Going with the flow: or, charting song lyrics for fun and profit

I’ve written before about song lyrics shown in graphic form. And it’s Friday afternoon, so what the hey — I’m going there again.


Sometimes this visual gimmick really works. See “Pinball Wizard,” where the lyrics actually provide you with all the necessary data (namely, Tommy’s various actions and their frequency).

Other times, the song’s structure or content just doesn’t lend itself to any sort of proper graph. Consequently the message conveyed feels painfully thin, and the joke stupid and weak. One example: “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” rendered here.

I say, if you’re going to attempt the visual joke, why not do it right? To do so, we must face up to certain painful facts, namely: Many songs just don’t feature quantitative concepts.

In such cases, look to flow charts. After all, singing a song is a process. Flow charts proceed forward in time (just like music), often incorporating repetitions (verses or chorus) or variations on a (lyrical) theme. What is a verse but another iteration?

Here’s an amusing example posted on Facebook by a friend: “Hey Jude.” Its creator was inspired by this one, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

I’d welcome any pointers to good/bad examples you may have seen.

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