Skip to main content

Lyrical Poetry in Popular Music: Poems and Songs


Do Your Favorite Songs Resemble Poetry?

Popular published collections of poetry in the modern age are not as common as they were a century ago. But we are still finding a way to express ourselves, and to enjoy others' poetic writings through the medium of music.

Timeless tales of love, longing, betrayal, and electric passion are woven into lyrics of the songs we listen to on the radio and download onto iPods.

My favorite artists are those that have blended soul-touching music with lyrics from the spirit. Sometimes, the songs have a message - either to the world in general, or to a specific person. In other circumstances, the songs simply convey the artist's emotional state of mind. Like all poetry, the expressions in popular music either move the reader (listener) or not.

Obviously, the most successful artists and the songs that climb the charts are those that provide insightful observations of human nature that connect with the audience on an emotional level.

Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morisette is a highly successful female pop artist. Born in Ottawa, Canada, she now has dual-citizenship in Canada and the United States. She is 33 years old.

Morissette is probably best known for songs on her first release, Jagged Little Pill, which include the songs "Ironic," and "You Ought to Know." The lyrics for her music originate from her own poetic writings, and then she melds them into powerful songs. Morissette's career really took off when she started writing about her own emotions - usually with an angry, angst-like style. Before Jagged Little Pill, she had been largely thought of as another "Tiffany" pop artist. Morisette's songs had only been released in Canada.

Jagged Little Pill was released in 1995 and is the best-selling debut album of any female artist in the United States. An international phenomenon, the album is the highest selling debut in the world. Morissette followed up on this success, releasing Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, Under Rug Swept, and So-Called Chaos. Look for a future release, Flavors of Entanglement this year. Morissette is the singer-songwriter, and record producer of these albums. She has won 7 Grammy Awards so far.

Head Over Feet

from Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette

I had no choice but to hear you

You stated your case time and again

I thought about it

You treat me like I'm a princess

I'm not used to liking that

You ask me how my day was

You already won me over in spite of me

Don't be alarmed if I fall head over feet

Don't be surprised if I love you for all that you are

Scroll to Continue

I couldn't help it

Its all your fault

Alanis Morissette's "Ironic"

Elton John - in one of his fabulous outfits!

Elton John - in one of his fabulous outfits!

Elton John

Sir Elton John has been making music for decades. A 60-year old British pop singer, he is nearly as well-known for the outlandish costumes and glasses that he used to wear in the 1970s and 80s during concerts, as he is for his songs. John is an accomplished pianist and plays along while he sings. Unlike Morissette, Elton John does not write the lyrics of his songs. But he does create the enduring melodies for the poetic scripts of his songwriter, Bernie Taupin.

John has won five Grammy Awards, and an Academy Award, too. He is on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of Greatest Artists of All Time, number 49 of 100. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth bestowed knighthood on John in 1998.

Elton John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in 1947. In 1972, he legally changed his name to Elton Hercules John. The successful span of his career is to great to include in a short excerpt here. Of the many albums released by John, the most successful is thought to be Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, in 1973. John's connection to the Beatles, in particular, John Lennon is also legendary. After Lennon's death in 1982, John put out the hit "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)," in his grief.

Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

from the Blue Moves album - music by Elton John, lyrics by Bernie Taupin

What have I got to do to make you love me

What have I got to do to make you care

What do I do when lightning strikes me

And I wake to find that you're not there

What do I do to make you want me

What have I got to do to be heard

What do I say when its all over

And sorry seems to be the hardest word

Its sad, so sad

It's a sad, sad situation

And its getting more and more absurd

Its sad, so sad

Why cant we talk it over

Oh it seems to me

That sorry seems to be the hardest word

Elton John's Special Rendition of "Candle in the Wind" for Princess Diana



Sting is probably my most favorite musical artist of all time. Originally the lead singer in the popular 1980s band, The Police, Sting now enjoys a successful solo career, releasing albums under his own stage name. Sting is the singer, songwriter and bass player on his many records.

Sting was born Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner in Wallsend, England. His name was not legally changed, but he goes by his nickname (and now stage name), Sting. The name came about when he was with the band, the Phoenix Jazzmen and he wore a yellow and black striped shirt that his bandleader said made him look like a bumblebee.

