pop culture / Teaching Ideas

From Lyrics to Literary Devices: 3 Excellent Songs to Analyze Irony

3 songs to analyze irony in secondary ELA with purple music notes

Looking for impactful songs to analyze irony in your secondary ELA class? This post has got you covered!

Are you looking for an innovative and engaging way to teach literary devices to your secondary ELA students? Look no further! We delve into the world of music to explore 3 how popular songs can effectively communicate literary techniques, specifically irony. 

With lyrics serving as powerful examples, we analyze three well-known songs from different genres and artists, dissecting their lyrics to uncover the various forms of irony present. Through this analysis, we not only introduce students to the concept of irony but also provide them with relatable and enjoyable examples to deepen their understanding. 

Drawing on diverse styles, our chosen songs span a range of eras and themes, ensuring that your students will connect with at least one of them. By utilizing music as a teaching tool, you can make your ELA lessons more engaging, capture your students’ attention, and facilitate meaningful discussions on literary devices and their impact in different contexts.

So, get ready to harmonize educational content and pop culture as we unlock the power of irony in song lyrics!

P.S. If you’re like me and love incorporating opportunities for students to analyze short texts, check out these blog posts and resources that do exactly that:

15 Pop Culture Analysis Activities
15 songs to use in ELA (and 15 more)
Song pairings for The Odyssey
Song pairings for Romeo & Juliet
5 Songs by AAPI artists to teach literary elements
Song pairings for The Great Gatsby

3 Songs to Analyze Irony in Your Secondary ELA Class

Joji's "Glimpse of Us" (MS/HS)

“Glimpse of Us” by Joji is GREAT for teaching dramatic irony, since only the the audience understands the depth of the narrator’s emotional turmoil and lingering attachment to a past love. 

This ironically contrasts with the seemingly calm exterior and with the new partner’s unawareness of these intense feelings. 

The song invites listeners into a private world of longing and reflection, creating a poignant sense of dramatic irony as we grasp the complexity of emotions unshared and/or unrecognized by the narrator’s new partner.

SZA's "Kill Bill" (HS)

In “Kill Bill” by SZA, the irony lies in the juxtaposition of a gentle, melodious tune against dark, vengeful lyrics. 

The song explores themes of heartbreak and the desire for revenge against an ex-lover, yet it’s delivered in a surprisingly calm and catchy manner. This irony is also seen in the lyrics as the narrator repeats “I’m so mature” and suggests that because they are in therapy, they are mentally stable, yet they are plotting their ex’s murder.

This contrast creates a stark irony, as the soothing sound belies the violent imagery and emotions expressed in the lyrics, reflecting the complexity of processing pain and anger in the aftermath of a relationship.

Olivia Rodrigo's "Good 4 U" (MS/HS)

In Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U,” the irony lies in the upbeat, energetic melody contrasted with lyrics expressing deep pain and resentment over an ex-partner’s quick recovery from their breakup. 

The song’s lively pop-punk sound belies the sorrow and anger in the lyrics, showcasing the disparity between outward appearances and internal feelings. 

This juxtaposition highlights the irony of the situation, where the ex seems to be thriving, leaving the singer to deal with the emotional aftermath alone.

Closing Comments

Whether you are looking for an innovative way to teach literary devices or you’re just a fan of creatively incorporating music in your curriculum, we hope you’ve found this blog post useful!

As always, please share if you used any of these song pairings and tell us how it went. 

Happy teaching!