Many songs contain personification.
Personification is a commonly used literary device most prevalent in the text—and music. It consists of giving a non-human thing human-like qualities.
If you’re a teacher, student, or professional, you can use music to learn more about this popular literary device.
The following guide contains the best songs with personification. Listen to each one individually, or make a playlist!
1. “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles
Song Year: 1969
This may be one of the most famous songs of all time. By the genre-bending group The Beatles, “Here Comes the Sun” is a glorious song about overcoming hard times and finding joy again.
The lyrics assure that things will be alright—and it feels that way when listening to this song. Best of all, there’s tons of personification in this song. The sun, for example, is personified, as is the smile allegedly returning to the singer’s face.
The Beatles were a band from the 1960s consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Stars. They are primarily considered the most influential band of all time.
2. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson
Song Year: 1982
“Thriller” is another viral song that uses personification several times throughout its lyrics. This song was initially written to resemble a horror movie—and the music video is quite scary.
The song’s lyrics contain a warning to beware of all the creatures in the night—many of which get personified using colorful language.
Thriller rose to the top of the Billboard charts in February 1983 and remained there for several weeks.
Michael Jackson was a singer, actor, and philanthropist. He is considered among the most influential figures of the 20th century for his gender-bending style and musical talent.
3. “Master of Puppets” by Metallica
Song Year: 1987
“Master of Puppets” is a hit song by the thrash band Metallica. This song is about the vocalist and rhythm guitar player James Hetfield’s struggle with addiction. The entire piece consists of a personification of drugs and alcohol as a dark force overtaking his body and directing his actions.
Metallica is a thrash and heavy metal band comprising James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich, Robert Trujillo, Cliff Burton, and Dave Mustaine. The band has always been popular, but they’ve recently enjoyed more attention due to featuring on the hit show Stranger Things.
4. “Thank You” by Led Zeppelin
Song Year: 1969
Led Zeppelin was a famous English rock band formed in 1968. The band consisted of members Robert Plant (lead vocals), Jimmy Page, John Jones, and John Bonham.
Led Zeppelin is known for their consistent hit singles, and “Thank You” isn’t among them. However, this is one of their best songs and features personification.
The song is a love ballad addressed to the object of the narrator’s affection. The song is about loving someone no matter what happens. When the sun is described as refusing to shine, this is personification.
5. “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel
Song Year: 1964
This song is about confronting one’s demons in the silence that reigns in solitude. It’s among the most beautiful songs in music history and leverages personification several times.
For example, the singer addresses the song to darkness as though it were a person.
Simon & Garfunkel was an American folk rock duo comprised of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Sound of Silence is their most famous song. It climbed to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966 and continues to appear in many films and TV shows.
6. “Fireworks” by Katy Perry
Song Year: 2010
“Fireworks” peaked at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 2010 and continues to enjoy popularity today. It’s no wonder it’s so popular.
This song is a self-love anthem that features several similes, metaphors, and examples of personification. For instance, Perry compares herself to a plastic bag floating in the wind and personifies fireworks to represent resilience.
Katy Perry, known as Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, is a singer and songwriter. She has heavily influenced contemporary pop music.
7. “Hummingbird Heartbeat” by Katy Perry
Song Year: 2010
If you’ve ever fallen in love, you know that it can sometimes feel like a hummingbird is beating its wings in your chest.
That’s what this song is about; Katy Perry’s “Hummingbird Heartbeat” is yet another song about the physical symptoms of love. She compares her lover’s racing heartbeat to the wings of a hummingbird, connoting personification.
Perry is known for her campy style and for using numerous literary devices in her music. If you’re looking for an excellent artist to teach or understand personification, you’ve found her.
8. “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day
Song Year: 1997
Green Day is another band well-known for its use of literary devices. This song, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” features several examples of personification. Namely, the artist describes time as grabbing him by the wrist, a figure of speech.
The song is about biding one’s time and finding the meaningful things in life. It’s one of Green Day’s uncharacteristically slow and solemn songs—but it’s also one of their most beautiful.
9. “I Used to Love H.E.R” by Common
Song Year: 1994
This is a song about the genre of hip-hop. Common compares his music to a woman he once loved, saying people mistreated her. He is trying to argue that the genre has changed so much that it is no longer recognizable, and he is advocating for a return to hip-hop roots.
Common is an American rap artist who has received three Grammy awards for his work. “I Used to Love H.E.R”. topped the Billboard Hot Rap Singles upon its release in 1994.
10. “La Isla Bonita” by Madonna
Song Year: 1986
Madonna is a Grammy award-winning pop singer and songwriter known for her risqué style and compelling lyrics.
Her song, “La Isla Bonita,” draws inspiration from Latino artists of the time. It is about a beautiful tropical island and falling in love with a man named Pedro. It is the sort of song that will make you long for your next vacation.
Madonna uses personification when she describes the wind as being carried by the sea—obviously, the sea cannot have anything.
