How to Write Your Best Lyrics: The Flip Method

Explaining the Flip Method

Tired of your lyrics? Can’t seem to create anything that sounds interesting or original? Well you’re in luck because this blog post is all about helping you break free of cliched lyrics so you can start writing better songs!
This blog post aims to summarise our video “The Crazy Easy Trick to Write Great Lyrics (The Flip Method)’’. Click here to watch the video for more details, explanations and examples.

Flip Method #1: Replacing

The first flip method involves finding clichéd expressions that contain easily replaceable words or images. The trick is to use a familiar cliché that triggers a predictable response, like “we fight like cats and dogs.” Now, instead of using cats and dogs, swap out the phrase with anything else.

Some examples are: “We fight like rust and rain.”, “We fight like tree roots and concrete.”, or “We fight like secrets and loose lips”. This creates an element of surprise while still tapping into the familiar meaning of the cliché.

An example of this is in the song “Wild” by John Legend. In it, he uses the hook “I wanna drive you wild, wild, wild”. Normally, the cliché line that most people know is “You drive me crazy”.

Flip Method #2: Magnifying

Magnifying clichés means zooming in on a specific detail within the expression and elaborating on it. Cliché metaphors like “Love is a drug” are plain and simple but have been done to death by most songwriters. Rather than using it as is, avoid the cliché and magnify it by focusing on specific details related to the concept. 

If you listen to Lorde’s song Writer in The Dark, you’ll hear the line “I still feel you now and then slow like pseudoephedrine”. Through this, she not only avoids the cliché word “Drug”, but adds detail to the nature of her relationship by specifying the kind of drug and the effect it has on her.

To explore these concepts further, click here to download a free PDF eBook entitled “The 5 Best Songwriting Exercises for Writing Great Lyrics”:

Flip Method #3: Extending

In this strategy, we take a common cliché and extend or elaborate on it by introducing new words or images related to the cliché. 

For example, instead of saying, “the conversation flowed,” you could write, “as the conversation flowed, I started to drown in the undercurrent of everything I didn’t understand.” By extending the cliché, you use the cliché as a launchpad to create a more interesting line that goes against the expected meaning of the cliché.

The song “Case of You” by Joni Mitchell has a wonderful example of extending. The chorus goes like this: 

“You’re in my blood like holy wine
Tastes so bitter and so sweet
I could drink a case of you darling
And still be on my feet”.

The last two lines of the verse extend on the idea that she’s really in love with this person, by implying she could drink a case of them and still be on her feet. The meaning is further highlighted because it’s impossible for anyone to drink a case of alcohol and still be standing.

Flip Method #4: Inverting

Inverting clichés means turning negatives into positives or vice versa. You could also simply find the opposite of a clichéd expression. This method relies on finding an appropriate cliché to use it with, as it can’t be used on every cliché.

For instance, instead of “The grass is always greener on the other side,” you could write, “The grass is never greener on the other side.”  You could also use a more subtle way of doing this by playing with the language of the cliché. As an example, you could rewrite “Actions speak louder than words” as “Actions cower in the shadow of words”. Both still have the same meaning but one twists it in an unexpected way.

Flip Method #5: Swapping

This flip relies on identifying clichés that consist of two words or images that can be swapped while still making sense. For example, take the phrase “storming a teacup” and flip it to “teacup in a storm.” This creates a new and intriguing meaning, giving your lyrics a unique twist, while still maintaining a sense of familiarity.

Flip Method #6: Pairing

For this flip method, instead of looking at clichés as just famous phrases that we all know, we’re going to look at them as predictable word pairings we all know. Examples of this are “Hot and cold”, as well as “Soft and hard”. Predictable pairings are not just about the words themselves or the images that the words paint. They are also about predictable rhymes such as “Rain and pain”, “Fire and desire”, and “Love and above”.

To create new and exciting pairings, you could practice replacing a word in a predictable phrase or pairing, with different kinds of words. For example, if you are given the phrase “If you are a bird, then I am the ___”, you could fill in the blank in multiple ways. A good example of this is a song called “The Bird and The Rifle” by Lori McKenna, where she has the line “If you are a bird, then I am the rifle”.

Conclusion: Explaining the Flip Method

Clichés are unavoidable, but they can be valuable tools if we know how to wield them effectively. By using the Flip Method and experimenting with these six strategies, you can transform clichés into powerful and memorable lyrics.

If you would like more details, explanations and examples, then be sure to check out the video now.

And if you’re interested in more ideas, tools, techniques, and inspiration for your lyric writing make sure to check out this playlist that we have made just for you.

Level up your songwriting with five radically practical exercises used by professional songwriters around the world


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