Journal of the
Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association
Volume 13, Number 1 (2013)

So What Does “Set Fire To The Rain” Really Mean? A Typology for Analyzing Pop Song Lyrics Using Narrative Theory and Semiotics

Quint Randle, Brigham Young University
Keith Evans, Student, Brigham Young University


Lyrics that tell a story have always been a defining characteristic of American popular music, yet the narrativity of pop music is underrepresented in academic literature. This paper utilizes a combination of semiotics and narrative theory to present a systematic method that can be used to analyze and codify the lyrics of virtually any pop song into one of four major categories based on whether it has an open or closed reading and a defined or undefined narrative. It is hoped that this typology can be used both to better understand how pop music plays a role in cultural storytelling and to aid teachers and students in the development and understanding of songwriting pedagogy.

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