What Is a Song?

A song is a combination of melody and lyrics. It’s also a musical composition that has a beat and can be heard on the radio or sung at a concert.

Songs can be written for any occasion or for no reason at all, but they typically have a story to tell. They can be the expression of love or loss, or a protest against injustice. They can be the achingly beautiful croon of a pubescent in the throes of passion or yearning, or the scathing critique of a disillusioned musician.

Music is pervasive in society and serves many functions1. Some of these are simply recreational, while others can foster social cohesion and communication or regulate emotions. The most important components of a song are the lyrics and melody, but the interplay between them is essential. For example, lyrics have been shown to influence the emotional valence of music, particularly when they are angry or sad.

In addition to traditional folk, parlor and popular music, there are a variety of special genres of songs that focus on specific themes or topics. These include sea shanties, labour songs, occupational or trade union songs, and political or propaganda songs. A small number of Canadian works express national sentiments, such as the anthems of Quebec (‘Canada, Terre d’esperance,’ ‘O Canada! beau pays, ma patrie’), Nova Scotia (‘A La claire fontaine’) and New Brunswick and Newfoundland (‘O Canada, dear Canada’). Most of these have been adapted from English tunes.