11. “Careless Whisper” by George Michael
Song Year: 1984
This is one of the most popular songs ever—but did you know it uses personification?
George Michael uses personification in this song to describe time and his feet. The music itself is about making a mistake and being dishonest with someone. The singer expresses his regret and desire to never dance with anyone else again.
George Michael was an English singer and songwriter. He is among the most successful musicians, with an estimated 125 million record sales worldwide.
12. “The Wind Cries Mary” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Song Year: 1967
The Jimi Hendrix Experience was a band consisting of Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding, and Mitch Mitchell. The three were all from England and were formerly members of another band, The Animals.
“The Wind Cries Mary” is one of the band’s most well-known songs. It is about the narrator’s love for a woman named Mary. In the song, he maintains that the wind cries her name, which it obviously cannot do. This is an example of personification.
13. “The Sun” by Ghostface Killah (feat. Raekwon, Slick Rick, and RZA)
Song Year: 2001
Ghostface Killah, otherwise known as Dennis David Coles, is an American rapper and one of the many members of the hit hip-hop group the Wu-Tang Klan.
“The Sun,” featuring Wu-Tang Klan, is among his most popular tracks. He talks about the sun’s functions. He maintains that the sun continues to shine no matter on Earth. He uses personification to describe the sun.
14. “Under the Bridge” by The Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Song Year: 1991
This song is about loneliness in a big city—a message many can relate to. In this song, the protagonist describes driving alone through Los Angeles, reminiscing about his past. He uses personification to represent the city as though it were a woman, maintaining that she looks after him because she is his companion.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are an American rock band consisting of vocalist Anthony Kiedis, drummer Chad Smith, bassist Flea, and guitarist John Frusciante.
15. “Drink Away the Pain (Situations)” by Mobb Deep (feat. Q-Tip)
Song Year: 1995
This entire song personifies Tanqueray, Mobb Deep’s favorite drink. In the song, he addresses the liquor bottle as though it were a woman, arguing that she isn’t healthy for him—much like a toxic relationship.
It’s an experience we can all relate to finding oneself locked in an unhealthy relationship with a person, substance, or behavior.
Mobb Deep was a famous hip-hop duo from New York City. Formed in 1991, the group consists of rappers Prodigy and Havoc.
16. “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” by Elton John
Song Year: 1984
Elton John is a singer and songwriter well-known for his genre-bending style and revolutionary lyrics. He earned particular acclaim throughout the 1970s for introducing new elements to popular music.
His song, “Sad Songs (Say So Much),” is about sadness and listening to sad music to feel one’s pain deeply. This song is full of examples of personification, comparing sad songs to people. It’s a beautiful addition to this playlist and makes for an excellent study of literary devices.
17. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
Song Year: 2014
This song is, for lack of a better word, happy. It’s a song about finding the light after a storm and regaining confidence and self-love.
In this song, artist Pharrell Williams uses personification to describe the sunshine greeting him as he leaves his house.
Pharrell Williams is an American singer, rapper, and producer. “Happy” reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and replaced Katy Perry, another artist on this list.
18. “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra
Song Year: 1977
Frank Sinatra is among the most well-known 20th-century singers, songwriters, and actors. His song, “New York, New York,” is famous for covering a popular theme: New York City. The song describes New York like a person, preventing him from leaving. It was the theme song for a movie of the same name directed by Martin Scorsese.
Sinatra uses several examples of personification throughout this song, namely when he describes his shoes as wanting to stay in New York.
19. “Rooster” by Alice in Chains
Song Year: 1991
This song is about the Vietnam War—hardly a cheery topic, but Alice in Chains isn’t known for their bright, upbeat music.
The song details lead singer Jerry Cantrell’s father’s experiences fighting in Vietnam. Cantrell describes the bullets as screaming, which is an example of personification.
Alice in Chains was a grunge band from the late 1990s that earned particular acclaim for transcending the limitations of the genre.
20. “25 to Life” by Eminem
Song Year: 2010
Eminem is a famous rapper known for his tremendous success. The artist has won five top spots on the Billboard charts, and over 30 songs have been placed on the coveted list.
His song, “25 to Life,” is about a man serving a life sentence—but it’s a metaphor for Eminem’s relationship with the hip-hop genre.
In this song, he compares hip-hop to a woman, claiming that she disrespected him and he deserves better.
21. “Highway Don’t Care” by Tim McGraw
Song Year: 2013
This song has personification in its title since a highway obviously cannot care about anything.
Furthermore, “Highway Don’t Care” includes several examples of personification in which Tim McGraw compares the highway to a human being.
The song itself is about the welcomed solitude of a long, dark highway. Artist Tim McGraw is a country singer, songwriter, and record producer known for topping the Billboard charts consistently. Ten of his albums have peaked at number one on the Top Country Albums charts.
Top Songs With Personification, Final Thoughts
The songs on this list consist of the best songs about personification. From Eminem to Tim McGraw, these artists have crafted music perfect for literary analysis—or just to listen to.