As the lead singer and songwriter of the band, The Police, Sting helped the group achieve international fame and win 5 Grammy Awards from 1978-1983. The band didn't formally breakup, but eventually each of the musicians decided to pursue solo careers. Starting in 1985, Sting began releasing his solo albums, beginning with The Dream of the Blue Turtles. The title of the 1987 album, Nothing Like the Sun, is based on one of Shakespeare's sonnets. Sting's 1993 album, Ten Summoner's Tales is entitled as such with a nod to Geoffrey Chaucer's classic The Canterbury Tales.

Sting's songs are filled with melancholy, sadness, love and related emotions. Of all the artists overviewed in this Hub, he is definitely the most poetic. As with the overview of Elton John above, there is not enough room in this brief synopsis of Sting to give all of his amazing works proper credit.

I Was Brought to my Senses (excerpt)

by Sting from Mercury Falling

I walked out this morning

It was like a veil had been removed from before my eyes

For the first time I saw the work of heaven

In the line where the hills had been married to the sky

And all around me

Every blade of singing grass

Was calling out your name

And that our love would always last

And inside every turning leaf

Is the pattern of an older tree

The shape of our future

The shape of all our history

And out of the confusion

Where the river meets the sea

Came things Id never seen

Things Id never seen

I was brought to my senses

I was blind but now that I can see

Every signpost in nature

Said you belong to me

I know its true

Its written in a sky as blue

As blue as your eyes

As blue as your eyes

If natures red in tooth and claw

Like winters freeze and summers thaw

The wounds she gave me

Were the wounds that would heal me

And wed be like the moon and sun

And when our courtly dance had run

Its course across the sky

Then together we would lie

And out of the confusion

Where the river meets the sea

Something new would arrive

Something better would arrive

I was brought to my senses

I was blind but now that I can see

Every signpost in nature

Said you belong to me



The first time I heard Sade in concert, I was literally brought to tears. This woman has an incredible vocal range, and her slightly husky, sexy voice lends texture and depth to the lyrics of her songs.

Sade (pronounced "shaw-day") is actually a band, with its lead singer Sade Adu. Like many of the great musical artists, they are from Great Britain. Sade has been performing and releasing albums since the mid-1980s, with its first hit, "Your Love is King," on Diamond Life. The band has released a total of 6 albums to date, the most recent including Lovers Rock and Lovers Live in 2000 and 2002, respectively. They have won two Grammy Awards so far.

No Ordinary Love

by Sade from Love Deluxe

I gave you all the love I got

I gave you more than I could give

I gave you love

I gave you all that I have inside

And you took my love

You took my love

Didn't I tell you

What I believe

Did somebody say that

A love like that won't last

Didn't I give you

All that I've got to give baby

I gave you all the love I got

I gave you more than I could give

I gave you love

I gave you all that I have inside

And you took my love

You took my love

I keep crying

I keep trying for you

There's nothing like you and I baby

This is no ordinary love

No ordinary Love

This is no ordinary love

No ordinary Love

Sade's Music Video of "Cherish the Day"

The greatest poets are those that find perfect words to capture the feelings they wish to convey, and then arrange them in a way that, as readers, we are drawn in. A dance of heart-felt phrases, whether beautifully scripted on page, or set to music and sung in a way that touches our soul, can remind us of our humanness.

A famous quote, to whom I cannot properly attribute credit, paraphrased is "We read to know we are not alone."

So too, do we listen to these popular, poetic songs to understand that we're not the only one in the world that has loved, lost, or desired.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2008 Stephanie Marshall


francis5k from New York, New York on August 01, 2012:

very like article! i'm glad to read this... goodjob!

kdupree on June 06, 2011:

I love it.

nightflite on March 23, 2011:

I'd keep an eye on another Canadian poet / lyricist by the name of Joseph-Paul Amadeus.His style is a bit like the classic Rod McKuen works but much more in the romance vein. I hear his book and music should be out sometime this year.

Little Kim from Any town U.S.A. on February 19, 2011:

Great hub. It is amazing how many artists do not write their own songs and if it weren't for songwriters they woldn't be successful. I love to write poetry and songs.Much respect for any artist who writes their own lyrics.

thesimplefineline on January 19, 2011:

I couldn't agree with you more with your choices >>> INCREDIBLE SONGWRITERS with timeless songs >>> thanks for a good read !!

iWishiWasAFox from Oregon on August 13, 2010:

I really enjoyed reading this, I'm glad you put the time and effort into this piece. I'll surely find my way to another one of your posts.

sameerk from India on June 02, 2010:

nice one , really loved it

mhuze from USA on May 23, 2010:

It's true. Some songs are poetry set to music. Neil Diamond is another poet.

