In tough times, do happy or sad songs top the charts? Do we prefer music that reflects our fears and hardships, or tunes that allow us to temporarily forget our troubles?
Newly published research suggests the answer varies dramatically by genre. Pop fans reflexively gravitate to music that mirrors their emotions, while country devotees go for escapism.
In an analysis of the most popular country songs over six decades, Jason Eastman and Terry Pettijohn II of Coastal Carolina University finds top hits are “lyrically more positive, musically upbeat, and use more happy-sounding major chords during difficult socioeconomic times.”
In contrast, previous research on best-selling pop songs found that, in times of societal stress, those numbers “are longer, slower, more lyrically meaningful, and in more somber-sounding keys.”
There is more here. And here is the NYT article on how country music has gone totally mainstream. After all, why not lower your systemic risk? Is the higher cyclicality of on-country music due to what is possibly a younger demographic profile of listeners, including many students who may not yet be so worried about the state of the labor market?