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Song lyrics have become angrier and more repetitive since the ’80s, study finds


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

The lyrics of rock, rap, country, pop and R&B songs have also become simpler and more personal, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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

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

Professor Zangerle and his colleagues analyzed the lyrics of 12,000 English-language songs published between 1980 and 2020, as well as page views of the lyrics on the online platform Genius.

They found that the lyrics became simpler and easier to understand over time, while also becoming more emotional and personal.

The analysis also showed that the number of different words used in songs decreased, especially among rap and rock songs.

The team hypothesized that this could be due to changes in the way music is enjoyed, such as an increase in the number of songs used as background music.

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Professor Zangerle said: “Over the last 40 years we have seen a shift from buying records in store to being able to choose from hundreds of millions of songs on streaming platforms over the phone.

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

By analyzing page views on Genius, the team discovered that older rock songs were viewed more than newer ones, but the opposite was true for country songs. They said this might indicate that rock listeners prefer lyrics from older songs, while country listeners might prefer those from newer songs.

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

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