The other day I was thinking about creativity in music and realized that songwriters have been writing lyrics with double meanings for a long time. Bryan Adams’ “Summer Of ‘69” was certainly not about the season.
More recently, The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” has been likened to, albeit unconfirmed, taking cocaine. Even Rihanna has used thought-provoking lyrics in songs such as “Shut up and Drive.” Many more examples come to mind as it relates to song lyrics that produce ‘ah-ha’ moments or cause people to raise an eyebrow wondering “…is that line saying what I think it means?”
Surely, this is a good songwriting and lyric writing tactic, we believe, that all songwriters should include in at least a few of their creations. We recently set out to get an idea of just how popular this practice was among modern songwriters. And after analyzing the response, we came up with some tips to offer those of you who are songwriters and probably want to use dual-meaning lyrics but aren’t sure how to go about it. Here goes:
1. Think about a suitable overall theme
What do you want the song to be about? Most songs with double meanings often have undertones relating to sex, violence, death, addiction, or even intense love. The trick is to make it so subtle that the listener has to give a second listen, or do some research, or even ask others what they think about your song lyrics.
2. Give your song a seemingly insignificant topic
Think about a topic that no one would consider typical for a song, such as: a type of drink, an electrical device or tool, even a household chore (the possibilities are endless). Using a topic that doesn’t seem significant will make the listener underestimate the intention or meaning of your song, and then they get bowled over when they listen and a different interpretation hits home.
3. Tie in lyrics that are profound in meaning but still relate to the topic
A good example of this is “Daddy” by Emeli Sandé, where the main topic alludes to having an abusive relationship with a ‘player.’ However, it has striking lines such as “Put it in your pocket, don’t tell anyone I gave you” and “It can be your daddy, daddy / if you take it gladly, gladly,” which has left many speculating that the song is really about drug addiction.
4. Try not to give away the details
The best songs that have dual meanings keep people guessing even after several replays and combing through the lyrics. Some of your lyrics can come close to revealing the true meaning but still maintain the mystery. If you’re able to do this, you could generate quite a buzz.
That art of using lyrics with a double meaning is a great songwriting skill that many of today’s hit makers use to keep their fans guessing. As such, we believe it can surely help you make a bigger impact with your music if you learn to master it. Try this out when creating your next songwriter demo or musical project and see what happens.