The Poetics of Popular Music
Proposal (5%) & Final Essay (25%)

For your final comparison/contrast essay you have two choices:

• Rarely, if ever, does a songwriter only write one song about something; rather, over the course of their career, they return to the same themes or ideas over and over again. So, pick one lyricist(s) and analyze how they explore one theme/idea in multiple (at least 3) songs.

• Certain themes/ideas in lyrics are popular for many reasons; not the least of which is because they attract many songwriters to it. So, pick one theme/idea and explore how multiple (at least 3) lyricists address it.

You can consider themes and lyricists either in or outside of the coursepack.

How to approach this?

The Proposal should not only clearly state which lyricist(s) and songs you’re addressing but also contain some sort of sense how you’re planning on doing so. There is no word count required but the more specific detail provided regarding what you’ll be considering and how you’ll be considering it (working thesis, some sense of how the body paragraphs will be constructed, etc.) the better.

The Proposal is to be sent to me by MIO as a Word attachment by Thursday, November 27th at noon. No late proposals will be accepted.

There will be no class on Friday, November 28th! Instead, on that day, every student will have to meet with me in my office (P150) for a brief (around 5-10 minutes) discussion to go over your proposal, what needs to be done, improved, clarified, etc. in order to enable you to go forward. I will be in my office from 8:30 to around 12:30 and people will be seen on a first come, first seen basis.

Only when both of these steps have been done (MIO received and meeting held) will you be given your mark (on 5%). Failure to do both will result in a 0%.

No final essay will be accepted without both of these steps being taken.


The final essay itself should be at least 1000 words (remember though: there’s nothing magical about hitting a word count – saying something is everything), double-spaced in a clear 12 point font. It must include the lyrics of the songs you’ll be considering (not part of your word count) and be handed in on the possible due dates (information below) – no MIO’d versions will be accepted.

Again, only the lyrics, in terms of form and content, should be considered. Biography, musical style, how the song is sung, etc., as always, are meaningless and should not be considered as adding anything whatsoever to analysis.

You may use secondary sources if you wish but any words or ideas not your own must be properly cited in standard MLA format. Failure to do so is plagiarism and will result in a mark of 0 for this assignment and likely failure of the course.

Your essay will be marked by the following criteria:

Content (13%): fully develops argument/thesis; detailed and analytical; free of summary/obviousness; well-chosen quotes clearly and fully support analysis

Organization/Formatting (6%): clearly organized paragraphs; clear topic and concluding sentences in each body paragraph; transitional words utilized; quotes fully and completely incorporated; MLA style (line #’s cited after quotes, etc.); proper standard essay formatting used throughout (double-spaced, indented at beginnings of paragraphs, spacing, etc.)

Expression (6%): Consistently clear word use; verb tense consistently in the present (“the lyricist shows”, “the speaker feels”); spelling; punctuation, sentence structure; mechanics (no use of “I” outside of conclusion or needlessly informal language); grammar

Final Essay Due Dates:

Tuesday, Dec 9th In Class (no marks lost for lateness)
Wednesday, Dec 10th P150 (- 5%, or 1.25 out of 25)
Thursday, Dec 11th P150 (-10%, or 2.5 out of 25)
Friday, Dec 12th P150 (-15%, or 3.75 out of 25)

No essays will be accepted after Friday, Dec 12th at noon.

Questions? MIO me anytime or come by P150 during office hours.