Song Lyrics Today Are Less Sophisticated, Angrier, And More Self-Obsessed Than They Used To Be, Study Says

Songwriters may be Under Pressure, but they just don’t get Into The Groove like they did back in the 1980s. That’s the conclusion of a new study looking at the evolution of song lyrics from 1980 to 2020, which found that while the meaningful verses created by earlier artists could sound Like A Prayer, more recent efforts are often just a Careless Whisper.

The researchers examined the lexical complexity of 12,000 songs spanning genres such as rock, pop, rap, country, and R&B – a task that one would Imagine took them All Night Long. The Message is that lyrical intricacy has been Free Fallin’ for over 40 years, with songs becoming increasingly simple and repetitive.

Time After Time, their analyses revealed that the proportion of lines that are repeated in songs has been steadily growing across all five genres, with more chorus and less verse than in times gone by. A noticeable decline in “vocabulary richness” was also noted, meaning that while the stars of the 80s devised creative phrases to describe Two Hearts, modern singers are more likely to just Say You, Say Me.

Seeking an explanation for this trend, the researchers say that “more repetitive music is perceived as more fluent and may drive market success.” In other words, modern artists may be trying to earn Money For Nothing.

Not wanting to Push It without showing A Little Respect to modern listeners, the researchers note that not all of the music you might hear In The Air Tonight is quite so vapid. For instance, their data showed that, Against All Odds, people more frequently look up the lyrics of older rock songs than newer ones. 

This, they say, may reflect the genre’s tradition of “defeating capitalism”, bucking the trend of more “commercial” musical styles like pop.

“Furthermore, our analysis shows that lyrics have become angrier across all genres, with rap showing the most profound increase in anger,” write the study authors. Who knows why they’re So Emotional, perhaps they should just Relax.

Putting it all together, the study authors conclude that “the lyric’s lexical component, structure, and rhyme, for all investigated genres, generally shows that lyrics are becoming simpler over time.”

“This is shown by a decline in vocabulary richness for some specific genres, i. e., rap and rock, and by a general increase in repetitiveness for all the evaluated musical styles,” they Say, Say, Say.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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