by Sam Inglis
What is the relationship between the singer and the song? This is a key question, and being clear about the answer can be invaluable to the songwriter. Like any piece of writing, a song lyric can be written in the first person ("I love you!"), the second person ("You're great!") or the third person ("She went to the shops to buy a pint of milk"). A third-person lyric suggests that the singer is a neutral narrator, outside of the events that he or she is describing; where you want to tell a story, this can be a natural choice. Moving into the first or second person suggests personal involvement, and can help to engage the listener on an emotional level.
Some people assume that a song in the first person must be 'true', in the sense of describing the songwriter's actual feelings, or real events. This is a very limiting assumption. A song needs to ring true with the listener, but there are other ways of doing this than simply writing down your personal experiences. Think of the singer as an actor: as the songwriter, you're creating a character for him or her to perform.
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