Finding Songs About...
With an ENORMOUS world of options available in popular and commercial styles, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to help students find the right song for them.
I always begin lessons with a new student by asking them to bring in a list of 5 songs that they want to song. The only criteria is that they have to be able to relate to the lyrics. (We can always change the key, tweak inappropriate words, and re-arrange it for a certain style or instrumentation. I also reserve the right to veto a choice or save it for later.) It's very cool to learn more about the students as they share their list with me and discuss the "why" behind each choice. Some students struggle to find something on the radio that resonates with their current life experiences. How can we help them broaden their options?
I've discovered a few online resources that provide lists of songs based on themes. Without prying, you can ask your student what kinds of general life experiences they're going through right now that they would like to sing about: moving, new relationships, ending relationships, having kids, retiring, etc. Polite conversation will usually reveal at least one theme that you can use to help you find something for that student.
Songchoice's lists are very thorough, and usually longer than Spinditty's. Unlike Spinditty, Songchoice has other kinds of lists like "songs that start with the chorus," "songs written by so-and-so," "songs that won Oscars," "songs used on Sesame Street," etc. Song titles link to information about the song, which can include lyrics, a backstory, video, and/or music streaming link.
Spinditty's playlists are released blog-style. Each playlist includes YouTube videos, short descriptions or summaries of each song, links to related lists, and additional list suggestions in the comments. You can subscribe to their lists via social media.
Wikipedia's list options are very, um, specific. I almost didn't include this one, but felt I should include it because they're so specific. If you want a song about the Irish Rebellion of 1798, you're not going to find a list like that on Songfacts or Spinditty.
Finally, I would encourage you and your student to consider the possibility of writing songs. Sometimes, the best way to connect with a life experience is to write about it instead of singing someone else's song. If you don't have experience with writing songs (I know most of my fellow college-educated voice teachers received no songwriting training), please seek out classes that can help you (and your students) open up that part of the music-making experience. Sometimes the point of writing a song is it's quality and commercial success, but that's only after the song has been born from a place of personal truth and experience. If it's cathartic and healing for the singer-songwriter, that is already a form of success.