Kim Harris on May 17, 2010:

I like your conceptualization of what a poet does, "The greatest poets are those that find perfect words to capture the feelings they wish to convey, and then arrange them in a way that, as readers, we are drawn in." It's not quite so mechanical as line 1 rhymes with line 2......and captures the essence of, and art of, feeling expression. Thank you stephhicks.

sameerk from India on April 29, 2010:

Very nice . keep it up

Loveofnight Anderson from Baltimore, Maryland on April 01, 2010:

it appears that we have been listening to much of the same music

Cathy Nerujen from Edge of Reality and Known Space on March 22, 2010:

Awesome hub page here. This is one of the best music hubs ever. I agree, the competition thins out at the top, like my dad's hairline. Did I just say that? Ha! Great hub. Love the videos! : )

sophs on March 03, 2010:

Brilliant hub, music's just not the same these days. I enjoyed reading this, great work! :)

Chris Finocchiaro on January 08, 2010:

Check out A sneak peek into

Fascination Alleyway, subtitled Written Under The Influence Of


rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on January 05, 2010:

nice hub about great singer/songwriters, love all their music.

some of my favorite musicians tell stories with their music and lyrics, REM are great lyricists, Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, Beatles, Cat Stevens ... Simon and Garfunkel. It's hard to hear new music like that anymore. enjoyed seeing the lyrics here. :]

Sean Pierre on December 29, 2009:

I feel like popular music that people fed, is not as poetic as it once was, and that saddens me. I like anything with soul and passion myself, but I am a sucker for a guitar. Not heavy guitar. But guitar. My favorite poetic bands are Mewithoutyou, The Mountain Goats, The Forecast, Gaslight Anthem, and The Hold Steady. Those are the most poetic lyrics I've heard in a while. Especially Hold Steady, Mountain Goats, and Mewithoutyou.

I am also a long time fan of Alanis Morissette

gr8twork from Arizona on December 23, 2009:

Poetry of an unknown master- The power of the written word

That is the name of a hub page I think you should check out.

Deep from In the middle of nowhere and worldwide but still that T.O.kid from da north of America on November 20, 2009:

Hi Stephhicks68! Just came across your hub and I like it, I like it a lot. Being a fan of blues and any type of music that grips the soul while telling a story. Now that's what music is all about and believe me all these artists in your hub are not only great lyricists, they are also great storytellers. Their words speak in volumes. So thank you for this hub...

cynthiaalise from Los Angeles on July 29, 2009:

I love lyrics, and this hub made me a fan. Although, not my taste in lyrics. :-) Good job.

Honeycombs on July 14, 2009:

i love what you said about how "successful artists provide insightful observations of human nature that connect with the audience on an emotional level." I'm a singer/song writer that's trying to continue this kind of musical movement. i hope you're right and success follows :-) Music is love!

Haydee Anderson from Hermosa Beach on May 26, 2009:

personally, i love listening to 70's and 80's music, songs from that time has a story to tell and it touches our emotions.

The Lonely Hubber on April 10, 2009:

Hi stephhicks

I love poetry and pop music so I must love this hub! You have chosen perfect examples. And if I might add, I also think that Tori Amos writes poetry and sings them. Thanks :)

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on September 10, 2008:

Hi nytclubber, I agree that songs these days are much less lyrical and poetic than before. It is so great to enjoy quality music...

nytclubber on September 10, 2008:

there are a couple of songs to be noted because of their beautiful lyrics. music now doesn't seem to have these anymore. that's so bad.

sligobay from east of the equator on March 30, 2008:

Alanis Morrisette, Elton John, Sting and Sade are just a small selection of modern bards drawn from our ancient bardic tradition, notably British. Whether the verse is put to music or just poetic rythymn as in modern rap, it captures the rythymn of life that is common to us all and that is the allure. Some have always been creative and best able to record the common themes and emotions. When society was tribal, the leaders and members of the tribe recognized the artists and held them in esteem by supporting their efforts- the bards and performers. Feudal times brought the lords, ladies, kings and queens who sponsored the arts-quartets, symphonies and composers, operas and theatre,as well. But the advent of Edison's phonograph brought a century of the democratization of music. Just as Gutenberg's invention of the printing press brought about the democratization of music lyrics and ideas 300 years before, scientific advancements continue to weave the fabric of our society.

Related Articles