Song lyrics have become angrier and more repetitive since the 80s, study finds | Ents & Arts News

March 29, 2024

Song lyrics have become angrier and more repetitive over the past four decades, a study has found.

Lyrics in rock, rap, country, pop, and R&B songs have also become simpler and more personal, according to research published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Rap songs showed the strongest increase in anger and negative emotions, while country songs had the lowest, the researchers said.

Eva Zangerle, an assistant professor at the University of Innsbruck’s department of computer science in Austria, said anger-related words may have become more common because music “reflects more general changes in society and culture”.

Prof Zangerle and her colleagues analysed the lyrics of 12,000 English-language songs released between 1980 and 2020, as well as the page views of the lyrics on online platform Genius.

They found lyrics have become simpler and easier to understand over time, while also becoming more emotional and personal.

Analysis also showed the number of different words used within songs has decreased, particularly among rap and rock songs.

The team speculated this may be because of changes in how music is enjoyed, such as increases in songs being used as background music.

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Prof Zangerle said: “In the last 40 years, we have witnessed a change from buying records in the store to being able to choose from hundreds of millions of songs on streaming platforms on the phone.

“This has also changed the way music is consumed.”

By analysing the page views on Genius, the team found older rock songs were viewed more than newer ones, but the reverse was true for country songs. They said it could indicate rock listeners prefer lyrics from older songs, while country listeners may prefer those from newer songs.

Prof Zangerle gave Bruce Springsteen’s 1973 song Spirit In The Night as a good example of complex songwriting, while she said Miley Cyrus’s 2019 hit Slide Away has simpler and repetitive lyrics.

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