6 Allusion Examples

While it’s one thing to know what an allusion is, applying it to your songwriting is easier to grasp if you can study songs using allusion well. By understanding how songs use allusion to add to the basic song idea, you can bring the tool into your own songwriting process more frequently.

Allusion is a form of figurative language, an allusion is an indirect reference of limited length to a person, place, thing or idea of historical, cultural, literary or political significance. It does not describe in detail the person or thing it is referring to – it simply suggests it.

For more detail check out the Allusion: What Is It? post.

The upside of using this type of imagery in your song is that you don’t have to use precious seconds describing something people are familiar with already.

And most importantly, the emotions tied to that thing help deepen the image in your song. And as a result, the emotional tie to your song overall.

It’s a great poetic and songwriting device to have in your tool box.

Here are 6 allusion examples from across the pop and country genres.

Virtually every line has an allusion in it (over 100 in the song)

He uses the line “I’ll be there to save the day/Superman’s got nothing on me” an allusion to underscore the commitment level the speaker has for the other person.

The title is an allusion to a line from ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ a poem by WWI poet Wilfred Owen. She read the poem in the 9th grade.

He uses several allusions to get across the type of guy he is not including, “I’ve never been a Cool Hand Luke, the quarterback of the winning team” or “I ain’t no Patrick Swayze, my old boots have never danced on air.”

While the title itself is an allusion, the song uses others to tie the boyfriend with the characters of the book to highlight his immaturity with the line “you’re just a Lost Boy with your head up in the clouds.”

Taylor Swift “Love Story”

Recalls the high school play we all read to quickly define the relationship between the two main character as forbidden with the lines “you were Romeo, you were throwing pebbles/and my daddy said ‘Stay away from Juliet’.”


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