Submitted by ub on

Has anyone else noticed that Song lyrics have become simpler and more repetitive over the last five decades?

We are surrounded by music every day; it is pervasive in today’s society and serves many functions. For instance, people listen to music to relieve boredom, fill uncomfortable silences, foster social cohesion and communication, or regulate their emotions2,3,4. When it comes to listeners liking or disliking a track, the song's lyrics are the most salient components of music, alongside the ability to evoke emotion and the singing voice. Likewise, the interplay between melody and lyrics is imperative as lyrics have been shown to influence the emotional valence of music; particularly, lyrics can enhance the negative emotion in angry and sad music. Music containing lyrics has also been shown to activate different regions in the brain compared to music without lyrics7.

According to findings published by Scientific Reports: Music is ubiquitous in our everyday lives, and lyrics play an integral role when we listen to music. The complex relationships between lyrical content, its temporal evolution over the last decades, and genre-specific variations, however, are yet to be fully understood. In this work, we investigate the dynamics of English lyrics of Western, popular music over five decades and five genres, using a wide set of lyrics descriptors, including lyrical complexity, structure, emotion, and popularity.

We find that pop music lyrics have become simpler and easier to comprehend over time: not only does the lexical complexity of lyrics decrease (for instance, captured by vocabulary richness or readability of lyrics), but we also observe that the structural complexity (for instance, the repetitiveness of lyrics) has decreased. In addition, we confirm previous analyses showing that the emotion described by lyrics has become more negative and that lyrics have become more personal over the last five decades. Finally, a comparison of lyrics view counts and listening counts shows that when it comes to the listeners’ interest in lyrics, for instance, rock fans mostly enjoy lyrics from older songs; country fans are more interested in new songs’ lyrics.…