A lot of my students, when asked whether or not poetry is necessary, respond with the idea that it is, if only for entertainment value. When prompted to go further, they argue that song lyrics are a form of poetry, and that music is entertainment. The discussion moves from there, and usually I prompt them to come to class armed with lyrics they feel are poetry. Inevitably, the ones that seem to be most poetic--rich in rhythm, metaphor, lyricism, etc.--are those of rap songs, often underground rap songs. Pop songs tend to be trite, at best, and despite lectures on imagery vs. abstraction, students defend them with thoughts like "well, you have to understand what she means. It's like interpretation."
That being said, to slam all pop lyrics as trite and unpoetic would be unfair. For example, Paul Simon greens me with envy every time I hear the opening line of "Graceland":
"The Mississippi Delta was shining like a national guitar"
which he later follows up with "My traveling companions are ghosts in empty pockets."
These two lines, in a song concerning a pilgrimage to Elvis's home and a search for community and redemption, are poignant.
or what about R.E.M.'s tribute to Kurt Cobain, "Let Me In," which begins:
"All those stars slip down like butter/and promises to keep."
The double vehicle of that simile, surreal and heartbroken at the same time, is another jealous moment for me as a writer. Also, the allusion to Patti Smith should not go unmentioned, either.
So, what are some other really excellent metaphors or similes (not just brilliant imagery) from pop music (not rap...that should probably be a different post topic) and why do you feel that they are particularly poignant. How do the vehicles of these figures illuminate the tenor in some way, or establish a particular tone that works even with out being sung or with musical accompaniment?