Songwriters and song lyrics: architecture, ambiguity and repetition

Negus, Keith and Astor, Pete. 2015. Songwriters and song lyrics: architecture, ambiguity and repetition. Popular Music, 34(2), pp. 226-244. ISSN 0261-1430 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article argues for understanding popular songs and songwriting through the metaphor of architecture, an idea we draw from vernacular terms used by songwriters when comprehending and explaining their own creative practice, and which we deploy in response to those who have called for writing about music to use a non-technical vocabulary and make greater use of metaphor. By architecture we mean those recognisable characteristics of songs that exist as enduring qualities regardless of a specific performance, recording or sheet music score. We use this analogy not as a systematic model, but as a device for exploring the intricate ways that words and music are combined and pointing to similarities in the composition of poetry and writing of song lyrics. The art of repetition and play with ambiguity are integral to popular song architectures that endure regardless of the modifications introduced by performers who temporarily inhabit a particular song.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


song lyrics, songwriting, ambiguity, repetition, popular song

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Music > Popular Music Research Unit


May 2015Published
30 April 2015Published Online

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

10 Jun 2015 10:55

Last Modified:

03 Dec 2020 14:08

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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