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How To Change Your Lyric’s P.O.V. from Verse to Chorus

Generally speaking, to change the point of view in the lyric of a song, it’s a good idea to (1) do it at the start of a new section, and (2) keep the sections’ P.O.V. consistent relative to each other.

A great example is ‘Billie Jean’ by Michael Jackson.

In the Verse, he sings about Billie Jean and their relationship:

She was more like a beauty queen
From a magazine…

In the Pre-Chorus he sings about what ‘people’ and his ‘mama’ always told him (in the past):

People always told me be careful what you do
Don’t go ‘round breakin’ young girls’ hearts…

In the Chorus he declares the truth to the world NOW:

Billie Jean is not my lover
She’s just a girl who says that I am the one…

Each section takes a completely different angle on the same story. AND there are no lyric bits that connect or set up the next section. Every new section is the equivalent of a jump cut – boom! And it works like a charm. Remarkable, really.

Why isn’t this confusing? (Other than the fact that it all sounds so good.)

Because when a lyric change of pace happens at the same time as a musical change of pace (a new section), we’re likely to follow it without question.

Think if MJ had done one of these switches in the middle of a section… it would be much harder to follow what is now quite clear.

Another very important aspect of this strategy is staying consistent. Here, MJ sets up the approach of three lyric points of view, one to a section… and he maintains it throughout, with no exception:

Verse – About Billie Jean and his relationship with her
Pre-Chorus – What he was told/cautioned in the past
Chorus – Telling the world the truth NOW

Maintaining this consistency is just as important as establishing the different sections. You can really get away with a lot, storytelling-wise, if you set up the ‘rules of the game’ for the song, and then stick with them.

As a counter-example, I recently heard a song where the ‘A’ section was addressed to “You” and the ‘B’ section was about “He”. So far, so good; no problem following this. Then, around halfway through, the writer mentioned “He” in the ‘A’ section and spoke to “You” in the ‘B’ section. Things got confusing fast.

Like anything in songwriting, this isn’t a rule… but it is kind of a rule of thumb. You have to be pretty damn skilled and crafty to break it. Because most of the time, it works.

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6 responses to “How To Change Your Lyric’s P.O.V. from Verse to Chorus”

  • GREAT stuff om your site!!!
    I will follow this!

  • Joyce Rogers

    This is great info, Tony. Thanks. Btw, videos are nice change. And change is inevitable.

  • Olivia Henn

    Does it work to change from talking about a person – she in the verses and then in the choruses switching to We? I a m trying to tell a story through the verses and then state a universal truth in the chorus and I want to make sure that it works

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