There are many songwriting articles around telling us how bad cliches are for songwriting and that they should be eliminated from your life but for me, the question still remains…
“Is it possible to completely eradicate cliches from your songwriting?”
Well, I believe that you can’t completely eradicate cliches but you can look at them from another perspective. You can look at them as a possible songwriting tool.
Wikipedia defines a cliche as “…an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating…” and while I was doing some research for this post I came across a website called ClicheList and I was really surprised with what I found.
I discovered how deep rooted cliches are in our everyday language and how there were some cliches listed on the site that I thought weren’t cliches.
Now I hear you asking… “how can ClicheList help me with my songwriting?”
Well, the beauty ClicheList is that it contains a very concise list of phrases that have become cliches over time plus, it also gives you the place of origin and the meaning behind the cliche which can give you ideas on how perhaps rephrase the cliche into something more original.
You see, by knowing the meaning behind the cliche you can then internalise that into your own experience and come up with something that comes from you and you only.
A good example of rephrasing a cliche to a songs advantage is the Toni Braxton song “Un-Break My Heart” (written by Dianne Warren) which is a rephrasing of “Break My Heart” a well worn cliche in its own right.
Here’s how you can rephrase a cliche to your advantage. Pick a cliche and play around with the phrase and the meaning behind it.
Write the cliche down on a piece of paper and try to match an event in your life that fits in with the meaning of it. By personalising the cliche you are changing its meaning to you from a global one to a unique one.
From there, you can start brainstorming your own phrases, lines and ideas from the rephrased cliche but these will be borne from your own experiences and knowledge. I believe that this is how you can use cliches to your songwriting advantage.
Here are some other cliche websites for you to check out:
What are your favourite cliches? I’d love to know what they are as there might be a song lurking underneath it.
Until next time, keep on writing,
All About Songwriting