Obviously, there is nothing wrong with metaphors. Metaphors are the backbone of poetry, lyrics, and creative prose. The job of a metaphor is to illuminate, to teach you something you didn't realize before by virtue of the comparison. William Shakespeare wrote that "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances." The comparison conveys the life is finite. It invites consideration of whether life is more than just hitting your marks and doing what you're supposed to until death comes. It's not merely descriptive.
But the lyrics of these songs tell you what you already know. Nothing is learned. They are no more poetic than saying that love is a sandwich. We're happy when it's not rotten. So yeah, "life is a highway, I want to ride it all night long." Yeah, that's what you do on a highway all right. You want to be alive. OK. Thanks for incorporating a highway into that sentiment.
Notable Exception: "Love Is a Battlefield"
I gotta be honest with you. I'm not sure that there are any exceptions. This is just a trite construction, born to fail, but the closest I could come was Pat Benatar's "Love Is a Battlefield" which sort of uses it.
The acceptable lyrics in questions are: "Love is a battlefield, We are strong, No one can tell us we're wrong." While not a perfect example, these lyrics are better than the atrocious ones above because they don't simply describe the noun with an obvious verb. If the lyrics were "love is a battlefield, we fight and fight," then yes, they would suck every bit as much as the other examples. Instead, they go with the less obvious observation that people fight when they are too convinced they can't be wrong, and yes, I guess that is true in love and war. It's not winning a Pulitzer, but sucks far less than this construction typically does.
Yes, there are a lot of examples. A surprisingly large number of examples. People like to sing about aliens, and it's just about always stupid.
I've written about "Come Sail Away" before. But I have to go there again, because it is one of the most laughably awful songs ever written. I could write about its false profundity or clumsy word choices ("On board I'm the captain, so climb aboard") but our topic here is aliens. And this song perfectly represents what's wrong with so many alien songs: their point is usually, "hey cool, aliens!!!" Like just talking about aliens is enough.
For example, "Come Sail Away" is about a reflective seaman thinking about his life until he sees some angels. But guess what? They're not angels, they're aliens! And then the song ends, as if that's of significance because, y'know, aliens!
Notable Exception: "Starman"
Sure, you knew I'd cut Bowie some slack, since he's my hero and his 1972 album Ziggy Stardust is all about the rise and fall of an alien rock n' roll messiah. But while the titular character of Ziggy Stardust is an alien, that's not the whole point. The fact that Ziggy is from Mars is almost incidental to the fact that he is meant to be a rock god. So a song like "Starman," which could just be some inane bit of lyrical foolery about how cool it would be to totally see a space dude, is more about the excitement that teenagers feel about anything new and different, whether it's aliens or rock stars.
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