What Is a Song?

A song is more than the music that flows out of your headphones, it’s the melodies and lyrics, the grooves and beats that give a track its unique characteristics. Often the most memorable songs are those with lyrics that resonate or tell a story that captures the audience’s attention. Lyrical content has been shown to influence a song’s emotional valence as well as its ability to evoke empathy and promote positive mood states.

However, what is the definition of a song? It can be difficult to pin down, especially since musical genres vary so widely. Music serves many functions, including alleviating boredom, promoting social cohesion and communication, or regulating emotions. The role of a song’s lyrical content and the singing voice is important in this regard, as is its ability to evoke a specific emotion.

The emergence of new technologies and digital platforms has also changed the way we think about music. It has also raised questions about the boundaries between what is considered a song and what is considered an instrumental piece of music.

This article brings together a variety of resources from the Library to explore the concept of song in our changing world. It features articles on topics ranging from the history of popular American songs to traditional ballads and Broadway musicals to ethnographic music. Each essay is designed to provide a different framework for teaching the importance of song and its diverse cultural significance.