Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Ticket 73: Break The Rhyme Scheme

Don't Be Afraid To Break Rhyme

Lou Reed

(U2 by U2 p.196)

Rhyme creates a pleasing sense of structure and breaking it can really annoy your listeners and mark you out as an amateur BUT interrupting the rhyme scheme for a good reason can make you look like a master. Three good ways to break a rhyme are

  • Look back - by rhyming your line with one in the same place in a previous verse.
  • Look forward - by rhyming with an extra line still to come.
  • Mess with expectations - by 'telegraphing' an obvious rhyme and them substituting the synonym or other unexpected word for humorous effect.

McCartney 'breaks' the rhyme scheme in Hey Jude's second bridge without making it feel wrong or awkward. Because the 'broken' bridge

in/begin/perform with – you/do/shoulder

calls back to the first bridge

pain/refrain/shoulders – fool/cool/colder

In Octopus's Garden Ringo ends every verse with a simple rhyme

I'd ask my friends to come and see
An octopus's garden with me

We would sing and dance around
Because we know we can't be found

But on the 3rd verse he alters the pattern

We would be so happy you and me
No one there to tell us what to do

which sets up the new coda section

We would be so happy you and me
No one there to tell us what to do
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus's garden with you

The comic power of a 'mind' rhyme comes from using the listeners' expectations against them. Setting up a rhyme with an expletive or some other embarrassing word, then dodging it at the last moment can be very effective.

I have a sad story to tell you
It may hurt your feelings a bit
Last night when I walked into my bathroom
I stepped in a big pile of shaving cream

Shaving Cream (Benny Bell with Paul Wynn)

1968 Hey Jude - The Beatles
1968 I Will - The Beatles
1969 I’ve Got A Feeling - The Beatles
1969 The Long And Winding Road - The Beatles
1969 Octopus's Garden - The Beatles


1932 Eadie Was a Lady - Ethel Merman
1933 Sitting On The Ice In The Ice Rink - George Formby
1937 I Can't Be Bothered Now - Fred Astaire
1946 Shaving Cream - Benny Bell with Paul Wynn
1959 The Real American Folk Song (Is A Rag) - Ella Fitzgerald
1971 L'America - The Doors - "Change the weather, change your luck / And then he'll teach you how to ...... find yourself"
1988 Kiss Me Son of God - They Might Be Giants - “Now you're the only one here who can tell me if it's true / That you love me... and I love me”
1989 On the Greener Side - Michelle Shocked - "You say you want to give me a run for my money / There's something I'm gonna admit / Well, it may sound funny, but Romeo, honey / I don't want none of your … love"
1991 Under The Sea (The Little Mermaid) - Samuel E. Wright – coda
1992 One More Sleep Till Christmas (Muppet Christmas Carol) - Steve Whitmire
2003 Mr Brightside - The Killers - comedy mind rhyme (0:33)
2013 In Summer [From Frozen] - Josh Gad - “Winter’s a good time to stay in and cuddle / but put me in summer and I’ll be a...happy snowman!"

See also

Ticket 23: Write fewer lyrics
Ticket 24: Repeat words and sentence structures
Ticket 54: Unify your lyrical imagery
Ticket 72: Embrace your mistakes

See the full list of songwriting tips here - Tickets To Write

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