Assonance may be somewhat less perceptible, but it is undoubtedly more sonorous than alliteration. After all, vowels are more harmonious than consonants and are the only sounds which can actually be maintained while singing. (you’re thinking of Whitney Houston singing “I Will Always Love You” now, right?) Unsurprisingly, many musical artists regularly use assonance. Here are the top 5 examples according to us, prudently excerpted and carefully analyzed. And we’ve also included links to the songs. Enjoy!

5 Songs with Assonance

Example #1: Bob Dylan, Love Minus Zero/No Limit (1965)

The cloak and dagger dangles
Madams light the candles…

For the first verse of the above two, Bob Dylan was most probably inspired by the phrase “the goat-and-daisy dingles” written in Under Milk Wood by the most assonant of all modern poets—in fact, the one he borrowed his pseudonym from, Dylan Thomas; fittingly, he uses assonance to crown this tribute in the second verse. Both “madams” and “candles” echo the “short a” [æ] from the pleasant-sounding pair “dagger dangles,” with the verse-closing words (“candles” and “dangles”) so similar to each other that the pair approximates a perfect rhyme. By the way, while we’re still with Dylan, there’s also assonance in the title of his most famous song—Like a Rolling Stone—which, for all its jingle-jangling rhymes, opens with a memorable assonant pairing: “Once upon a time you dressed so fine

Example #2: Leonard Cohen, Famous Blue Raincoat (1971)

It’s four in the morning, the end of December
I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better
New York is cold, but I like where I’m living
There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening…

Leonard Cohen’s 1971 masterpiece, Famous Blue Raincoat, opens with quite a memorable double assonance: the “long o” in “four” is immediately repeated in the first syllable of “morning” and the “short e” in “the end” is echoed in “December.” However, the more interesting instances of assonance here are the near-rhyme pairings at the end of the verses: “December” / “better” and “living” / “evening”; this second pair is also an example of another interesting rhetorical device called the homeoteleuton, i.e., the repetition of endings of words. Cohen skillfully uses assonance throughout the whole song (“teeth”/”thief,” “flake”/”came,” “eyes”/”tried”), most mournfully in the chorus, where the “long a” is repeated in several audibly stressed non-rhyming words: “And Jane came by with a lock of your hair/she said that you gave it to her…”

Example #3: Radiohead, True Love Waits (1995)

I’ll drown my beliefs
To have your babies
I’ll dress like your niece
and wash your swollen feet…

Officially the most depressing song in the Radiohead repertoire (which surely ranks it pretty high among the most depressing songs ever written), True Love Waits is another excellent example of how assonance can work as a subtle substitute for rhyme. Case in point, Thom Yorke deliberately elongates the short [i] in “babies,” so as to link all four of the verse-ending words through assonance (“beliefs,” “niece,” and “feet” all contain a “long i,” but end with a different consonant). Fun fact: Old French poetry was usually composed in this manner. If you understand the language, be sure to check out La Chanson de Roland. There, each line in a single stanza—called laisse—ends with a stressed syllable carrying the same vowel sound. And sometimes, a laisse can be as long as twenty verses!

Example #4: Eminem, Criminal (2000)

Fire at the private eye hired to pry in my business…

Both rap and hip-hop songs use assonance quite regularly either in place of rhymes or to build a rich melodic background for them. The King of Hip Hop is not an exception: many of Eminem’s songs are teeming with an abundance of assonant pairings. Oftentimes, these are so closely and melodiously interlinked that it is difficult to even distinguish them from each other. For example, in the single verse excerpted above, six of the eleven words Eminem uses contain the “long i” and almost seamlessly flow into each other: “fire,” “private,” “eye,” “hired,” “pry” and “my.” In other cases, rappers may use assonance to skillfully compensate for the lack of a fuller rhyme. One such example from “Criminal” is this couplet: “Please Lord, this boy needs Jesus; Heal this child, help us destroy these demons.”

Example #5: The National, The Gospel (2007)

Hang your holiday rainbow lights in the garden
And I’ll, I’ll bring a nice icy drink to you
Let me come over, I can waste your time, I’m bored
Invite me to the war, every night of the summer…

Much like Radiohead, The National are widely acclaimed for the power of their dark and difficult to interpret lyrics. Not fans of rhyming either, they are as skillful users of assonance as any band in existence. Sometimes this leads to peculiarly romantic lyrics (“I wanna hurry home to you/ Put on a slow, dumb show for you…”) and sometimes assonance seems to be the only thing which joins their words into phrases, as in the title of their 2010 album, High Violet. In the example above, the “long i” magnificently links several words across the verses (“lights,” “I’ll,” “nice,” “icy,” “I,” “time,” “invite,” and “night”) and it provides a perfect background for the effective internal “long o” assonance in “bored”/”war.”

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