Meant to Be, by Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha, has been burning up radio air time this year. If you listen to country stations, you’re probably tired of it. If you listen to pop stations, you’re probably tired of it. If you’re like me, and you listen to country stations and pop stations, you’re probably really tired of it.
It’s a fine enough song, but frankly it’s one of my least favorite Florida Georgia Line songs. But, I noticed something about it on my 1,000th time hearing it that kind of impressed me, so I wanted to use it as an example of something in song writing that’s often an underutilized tool: slant rhymes.
Now, if you paid attention in your 9th grade Shakespeare unit (which I’m sure we ALL did), you’ll remember that Romeo and Juliet is kinda stupid, and that slant rhymes are pairings of words that don’t really rhyme, but have sounds in the middle of the words that make your ears go, “Meh, close enough.”
For example, consider the following string of words: back/relax/dash/fast/at. These words do not rhyme in a traditional ball/call/wall/fall sense, but that fat “A” in the middle of each word is pretty close, especially if your emphasize it when you say it out loud.
Now, let’s look at the opening verse of “Meant to Be”:
Baby, lay on back and relax
Kick your pretty feet up on my dash
No need to go nowhere fast
Let’s enjoy right here where we at.
Now, if you paid attention in the second paragraph of this article (which I’m sure we ALL did), you’ll notice this hilarious callback that’s the creative peak of my existence thus far, and the fact that our hypothetical strong of words (back/relax/dash/fast/at) are actually the rhyming words from the first verse of this song.
This song doesn’t rhyme. Not really. It’s all slant rhymes.
So what? Who cares, right? Well, for one, it’s kind of impressive. Any amateur song writer can pull up rhymingdictionary.com and be like, “Oooh, light DOES rhyme with night! Perfect!” But slant rhymes are way harder to pull off.
You might think that they’re easier, since you can kind of force words to rhyme this way, but it’s harder than it looks, and the endless choices are actually hard to work through. It’s like being at the grocery store looking for peanut butter and finding yourself confronted with 50 different types. It’s hard to sift through all the options, especially because rhymes like light/night are easy for our brains to recognize, but we’re not trained to recognize rhymes like leaf/conceive as easily.
It’s well worth it, though, because all of those options allow us to expand our vocabulary. The word “relax” is hard to work into a song if you’re only going to allow yourself to rhyme it with “packs,” “axe,” and “hacks.” But any word with that fat “A” sound? Endless possibilities.
If you’re looking to build slant rhymes into your own songs and poems, it’s worth noting that they work well in the format that FGL uses above. They don’t just rhyme relax/dash and leave it at that. No, they string five slant rhymes together using the same sound, which helps the audience’s ear pick up on the repeated sounds and hear the rhyme.
Learn from this song. It’s a fun, catchy country/pop song that can teach you a lot about song writing. Even on the 1,000th time you hear it.
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