What Is the Function of Hyperbole in Songs?

Dee Jones

Hyperbole is a literary device that uses exaggeration. Sometimes, hyperbole is used create strong feelings in the mind of the listener by comparing an emotion to an object, experience, or event, or a songwriter might also use hyperbole to create vivid images in the mind of a listener. Another use of hyperbole is as a sort of verbal shorthand. Instead of trying to describe something in detail, which could take several lines or stanzas, a songwriter can use hyperbole to get the same point across to the listener in a single line.

Songwriters might use the idea of a roller coaster to quickly describe what a love affair was like.
Songwriters might use the idea of a roller coaster to quickly describe what a love affair was like.

A poet often uses hyperbole to create strong feelings and impressions in the mind of a reader, and using hyperbole in songs often does the same in the mind of a listener. The line, “My heart was ripped in two,” not only helps the listener understand the scope of the pain being spoken of in the song, but can also help the listener remember a time when he felt the same sort of pain, which will help him to identify with the song. Hyperbole in songs is often used to express the entire range of human emotions, from loss, to fear, to happiness. Many songs compare love to something large, powerful, or enduring, like a mountain, an ocean, or even an entire planet.

The hyperbole in songs is also used to help the listener form a specific image in his mind. While a songwriter can say a woman wore red lipstick, saying her lips were as red as roses is more vivid image in the listeners' minds. The words the songwriter uses for the comparison can also have different connotations. Saying a woman’s lips are as red as roses usually has romantic connotations. Saying her lips are as red as blood, however, would give the song a more dark and sinister tone.

Finally, hyperbole in songs can act as a sort of shorthand. Like poets, songwriters have to try to convey a message in a limited amount of words. Instead of using an entire stanza to try to explain how falling in love feels, a songwriter can use hyperbole to describe the feeling in just a few words. So falling in love might be described as riding on an out-of-control roller coaster, floating on air, or growing 40 feet tall.

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