What Is a Song?


A song is a combination of words and music. It’s protected by copyright as both a musical work (the melody) and a literary work (the lyrics). It’s not merely what you hear, but the whole context in which it was created, experienced, produced and preserved for you to listen to today.

Songs have always been a powerful, often evocative form of communication and expression. They can inspire, uplift, or depress, reflect the state of our culture and the world, or simply provide a vehicle for a person’s creativity. The Library’s collections of American songs can help you navigate the vast variety of genres, historical topics and artistic styles.

The chorus is the part of the song that should convey the main idea or catch the listener’s attention with its most memorable melodic and lyrical concept. The hook is a line or couple of lines that repeat at the end of each verse. This can be a simple, memorable phrase like ” Stayin’ Alive ” by the Bee Gees or even a single, repeated ear-grabbing note, as in Outkast’s ” Hey Ya ” and Drake’s ” YOLO.”

A bridge is a section that occurs only once in a song and typically introduces a new lyrical or melodic concept not featured previously in the verses or chorus. It also stands out from the rest of the song in its rhythmic or harmonic structure. It can be as short as 4 lines or up to 8 if the composition calls for it.