Lyrics: Poetry and Words to a Song

Posted on April 11, 2022

The term “lyrics” is commonly used in the context of music. However, there are other uses for the term as well. Read more to learn what lyrics are, what a lyricist is, and how a lyric differs from lyrics.

What are lyrics in music?

In short, lyrics are the words to a song. The singular form of the word “lyrics,” i.e. lyric, can be used to refer to a certain line in the whole of a song’s lyrics. Certain sections in the song structure may involve the repetition of song lyrics. This includes, for instance, the chorus of a song. The term “lyrics” is used more broadly in the context of poetry as well. In order to make the distinction between lyrics of a song and lyrics in the context of poetry in general, one may also say “song lyrics.”

Traditionally, the band member or artist responsible for singing the lyrics is known as a vocalist. However, other members of a rock band or other such musical group can also take part in singing a song’s lyrics. For example, many musical artists use backup singers to also sing the lyrics.

Lyrics can be performed in other ways than singing as well. Other common forms of expressing lyrics include rapping in the rap and hip hop genres, as well as screaming and shouting in punk and heavy metal. One less common way to deliver lyrics than singing is through spoken word.

What is a lyricist?

While the performer of lyrics is referred to as a vocalist, the person who writes the lyrics is known as a lyricist. Not surprisingly, another perhaps more familiar word for lyricist is “songwriter.” As with singing the lyrics of a song, there can be more than one lyricist or songwriter responsible for writing the lyrics. The lyricist (or the multiple lyricists) is also the person to whom the lyrics’ intellectual rights (also known as copyright) belong.

What is the difference between lyrics, lyric, and lyricist?

The terms lyrics, lyric, and lyricist may cause some confusion at times. You can distinguish between these terms based on the following:

  • Lyrics: Lyrics, or more specifically song lyrics, refer to the words of a song. Example: “Do you know what the lyrics of this song mean?”
  • Lyric: In the whole of a song’s lyrics, a single lyric can be a line or a phrase. Example: “The quote is a lyric from one of her favorite songs.”
  • Lyricist: A lyricist is a person who writes a song’s lyrics. There can be more than one lyricist to a song. Also known as a songwriter. Example: “He’s a talented lyricist but not much of a vocalist.”

Learn about song lyrics and other music terminology

Read more about lyrics and other concepts in our complete Musician’s Glossary article full of music-themed terminology.

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