How to Cite a Song in an Essay

How to Cite a Song Properly in an Essay

While writing an essay, you often need to express some feelings and emotions. Lyrics is the best tool to do this. You find some line in a song that perfectly corresponds to your idea and want to insert it in your text. The advantage of using such a line is that it is short but contains everything you need to be more exact in your essay. You desire to add some flavor to the academic boredom of your essay, and you just get this chance.

Nevertheless, you cannot use the whole song because of copyright restrictions. Of course, there is no requirement concerning the number of words from the song you can use in your text. Though even if you don’t cite even three or four of them placed as a line, you may be accused of plagiarism. The in-text citation is the best way to safely insert these words into the essay. Or you may also need a reference page. If you want the lyrics in your academic paper and do not violate copyright regulations, you will sleep calmly.

Rules of Quoting Lyrics in an Essay

Citation styles may have different formats – they may be MLA, Harvard, APA, and others. In each of these formats, you will be able to cite lyrics via an in-text (usually parenthetical) citation and a note about it in a reference list. The citation quality also depends on the number of words from the song you pick out and the amount of information they contain. You also have to cite the song according to how you listen to it. For instance, if you want to cite a song heard on a CD, you can simply put it as: ‘Never play with bombs for your pleasure’, The Smiles claim in their song with the same title.

However, you can put it in a bit different way when using the MLA format. Use the parenthesis to write the author’s anime, for example, ‘In the words ‘never play with bombs for your pleasure’ (The Smiles), it is obvious that…’
When you need the APA or Harvard style, note the difference. You should indicate the singer’s name, date, and the number of the track on the CD, for example (The Smiles, 2020, Track 4).

The citation, even if it is short, needs quotation marks. When it is long, for example, it includes two or more lines, you need to use a blockquote. Indent the quote from the previous paragraph.

Including Cited Lyrics in a Reference List

When you quote lyrics in the text, you should also include a note about it in a reference list below the essay. It needs the title of the album that contains this song.

When you use MLA, indicate the name of a performer, the album’s title, its publisher, and the date.
e.g., The Smiles. Lost in the Wind. Big Yard Studios, 2020. CD.

If you take the lyrics from the booklet that accompanies the CD, add the information about it in the source’s title.
e.g., The Smiles. Booklet. Lost in the Wind. Big Yard Studios, 2020.

You can also find the song on the Internet. You should mention this in your reference. Write the name of the website you have taken it from, the publication data from this site, and its URL.

e.g., The Smile. Lyrics to ‘Don’t Play with Bombs’. Genius, 2021,’t-play-with-bombs-lyrics.
When you need the APA or Harvard format, add the copyright date.

e.g., The Smiles (2020). Lost in the Wind. [CD]. Chicago: Big Yard Studios (Recorded 2020).

Using Italics or Quotation Marks

You may wonder whether to use quotation marks or italics when you cite lyrics in the essay. The common rule is the following. The song’s title is used in quotation marks, while the title of the CD or album is placed in italics.

The song title may have a question or exclamation mark at the end. They should be preserved inside the quotation marks because they belong to the title. All other punctuation that is not a part of the title should be placed outside the quotation marks.

Important Tips

When you quote lyrics in your essay, you should consider the following tips:

1.Avoid cliches. Many parts of famous lyrics have become cliches, for example, ‘All you need is love.’ Using them does not add much freshness to your paper, so try to stay away from them.

2.Use paraphrasing. Do not include the whole long lyrics in your original essay. Your professors are sure to remember all those words from their youth, but they will be surprised why you have decided to remind them of all these words in your essay. Use just one or two lines that correspond most of all to your purpose and paraphrase all the others if you think they are important.

3.Evoke readers’ imagination. Every song consists of lyrics and melody, and this combination helps readers create a vivid scene in their minds. If you refer to the lyrics, remember to make your readers feel the atmosphere of this song and your ideas related to it. If you cannot evoke any emotions in your reader, choose some other way of transferring your thoughts.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, using lyrics in your academic paper is a great idea as long as you know how to do it properly. Citation of such lyrics is an integral part of your work, so be attentive to following all the academic format requirements highlighted in your assignment instruction.