3 Reasons Your Lyrics Don't Need To RhymeSep 04, 2021
Rhyming lyrics. It can be good. It also can be bad.
I’ve seen it SO MANY times.
You’re just starting to dip your toes into songwriting. You’ve got some lyrics written down. You’re kind of proud of it but also feel a weird sense of embarrassment.
It is truly TERRIFYING to put yourself out there with a lyric from the depths of your soul. I get it.
But something just feels off to you. So you make sure the syllables line up and the song rhymes. Maybe your song doesn’t rhyme so you change around the lyrics so it does. But now you feel even less confident in your work.
But it has to rhyme, right??
No. It doesn’t.
Don’t believe me? Let me show you.
Rhyming Lyrics Can Be Unnecessary Shackles
I know you want to write a great lyric. Believe me. I always prided myself on being a self-proclaimed “lyrics-first” guy. This basically means that if the lyrics aren’t good enough, who cares about the rest?
I’ll never be that happy with a song I write unless the lyrics are just right. So I know the desire to write a great lyric. One you can imagine people framing and putting on their wall right next to a couple of the 13,000 family pictures they have.
But, here’s the thing. You might think that you need to rhyme to have a great lyric but, really, forcing yourself to rhyme might hinder you on your heroic quest.
Don’t you want to mean every word you say in your lyric? There is a certain precision loss we get once we lock into a rhyme scheme. Now, you’d like to use the word “shadow”, but you already wrote the other line with the word “fight” so…. I guess we’re rhyming with “night” AGAIN.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Unless it isn’t quite what you wanted to say.
As it is, we already have a bunch of concerns while writing a lyric. We want the lyric to be meaningful, memorable, and with the syllables right (or close). Why shackle ourselves even further with rhyming if we don’t have to?
On the other side, sometimes a rhyme can be used as a crutch.
I don’t know what to say next…. Well, I said “me” at the end of the last line. I guess I’ll say something about “Set me free”.
STOP IT. DON’T DO THAT. Write what you want to say, not what the rhyme dictates you say. What next? Are you going to let your mom tell you what lyric to write? Maybe that girlfriend who doesn’t even like your music? Or maybe your boss, I bet he’s a real lyricist. Don’t let your rhyme scheme be the boss.
Rhyming Lyrics Can Make a Song Overly Predictable or Feel Unoriginal
I’m looking at you, “night” and “light”. I guess opposites do attract.
But, I get it. A rhyme definitely can help people remember your lyric. It can add to its catchiness. For sure. I never said rhyming was bad. But people want familiar, just not TOO familiar.
It’s like your boyfriend or girlfriend. You want to remind them JUST enough of their ex to feel like you’re a friendly and familiar face. But you don’t want to remind them so much that when you quote Yoda just like their ex did, they run for the hills.
And, if you’re in Ohio like I am, the hills are VERY far away.
But seriously. Have you ever noticed the thin line between people complaining about boring, uninspired, and unoriginal and loving something?
We’re all adults here. So obviously cheese pizza is boring. And ONLY pepperoni on your pizza? Are we a 1st grade pizza party?
But you do like a good fungus on your pizza (Mushrooms obviously). We do it without thinking twice. Rabbit food? Pile it on. Pig behind? Do it. Gross grape-looking black ovals with eyes? Why not?
But put pineapple on and everyone FREAKS OUT.
If you even have the nerve to suggest pineapple, buckle up. You’re about to have a bunch of normally-passionless people give you a fully-prepared dissertation on why the greatest crime humanity has ever committed was pineapple on pizza.
So much for movie night.
So this is the humanity you’re dealing with. It’s tough.
Your rhymes can quickly move you into the “cheese pizza” level of boring. Oh, you rhymed “You” with “True”? Full on cheese. You don’t even like pepperoni or bacon on your pizza YOU MONSTER.
I kid, but there are so many seriously eye-roll worthy rhymes out there. You know what I mean. When you’ve never heard a song before, but you already know the next line because it’s so cliche-ridden and predictable.
We don’t want that. We want to write something different enough to merit someone spending a full 4 minutes giving a crap about what we have to say.
And, on the pineapple pizza side, we also don’t want to put in bizarre rhymes that are jarring to the listener.
No One Will Even Notice If Your Song Rhymes
You don’t believe me. I know you don’t. I can see your doubting eyes. But let’s put this to the test. If you can instantly answer my question, I’ll concede.
Your FAVORITE song. Does it rhyme?
YOU DON’T KNOW. You must be so embarrassed right now. Like when you waved back at that person who wasn’t waving at you. You should have known she was too pretty to be waving at you.
All jokes aside, even if you did know the answer, I bet you had to think about it just a tad. Or, at the very least, there are plenty of songs you do like and you have no idea if they rhyme or not.
You have to think about the lyrics right now to even figure it out.
You may be thinking ok, so I might not know, but it’s just because I subconsciously know. I would bet $1000 that you love more than one song that doesn’t rhyme.
Furthermore, I don’t buy that you subconsciously notice and like or dislike a song based on if it rhymes or not. You like a song because of how it makes you feel. What it makes you think about. The memories it brings back. The lyrics that express your thoughts and feeling better than you ever could. The melody that gives you goosebumps. The sweet guitar work. The strings they added to make the chorus feel huge.
You don’t care about the rhyme or the lack thereof.
It’s like eye color. Sometimes you notice, sometimes you know someone for years without ever noticing. My wife knew me for 2 years, was friends with me for like a year, and chose to date me all before even noticing I had blue eyes.
How? I still have no idea. She thought my ears were cute though. Too bad there aren’t many ear modeling gigs out there.
You don’t care about the rhyme. You don’t. I promise. And no one will care if you rhyme either.
Write a great lyric. If you can rhyme without compromising what you want to say, great. If you find yourself constantly changing what you wanted to communicate just to fit a rhyme scheme, maybe just abandon it.
I want you to write a great song.
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