Scientists Discover That Song Lyrics Have Become Simpler and More Repetitive

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A study reveals that English-language song lyrics have become simpler and more repetitive over the last 40 years, while also growing more emotional and personal, reflecting shifts in music consumption and listener preferences.

According to a study published in Scientific Reports, the lyrics of English-language songs have grown simpler and more repetitive over the last 40 years.

Eva Zangerle and colleagues analyzed the lyrics of 12,000 English-language rap, country, pop, R&B, and rock songs (2,400 songs per genre) released between 1980 and 2020. The authors found that, in general, lyrics have become simpler and easier to understand over time and that the number of different words used within songs has decreased, particularly among rap and rock songs. They suggest that general increases in the repetitiveness of lyrics across multiple genres have led to lyrics becoming simpler overall. The authors speculate that the trend towards simpler lyrics could reflect changes in music consumption, such as increases in songs being played as background music.

Emotional Content in Lyrics

The authors found that lyrics have tended to become more emotional and personal over time. Use of emotionally positive and negative words increased in rap songs, while the use of emotionally negative lyrics increased for R&B, pop, and country songs. Additionally, all genres showed an increase in the use of anger-related words.

Additional analyses into the views of the 12,000 song lyrics on the online song lyric platform Genius revealed that the lyrics of older rock songs tend to be viewed more than those of newer rock songs but that the lyrics of newer country songs tend to be viewed more than those of older country songs. This could indicate that rock listeners prefer lyrics from older songs, while country listeners may prefer lyrics from newer songs.

The findings provide further insight into the evolution of music over the past 40 years.

Reference: “Song lyrics have become simpler and more repetitive over the last five decades” by Emilia Parada-Cabaleiro, Maximilian Mayerl, Stefan Brandl, Marcin Skowron, Markus Schedl, Elisabeth Lex and Eva Zangerle, 28 March 2024, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-024-55742-x

3 Comments on "Scientists Discover That Song Lyrics Have Become Simpler and More Repetitive"

  1. FrequentFlyer | May 15, 2024 at 8:54 am | Reply

    On this site I’m sure this will comment will get annihilated.

    Music beats are becoming more similar, words angrier, and lyrics simpler because Satan has take over the industry.

    Today, more than ever, Satan uses music with specific rhythms and beats to get inside your soul, then pollutes your soul with the lyrics.
    But because of the rhythm and beat people do not even realize what is happening.

    Have people not noticed how much demonic symbols, expressions, and performances have taken over the entire industry?
    Just look at the famous and popular musicians, their concerts, their videos, their lyrics, their visual appearance, the products they endorse.

    None of this is coincidence.

    • No, I’m not going to annihilate your comment. I will just politely point out that the same complaints were made about rock’n’roll back in 1950’s, and society has survived.

  2. If you look at rock music lyrics of certain bands or of a particular genre (such as “heavy metal”), you can find subjects like mental illness, anger, alienation, and even violence. Lyrics like that can be readily found in songs dating back to the 1960’s. Ironically, some members of these same bands (then and now) can be seen in photographs wearing a crucifix. I’m not saying that rap music hasn’t introduced a harsher edge to music, it has. But I’m not sure that the subject matter of lyrics has changed. Even “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones was not written as a praise for Satan.

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