How do I quote lyrics from a duet in which the performers take turns singing?

How you quote lyrics from a duet depends on how you accessed them and how many lines you are borrowing.

If you quote lyrics from a printed source—such as liner notes, a Web site, or video captions—and borrow fewer than three lines at a time from the song, you can run the quotations into your text. You can make clear in your prose which performer is singing which lines and key your in-text citation to the first element of your works-cited-list entry. In the example below, the prose makes clear that Jamie Foxx sings one line of the song “Pop Goes the Weasel” and that James Corden sings another. A short title provided in parentheses—Public Domain—keys to the first element of the works-cited-list entry:

In a segment of The Late Late Show with James Corden, Jamie Foxx and James Corden sing a variety of songs in the public domain. For the opening song, “Pop Goes the Weasel,Jamie Foxx sings, “Round and round the mulberry bush / The monkey chased the weasel,” and James Corden continues, “The monkey stopped to pull up his sock / Pop goes the weasel” (Public Domain).

Work Cited

Public Domain Songs w/ Jamie Foxx. YouTube, uploaded by The Late Late Show with James Corden, 6 Jan. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=150&v=bW0E_sncNic. Closed captions.

If you are citing more than three lines at a time from the song, set the lyrics as a block quotation. Follow the guidelines in the MLA Handbook for citing drama (1.3.4) and include each singer’s name in all capital letters followed by a period before the singer’s words:

In a segment of  The Late Late Show with James Corden, Jamie Foxx and James Corden sing a variety of songs in the public domain. For the opening song, “Pop Goes the Weasel,Foxx and Corden sing the following lines:

FOXX. Round and round the mulberry bush

The monkey chased the weasel.

CORDEN. The monkey stopped to pull up his sock

Pop goes the weasel.

FOXX. I’ve got no time to plead and pine

I’ve got no time to wheedle. 

CORDEN. Kiss me quick and then I’m gone

And pop goes the weasel.

If you quote lyrics from a duet you listened to and borrow fewer than three lines at a time, you can run the quotations into your text as you would when you are citing a printed source. If you quote more than three lines at a time, set them as a block quotation. Again, you can make clear in your prose which singer is singing which lines, or you can adapt the handbook’s guidelines for citing drama and insert the singers’ names enclosed in brackets to indicate that you have supplied the singers’ names:

In a segment of The Late Late Show with James Corden, Jamie Foxx and James Corden sing a variety of songs in the public domain. For the opening song, “Pop Goes the Weasel,Foxx and Corden sing the following lines:

[FOXX.] Round and round the mulberry bush

The monkey chased the weasel.

[CORDEN.] The monkey stopped to pull up his sock

Pop goes the weasel.

[FOXX.] I’ve got no time to plead and pine

I’ve got no time to wheedle.

[CORDEN.] Kiss me quick and then I’m gone

And pop goes the weasel.

Work Cited

Public Domain Songs w/ Jamie Foxx. YouTube, uploaded by The Late Late Show with James Corden, 6 Jan. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=150&v=bW0E_sncNic.

Read more about citing song lyrics.

Work Cited

MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016.

 

Published 25 April 2019

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