When I becomes we

how prototypically ‘pop’ are a band’s lyrics after one breakup and two reunions?


  • Michaela Hilbert Universitaet Bamberg




(corpus-)linguistics, metaphor, personal pronoun, song lyrics, stylistics


This study investigates how the two Take That reunions are reflected in their song lyrics and how this marks a noticeable step away from discourse styles traditionally associated with pop song lyrics. Previous studies have shown pop song lyrics to exhibit a set of prototypical features such as high frequencies of the words you, I, and love, which has often led to the conclusion that pop lyrics are usually perceived as highly clichéd and based on a limited set of stereotypical metaphors. Based on a quantitative and qualitative analysis, this article will show that while Take That’s lyrics of the early years are very much in line with this description, they have since undergone some substantial changes with regard to their ‘prototypicality’ as pop lyrics. In line with the band’s own new self-description as a group rather than five individuals, it will be shown that from the first reunion onwards, new participants have been introduced into the discourse (we, they), which are otherwise rare in pop lyrics. This change comes with a variety of new attributes, roles and metaphors, which have moved their lyrics away from prototypical pop music discourse. This study also aims to stress the potential of a linguistic, specifically a corpus-linguistic, approach to the genre of pop song lyrics. It will be argued that such an approach can reveal important developments in the overall structure of a text collection that can hint at substantial changes in the underlying discourse that might otherwise pass unnoticed.

Author Biography

Michaela Hilbert, Universitaet Bamberg

Michaela Hilbert studied English and Politics at the University of Freiburg, Germany, and wrote her MA thesis on Tony Blair’s political discourse strategies. She is currently a research assistant and lecturer at the Institute of English and American Studies at the University of Bamberg, Germany. Her research focus is on language contact and world varieties of English, and she coordinates a project on English-Romance language contact and change in Europe.


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How to Cite

Hilbert, M. (2013). When I becomes we: how prototypically ‘pop’ are a band’s lyrics after one breakup and two reunions?. Popular Music History, 7(2), 159–184. https://doi.org/10.1558/pomh.v7i2.159