It is no surprise that a lot of people are noticing a trend in mainstream music nowadays. Some interesting observations stood out in a recent study on hit songs from the last ten years. Chart- topping tunes sound like they’ve been written by 3rd graders.
Based on the trend, it is typical to have a number 1 US hit single that has a school reading level around grade two or three. Researcher Andrew Powell-Morse made a study about this hypothesis. As expected, the results are stimulating.
How did he go about conducting the research?
He measured the songs’ lyrical intelligence by determining the Readability Score. This method will give the US reading level average based on a piece of text. There are 225 songs that were compiled for the study. They come from 4 different genre datasets of music between the years 2005 to 2014. Writing analysis tools were used to get the Readability Scores.
According to the feed at Consequence of Sound, there was a criterion for choosing the songs. Chosen were those #1 singles that spent at least three weeks on top of the charts. The lyrics were then encoded into the Readability Score index. It yielded a result of 2,000 individual data points which were broken down by artist and genre.
What are the results of the study?
The study provided infographics to easily read the results. In Morse’s findings, it shows that 2005 hits are roughly between grade 3 and 4 levels. 10 years after and the average plummeted between 2nd and third grade. The result is not affected much with the gender of the artists but primarily with the genres. It goes to show that lyrics can become as simple depending on the songs genre.
Looking at the individual artists, rhymesmith’s such as Drake and Kanye West were dominated by Eminem. The rapper got the highest reading level in both RnB and Hip Hop genres. Rock music, on the other hand, cites Nickelback as having the most sophisticated songs. This is mainly because the group has the longest song lyrics.
In the study of four genres, Rock, R&B/Hip Hop, Country, Pop, it is the R&B/Hip Hop group that’s drags the numbers down. The genre is considered to have the simplest lyrics. This is compared to Country music that fared as the smartest.
Country music came to be the smartest in the bunch. This is because the songwriting techniques used for the lyrics do not hurt its Readability Score. Most country songs do not use repetitive lyrics. They also use high syllable words. They contain long US city names like Louisiana and Mississippi. Clearly, this is an advantage. Having a third grade competency level means that country music is better than other genres.
Interestingly, Red Hot Chili Peppers got the smartest song in the rock category. Dani California got a reading level of 5.5. This must be because of Louisiana and Mississippi in its lyrics. The highly popular Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5 is the easiest to listen to of all pop songs. It has a 1.2 reading level grade.
How is this study relevant?
Because of this study, it was determined that popular music has become simpler. This is in terms of the lyrical structure used in the last 10 years. It did not, however, give too much value on the meanings behind each song. It did not consider how the words seemed to connect listeners with the artists. This is probably the way in which musicians should view how music has changed throughout the years. ICMP ONLINE provides budding musicians with great foundations in writing music. It is precisely because the institution aims to deliver world- class music courses. With this move, it is possible to develop and produce smart lyricists and songwriters.
With this study, it shows that having simple lyrics can be fun. It is not wrong to be singing these kinds of songs as long as the music evokes powerful thoughts and feelings to the listeners. Real science was applied to determine how less structured the music scene is becoming. But it does not take away from the fact that it’s what makes the music industry thrive. It is up to the listeners which type of music and artists they are willing to spend with. Surprisingly, these supposedly “dumb” songwriters and artists have outsmarted everyone. They managed to earn millions out of writing songs that deliver an emotional, if simple, message..