Sunday, May 30, 2010

Citing a song in APA style

.... particularly if APA's example reference to the writer is not accurately crediting the idea you cite?


Quite possibly the googlers who landed somewhere in my blog (and would have left dissatisfied because I hadn't yet decided to play with this puzzle) may have been wanting a simple answer for quoting song lyrics. Cool, can (maybe) do from APA's (2010, p. 209) example for a music recording (if a recording is your source).
Writer, A. (Copyright year*). Title of song [Recorded by B. B. Artist if different from writer]. On Title of album [Medium of recording: CD, record, cassette, etc.]. Location: Label. (Date of recording if different from song copyright date)
*Copyright date? Aren't we supposed to cite our Source..."Give in parentheses the year the work was published" (APA, 2010, p. 185)? And seriously how often do you see the lyrics' own copyright date provided even when the records, cassettes or CDs includes a print of the lyrics? But I'm not going to explore the complexities of music/lyrics copyright: Circle C and Circle P (© and ) just now.

Time for examples?
I don't listen to enough music to identify any with academic relevance, so let's just pretend these do:

"...I'm feeling you, you're on my mind
I wanna be with you
'Cause when you're standing next to me
It's like wow..."
(Harry & St. Victor, 2001, Track 3)

Harry, J. & St. Victor, S. (2001). Like Wow! [Performed by Leslie Carter]. On Shrek: music from the original motion picture [CD]. Dreamworks.

"I've been alone with you inside my head
And in my dreams I've kissed your lips, a
thousand times..."
(Richie, 1983, Track 2:4)

Richie, L. (1983). Hello. On Can't slow down [Record]. Los Angeles, CA : Motown.

And, because I began exploring APA citation in more detail for electronic sources, 2 more examples:

Say I quote lines of a song relying on text version of the lyrics?:

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?"
(Burns, 2010)
Burns, R. (2010). Auld Lang Syne (contemporary version) [song lyrics]. In Cantaria folk song archive. Retrieved from

OR, say I referred to OK Go's (2009, 1:17) advice to "Don't go blaming the kids again", "if your mind don't move and your knees don't bend" or in some other way to their song This too shall pass and if my source were their marching band version video which they are now (but were not previously) permitted to embed and allow others to embed.

Then my reference list might appear:

OK Go. (2009). This too shall pass [music video]. Capitol Records. Retrieved 30 May 2010 from

Even if I had viewed the video at YouTube where OkGo mention the album in which the song appears: "Of the Blue Colour of the Sky", my own source was not the album.



But, what if we write about the ideas performed rather than the lyrics? What do I mean by that... could you writers about song performances help me out here? In the meantime, as one example, tvtropes refer to when the cover changes the meaning, (although some of their many examples merely demonstrate a variation of tone), still that sort of instance might dramatise that there are times when we might need to cite someone other than the song-writer.

Perhaps the dramatic difference between Greg Laswell's and Cyndi Lauper's covers of lyrics originally by Robert Hazard. Might one cite Lauper's (1983) feminist declaration of girl's wanting to have fun on the one hand, or Laswell's (2007) lament that girls just want to have fun, and perhaps credit Hazard for lyrics in additional information in the reference list?

Lauper, C. (1983). Girls just want to have fun [adapted from lyrics by Robert Hazard]. On She's so unusual [CD]. CBS.
Laswell, G. (2007). Girls just want to have fun [adapted from lyrics by Robert Hazard]. Vanguard Records. Retrieved from

And another possibility: as you may have noticed there is sometimes more meaning given to a song by its video than its lyrics or the singing of them, so a reference to a song might actually want to cite the specific video context. I've mentioned this before in my post on citing from Youtube. But for another example, let's imagine I've cited some significant aspect particularly of the video elements of OK Go's video above and not just because its here and I know because they mention it at the YouTube site that they share credit for the video direction with Brian Perkins:

We might perhaps list it then as:

Perkins, B. L. & OK Go (Directors). (2009). This too shall pass [Performed by OK Go and featuring the Notre Dame marching band] [music video]. Capitol Records. Retrieved 30 May 2010 from

Yale discusses the ambiguity in citing conventions for Television, Radio Program or Music Videos, because they're created by groups, but they suggest that as long as the basic elements are present, one might (as I suggest) if focussing on a particular contribution, cite and list by that contributor.


  1. This was so useful to me! Thanks so much for posting information on music available online! I'm writing a paper for my MLS on some book trailers I did and need to cite the music I used that I retrieved off of Creative Commons. Finding your blog was a lifesaver.


1. You can use some HTML tags, such as <b>, <i>, <a>

2. Apparently blogspot requires that we allow third party cookies for the darn feature to work. Sorry, nothing I can do about it - Google will lead you to instructions.

3. I don't generally post on contentious issues so I don't expect problems.
However, I will delete comments I consider:
disrespectful, destructive, irrelevant or SPAM, (even sucking up: praising my post without reason while linking to a business site).


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...