Shall I Compare a Pop Song to a Shakespearean Sonnet?

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 29 2014 12:15 PM

Shall I Compare a Pop Song to a Shakespearean Sonnet?

Shakespeare
We think The Bard himself would be fill'd with delight by Magic's "Rude" in sonnet form.

Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Shakespeare’s works are frequently cast in modern form, but Erik Didriksen, the man behind the Tumblr “Pop Sonnets,” has reversed this formula, rewinding the clock on current pop songs to render them in the form of Shakespearean sonnets.

The Shakespearean sonnet form, to which Didriksen meticulously adheres, consists of three quatrains and a couplet, with the rhyming pattern ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. Didriksen also recasts modern idioms into Shakespearean diction: Stacy’s Mom, of Fountains of Wayne fame, doesn’t “got it goin’ on,” but instead “beckons like a Siren’s song.” But as that example demonstrates, the subjects of modern pop lyrics are not far from those that interested the Bard: Is the frustration in Magic’s “Rude” concerning the protestations of a lover’s father really so different from the yearning of a Montague for his forbidden Capulet?

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Didriksen explained in an email that he was inspired by a Shakespearean treatment of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop.” He admits that properly conjugating the verbs after “thee” and “thou” required some research, but his background in music helped him attend to the sonnets’ rhythms.

Below are some of our favorites, paired with the songs they reimagine:

call_me_maybe
party_in_the_usa
single_ladies
two_princes
fresh_prince

Eliza Berman is an intern in the culture department at Slate.

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