When you just start to learn the process of writing a song, and you don’t know how to start writing lyrics, it’s not a wrong idea to look up what are the most commonly used words in lyrics. It’s OK to look at these words as a starting point.
However, keep in mind that it’s not about what is common in those songs, it’s about how your song will be DIFFERENT from other songs. How your song will be unique.
Words used in lyrics is changing all the time. They used different words in the 90s, different words in the 80s, etc. For example, the most common word was “swing” in the lyrics of the 1930s. In the 50s, it was “mambo”. So if you analyze a song, you always need to take into account when it was written.
By the way, this is also true for music, not only for the lyrics. And even if you check one artist, their lyrics are constantly changing. For example, Taylor Swift was writing completely different songs 5 or 6 years ago.
Another important thing to know is that these are only words, and not phrases or sentences. Context is everything. You can use the same word in very different contexts and with very different meanings.
I analyzed the lyrics of thousands of songs to find what are the most common words in songs, so let’s see what are these words, and what is the best way to use them in your songs.
I think nobody is surprised knowing the fact that the most common word of all time is the word “love”. Most song lyrics are about this topic, so we are not surprised. But we also know that it’s a little bit tricky to write about love because saying simply “I love you” became soooo overused, and so cheesy.
So how can we use this word without writing corny, overused lyrics?
Here is the trick. You can use an overused word but put it in a sentence that will say the opposite. For example, instead of saying “I love you”, you can use a phrase like “I don’t wanna love you”. Obviously, you need to explain WHY with the other parts of the lyrics: Because I don’t want to get hurt, because you are a heartbreaker, etc. This way you still use the word but not in an overused context.
Another example of the word “dance”. Instead of saying “let’s dance”, you can say “I don’t wanna dance”.
‘Cause I’ve been here for much, too long
I don’t really wanna dance
And I hate most of these songs
Plus my feet are killing me
I don’t really wanna dance
Shoulda stayed my ass at home
(Elle Varner – Don’t Wanna Dance)
Another example, instead of saying “let’s talk about the weather”, the band Lawrence says:
I won’t talk about the weather
Not with you, we’re not together
(Lawrence – The Weather)
Instead of saying “I miss you”, you can say “I don’t wanna miss you”. (Taylor Swift – End Game)
Let’s see a few more examples for the word “love”, and how they use it in lyrics.
“Give me love like never before” – Ed Sheeran
“I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love“ – Bob Dylan
“Love Is The Seventh Wave” – Sting
“I’ll try to say a little more
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door
Then love itself
Love itself was gone” – Leonard Cohen
“Love the way you lie” – Eminem
A little bit surprising to know that the word “never” one of the most common words in lyrics. Here are some examples of how they used it before.
“We are never, ever, ever getting back together” – Taylor Swift
“Never can say goodbye” – Michael Jackson
“Never say goodbye” – Bob Dylan
“So you write it in a letter all the things you couldn’t say
And you tell him that you’re never coming home” – Sting
“I wouldn’t be where I am
If my father didn’t tell me to never say I can’t” – Bruno Mars
“Never Say Never“ – Justin Bieber
“All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the night sky
Will never be enough” – Loren Allred
You can use the word “time” in a lot of different contexts because it has different meanings. You can talk about the past, for example, “all those times before” or “Remember the time” (Michael Jackson). Not surprisingly the topic of the lyrics is mostly about relationships.
Or you can talk about the present, for example, “this is the last time I let you in”, or “One Last Time”:
So one last time
I need to be the one who takes you home
One more time
I promise after that, I’ll let you go
(Ariana Grande – One Last Time)
“If you fall, I will catch you, I’ll be waiting
Time after time“ – Cyndi Lauper
“Living on borrowed time
Without a thought for tomorrow” – John Lennon
“Life” can be a powerful and timeless word to use in any lyrics, so it’s not surprising that it is one of the most used words of all time. Let’s see some examples of how songwriters used it before.
“Life‘s like forever becoming
But life‘s forever dealing in hurt
Now life‘s like death without living
That’s what life‘s like without you” – Lou Reed
“It’s the book of my days, it’s the book of my life
And it’s cut like a fruit on the blade of a knife
And it’s all there to see as the section reveals
There’s some sorrow in every life“ – Sting
“You will let me call your name,
‘Cause I love you more than light,
And it will always be this way
As long as I believe in life.” – Eric Clapton
“I miss it when
Life was a party to be thrown
But that was a million years ago” – Adele
Relationships, relationships, relationships. It’s always about relationships, and love and breakup, and regret and missing someone. But it looks like “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” (Elton John). Yet, this is also one of the most commonly used words in lyrics.
Talking about saying the opposite so the word won’t be placed in an overused context: Saying that you actually are NOT sorry.
“Baby, I’m sorry, I’m not sorry“ – Demi Lovato
“Sorry if I’m up and down a lot (Yeah)
Sorry that I think I’m not enough
And sorry if I say sorry way too much” – Ariana Grande
The secret pattern behind successful songs
Get the eBook for $4.99
About the Author
Producer, songwriter at Bánhidy András, and Barrio Latino Hungría. Author of The Rhythm Code.