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SongCat Shares: Personification in Songwriting

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Personification in Songwriting by André Douglas from SongCat, guest blogger. Sponsored content for the Songwriters Association of Canada from the SongCat Team.

Portrait of professional songwriter working in studio

Portrait of professional songwriter working in studio

What is Personification in Songwriting?

Without realizing it, personification is used pretty often in everyday language. If you were to start recording all your conversations, you would probably be surprised at how many times you used this figure of speech.

What is Personification?

It is a literary device that is used to give human or living qualities to inanimate objects, animals or concepts. It’s really a form of metaphor but on a more relatable level. As a result, using personification when crafting your lyrics can cause them to be more memorable and help the listener relate more to the message you’re sending.

In using personification, some of the human qualities most often transferred in lyrics are emotions, physical characteristics, and actions. Let’s look at a few examples that depict each.


“This love is killing me/ But you’re the only one” from “It’s not Over” by Daughtry. In this line, love is expressed as having a devastating effect. As it stands, many will argue that love can actually kill, so go figure.

Physical Characteristics

“She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean” from “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC. Long before Rihanna sang “Shut up and Drive” AC/DC was comparing automobiles to lovers as can be seen in this opening line. This lyric also shows that personification can be reversed; as in likening a human to an object rather than the other way around.


“Baby/ I compare you to a kiss from a rose on the grey” from “Kiss From a Rose” by Seal. The artist clearly wasn’t talking about a girl called Rose here. However, the giving of roses and other flowers is often associated with warm, fuzzy feelings, much like receiving a kiss from a lover.
Using personification in music often comes effortlessly, but songwriters need to be mindful of not bordering on exaggeration. Crossing that line means you run the risk of losing your listeners.
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