Sailing Aboard the USS "False Rhyme"

In every art from there are trends. Songwriting isn't any different. It wasn't too many years ago that perfect rhymes and glib wordplay were all the rage. But the winds have changed direction. Today's lyrics are more casual and conversational. To accommodate this sea-change, songwriters are charting a different course through the waters of rhyme.

And for the time being, the false rhyme is steering the ship.

To understand what I'm talking about, you first need to familiarize yourself with all the different types of rhyme. To learn about false rhymes and other types of rhyme go here.

Nowadays many songwriters eschew perfect rhymes. They are perceived as too cutesy and neat, almost juvenile or "nursery rhyme-ish". As a result, false rhymes have become the norm in songs of all genres (with the possible exception of show tunes or musicals - still known for their glibness). False rhymes feel more mature and more casual, exactly what today's songwriters want.

After decades of use in pop music perfect rhymes are also often predictable. They represent a small, safe harbor of the well-worn and the cliche. For example, who hasn't already heard "fire" paired with "desire" about a million times? False rhymes, on the other hand, open up an ocean of new word choice possibilities.

You may be asking "just how casual can I get with my false rhymes?" The answer: pretty darn casual. As long as the vowel sounds are the same, you can get away with almost anything. Too illustrate just how "loose" rhyming has become, let's compare the first verses of two songs.

First, here's a song of yesteryear, written by the genius Cole Porter. Notice the perfect rhymes and clever wording (not to mention the cool alliteration in the second line, and sneaky inside rhyme in the last line):

At Long Last Love by Cole Porter (performed by Frank Sinatra:
Is it an earthquake, or simply a shock?
Is it the good turtle soup, or is it merely the mock?
Is it a cocktail, this feeling of joy?
Or is what I feel the real mccoy?

Now here's a song written just a few years ago by Brad Paisley. Notice how not one single couplet ends with a perfect rhyme. Only the vowel sounds match.

Time Well Wasted by Brad Paisley:
I could've been workin' overtime
Or at home tryin' to make that truck run right
Instead of wadin' out in that stream
All day long barely catchin' a thing
Just me and dad
I'm glad he talked me in to that

Also, notice the difference in tone between the two lyrics. The first is very crafty, the second very casual. It's the latter that most songwriters are sailing towards these days.

Bon voyage!

*photo by xmat.


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