I thought I’d put together 5 personification examples to underscore just how powerful well-written personification songs can be..
It’s the act of giving inanimate objects or abstract concepts animate or living qualities. You know, trees laughing, sun kneeling, guitars crying, watches grinning, etc.
“I’m A Little Teapot” is a great example. The teapot is talking, describing itself and giving itself human qualities.
It’s actually one of the hardest types of songs to write well, even for advanced songwriters.
Some of the best examples of personification done well.
1. George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (India Ari & Santana)
In its simplest form, this is a song about a guitar crying, but, it’s really being used as a metaphor for the songwriting process and how the events in the world are tied to everything – even a guitar.
2. David Wilcox “Rusty Old American Dream”
Is a song written from the perspective of a rusted out Oldsmobile. Note the mid-song capo change if you’re a guitar player (it’s in Open C tuning). And – David Wilcox actually does it when he plays live. Pretty slick.
The song’s a metaphor for the progression of life and a life cyle we can all relate to on a couple levels. Great object to select for the metaphor and the personification!
3. Mary Chapin Carpenter “I Am A Town”
Yes, Mary Chapin Carpenter can write, but this is hands down the best personification songs ever written. It’s from the town’s perspective, and every single image, analogy and emotional tie to a small town is spot on. This is one of my favorite songs.
And if I’m being totally honest, ahead of “The House That Built Me” in terms of imagery and song craft in my book. A great song to study.
4. Tim McGraw “Highway Don’t Care”
The highway is used as a contrast to the speaker in the song. Can a highway have feelings? No.
So the personification of the highway using “the highway don’t care” is actually a true statement that helps make the contrast stronger.
The highway is also being used as a metaphor for running away – another great device in the song.
5. Jim Lauderdale “I’m A Song”
Jim Lauderdale talks you through the creation of the song at the beginning of the video – so who needs me yacking about it!?
Note the pronoun switches and how the song’s speaker changes. Pretty clever.