D]
The one she  stole .     [C]
Watching her sway and  go ,     [C]
It’s killing me and I  know  –     [C]
Can’t stop her once you  start      [D]
 She’s smoke .     [C]

BRIDGE
When the night burns  out ,     [B]
And we all  go   home ,     [C]
Smell of sweet  perfume ,     [F]
All over your  clothes  –     [C]
Like  smoke , ooh, ooh     [C]
Like  smoke  ooh, ooh     [C]

CHORUS
She’s  smoke :     [C]
I pull her in nice and  slow .     [C]
She’s a habit and I can’t let  go ,     [C]
Blowing rings around my  heart .     [D]
The one she  stole .     [C]
Watching her sway and  go ,     [C]
It’s killing me and I  know  –     [C]
Can’t stop her once you  start      [D]
 She’s smoke .     [C]
 She’s smoke .     [C]

OUTRO (REPEATS BRIDGE!)
When the night burns  out ,     [B]
And we all  go   home ,     [C]
Smell of sweet  perfume ,     [F]
All  over  your  clothes  –     [C]
Like  smoke , ooh, ooh     [C]
Like  smoke  ooh, ooh     [C]

Songwriters: Ross Copperman, Jon Nite & Michael Hobby

 





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