Pop music keeps getting worse over last 50 years: study

"Our analysis shows that lyrics have become angrier across all genres, with rap showing the most profound increase in anger."


A new study looking at the patterns of lyrics and music over the last 50 years have concluded that songs have gotten more simple and repetitive over time. Emotions in the songs have also become more negative and angry.  

The study, published in Scientific Reports found the English-language songs have become simpler and repetitive over the last five decades in the categories of rap, country, pop, R&B, and rock songs.  

Lead author of the study Eva Zangerle and others wrote in the paper's conclusion, "We find that lyrics have become simpler over time regarding multiple aspects of lyrics: vocabulary richness, readability, complexity, and the number of repeated lines." 

"Our results also confirm previous research that found that lyrics have become more negative on the one hand, and more personal on the other," it added.  

Additionally, the authors stated, "Our analysis shows that lyrics have become angrier across all genres, with rap showing the most profound increase in anger." Country music had the lowest increase in anger and negative emotion across time.  

The authors stated that the information gathered on the pattern in lyrics of songs could be "used to further study and monitor cultural artifacts and shifts in society."  

Further, it added that these insights could signal "changing sentiment in societies and shifts in the use of emotionally loaded words and the sentiment expressed in the lyrics consumed by the different audiences (age, gender, country/state/region, educational background, economical status, etc.)." 

Alongside this discovery, US reading scores have dropped to the lowest levels in decades among students. Fewer and fewer people read books in comparison to the late 1900s. Both are an indicator similar to the declining complexity of song lyrics in that reading and complex literary understanding seems to be on the decline.  

The authors speculated in the study that the simplicity could be a result of more and more Americans simply music as background noise. 

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