How To Quote Song Lyrics In An Essay

It depends on how you accessed the lyrics. For example, if you derived them directly from the song, please see "How to Cite Recorded Music in APA Style (+ Playlist)" in the APA Style Blog (includes examples of in-text citations). However, if you retrieved the lyrics from another source, such as a YouTube video, sheet music, or an artist's website, please use the appropriate formatting. Finally, if you retrieved the lyrics from a CD's liner notes, I'd suggest using the following formatting, which is adapted from "Music recording" on page 210 in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association, 2010):

lang, k. d. (2008). Shadow and the frame [Liner notes]. On Watershed [CD]. New York, NY: Nonesuch Records.

The in-text citation to liner notes should provide the person's last name, the year, and the track number: (lang, 2008, track 10) (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 210).

Reference

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. 

Ask the MLAworks-cited list

How do I cite song lyrics?

The way you cite song lyrics will vary depending on how you access them and how much information you include in the body of your essay.

If you cite song lyrics from a CD you listened to, you might simply refer to the song in your essay:

“You say you got a real solution,” the Beatles sing in “Revolution 1.” 

You can then provide a works-cited-list entry for the album that contains the song. Follow the MLA template of core elements: list the name of the performer or band as the author, the name of the album as the title of the source, the publisher, and the date. In the optional-element slot at the end of the entry, list the format:

If you cite song lyrics from a booklet accompanying the CD, list a description in the “Title of source” slot and the name of the album as the title of the container:

The Beatles. Booklet. The Beatles, EMI Records, 1968.

If you cite lyrics from a Web site, provide a description in place of the title. Then provide the name of the Web site, publication information for the site, and the URL:

The Beatles.  Lyrics to “Revolution 1.” Genius, 2017, genius.com/The-beatles-revolution-i-lyrics.

Published 11 October 2017

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