language / pop culture / symbolism / Teaching Ideas / Uncategorized

Diversifying education with music: 5 popular songs with literary devices by AAPI artists

5 songs with literary devices by AAPI artists to analyze in secondary ELA is written with a blue overlay of a DJ turntable

Looking for a fresh way to introduce students to AAPI creative works? Examine these five diverse songs with literary devices by AAPI artists and make learning more engaging in secondary ELA classrooms!

5 songs with literary devices by AAPI artists to analyze in secondary ELA is written with a blue overlay of a DJ turntable

We’re all about using songs as a tool to teach valuable literary concepts, especially with figurative language. My kids always have their headphones in their ears anyway, so why not try to make their learning more attuned to their interests?

Here are some easy tips to keep in mind when incorporating music into your curriculum:
1. Use it as an opportunity to elevate voices of color and their experiences

2. Keep it appropriate (I’m going to age myself by saying…”the music nowadays,” but it’s true)

3. Make it purposeful – don’t incorporate music just to do it. Figure out what skill you want them to practice first, then use music as the tool to help them learn it.

Now, onto sharing AAPI artists’ songs with literary devices!


Aiko alludes to the lullaby “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” in her song dedicated to her child. 

“Promises” by Jhené Aiko

This heartbreaking song is also an effective song selection for teaching tone & mood!

Check out my lesson idea on cultural appropriation where Doja Cat’s “Vegas” alludes to Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog” which Elvis covered.

Dramatic irony

Joji’s song gives us, the audience, insight into something a character, his current girlfriend, knows nothing about.

“Glimpse of Us” by Joji

Discuss how dramatic irony heightens the tension in this hit song your students will love to dissect.

One of Danielle’s most valued blog posts is about 15 songs to use in your secondary ELA class! All songs are diverse and can teach a variety of skills.

Hyperbole & metaphor

The entire chorus of Gray’s song is FANTASTIC for students to understand the purpose and impact of hyperboles.

“Astronomy” by Conan Gray

The exaggeration and comparisons throughout also make this a great tool for teaching students metaphorical meanings in a text.

Any of these song selections pair wonderfully with the literary devices bundle resource, which includes a fun BINGO game your kids will love. 


This short song is great for focusing on the impact of similes. I personally think if you’re looking for songs with literary devices you want to aim for a simple song to avoid overwhelm.

“broken cd” by beabadoobee

Having students examine the power of comparison and repetition using this song is a guaranteed success!

If you’re in need of some other fresh ideas for incorporating music in your class, read this blog post that gives you 6 effective and low-maintenance ways to do so! My personal favorite includes using songs as a way to teach students about writing personal narratives.


So many of us know this song, but do our students understand what Rodrigo’s driver’s license actually symbolizes?

“driver’s license” by Olivia Rodrigo

Have students compare what it means for young adults to get their license to what it meant to Rodrigo.

If you’re looking for a resource to help guide your students’ understanding of symbolism (and allegory), say no more!

5 songs with literary devices by AAPI artists to analyze in secondary ELA is written with a blue overlay of a DJ turntable

Final remarks

No matter how you go about incorporating songs into your curriculum, I cannot speak highly enough about it. There’s something to be said for the way music engages our students, unlike any other text. It’s short, sweet, and relevant.

Want more ideas for songs to analyze in your classroom? 
Here are 15 additional songs to use, some top Broadway songs, song pairings for Romeo & Juliet, and lastly, some song pairings for The Odyssey

Want to incorporate more songs but don’t want to do the work? We’ve got you covered. Check out how Shakespeare plays can be set to pop songs! Yup, you heard that correctly.