Pop Songs are Getting Sadder and Angrier

AEON: English-language popular songs have become more negative. The use of words related to negative emotions has increased by more than one third. Let’s take the example of the Billboard dataset. If we assume an average of 300 words per song, every year there are 30,000 words in the lyrics of the top-100 hits. In 1965, around 450 of these words were associated with negative emotions, whereas in 2015 their number was above 700. Meanwhile, words associated with positive emotions decreased in the same time period. There were more than 1,750 positive-emotion words in the songs of 1965, and only around 1,150 in 2015. Notice that, in absolute number, there are always more words associated with positive emotions than there are words associated with negative ones. This is a universal feature of human language, also known as the Pollyanna principle (from the flawlessly optimistic protagonist of the eponymous novel), and we would hardly expect this to reverse: what does matter, though, is the direction of the trends.

The tempo and the tonality of the top-100 Billboard songs was also examined: Billboard hits have become slower, and minor tonalities have become more frequent. Minor tonalities are perceived as gloomier with respect to major tonalities.

The authors, Acerbi and Brand, have some speculation about why the change has occurred–negative emotions transmit more easily, random drift, changes in preferences, a change in music distribution but nothing definitive. Could rap explain the differences? The study looks at the production of new music but what about the consumption? Are we listening to sadder songs or brightening things up by listening to more songs from the past? It would be interesting to know whether this is true in other languages as well.

Hat tip: Paul Kedrosky.


Maybe we just like them because sad songs, they say so much.

From a hilarious metafilter thread on Valentine's Day. With ready made headline gems like Morose Millennials are Destroying the Happiness Industry One Gloomy Ballad at a Time

Even comments about comments can be illuminating. "I've always felt songs in the sixties were trending towards cynicism and disillusionment, leaving behind the likes of the Chapel of Love for Mrs. Robinson."

I wonder what the automated sentiment analysis said about the lyrics of "Mrs. Robinson". Look around you all you see are sympathetic eyes.

The Gaels
The men that God made mad.
All their wars are merry.
All their ballads are sad.

Aye, warrior bards.

Faugh A Ballagh - Who Never retreat From The Clash Of Spear.

One of the first lessons of the rock music industry was that the public often likes sad lyrics with a happy beat: e.g., Elvis Presley's 1956 smash "Don't Be Cruel:"


Who cares? Persons of taste and discrimination who want to listen to popular music choose the jazz of the 1920s.

No, they choose the jazz of the 1950s, which is better.

Note the rise and fall of sad/happy songs during recessions/expansions. Also since 1972 there's been wage stagnation in the USA. Further the "Golden Age of Hip-Hop" starting in the late 1980s seems to account for a spike in negativity.

"Don't push me, 'cause I'm close to the edge / I'm trying not to lose my head / It's like a jungle sometimes It makes me wonder how I keep from going under" - Grandmaster Flash

I’m not seeing a correlation with expansions and recessions. Positivity seemed to hit a low point in 2005-06 during the middle of the expansion and then bounced back in the recession years of 2007-09. Most songs are not about the economy but about interpersonal things (which may actually improve when the economy is bad because people spend more time with each other instead of making money).

Yeah I'd actually say that songs might be happier with a weaker economy... after all songs from the Caribbean or Africa are definitely more upbeat than from Japan 😁

I don't know how to put this, but quoting Grandmaster Flash might be the wrong tool to paint with broad strokes over a whole genre.

"Could rap explain the differences?" - Rap is better suited to reveal that study's limitations: In Hip-Hop, usage of negative words by no means correlate with negative emotions. Foul language is used to showcase and embrace the capitalist spirit.

"Watch mad at my bracelet, my bracelet mad at my chain
Chain mad at my pinky so I can't wear no earrings" – Tauheed Epps

@Alex Nearby - thanks, you seem to know more about rap than me, since I'm amusical. I picked GM Flash since it's chess theme related (my nym is a riff on a chess opening) and GM Flash was a pioneer in the Golden Age of Hip-Hop. If you're reading this and know the answer, I've been trying to get the name of the rap song from around 1991 that has the lyrics "strength of a lumberjack / Pick up an ax and triple the terror / No one!" about a crazy brother about to go beserk . It was on a cassette tape (!) with Ice Cube songs and others, a compilation, that I bought in LA when I lived there at the time. I don't listen to music but I nearly memorized that entire cassette tape. Another rap on that cassette was a dialog about a dealer losing his mind, who wanted out of the business, and talking to somebody on the street like he was being followed, and hallucinating over Halloween who accidentally beat up some kids thinking they were following him ("my mind is like a fiend, it wasn't even close to Halloween", "praying for forgiveness, and looking for an exit out the business") and, if I recall, a song or two by Too $hort ('mama's next door, getting high'). Great stuff that I as a white boy really enjoyed, and, again, I'm not musical (that cassette and a CD by Midnight Oil--also a great band--are the only two things I've ever bought and listened to in my entire life, no lie!). if you have any clues who these artists were let me know please.

Bonus trivia: I saw Ice Cube in Westwood CA in the early 1990s doing some sort of video or promo, and, further, I really enjoyed his movie Friday. I generally don't watch film either, except stuff my girl drags me to with others. I rather do my own thing, like books, programming and chess. Especially chess. And making money of course. I'm in the 1%.

I just remembered a few more lyrics--I have a chess player's mind, I forget nothing, though my girl accuses me of having a bad memory--the crazy brother said "C Jay Turner execution is in effect / pick up the hatchet and triple the terror!". I've Googled this over the years and nothing. There's a chance, since this was LA and it was a compilation, that this was a demo tape that was never widely released nationally. Great songs though, over the top, "goblin" parody type rap. I'd play them full blast just to get me pumped up for work (where I solved, often single handedly multi-million dollar projects, often when all hope was lost, but that's a war story best told in person).

I remember this being asserted as an indicator, around 2000, but perhaps rather than recovering, the trend just kept going.

How much of this is the decline of gatekeepers in all areas of culture? If you assume (reasonably in my view) that the average Joe is going to be less happy than a person with the power to be a gatekeeper, technological and cultural changes that lead to more artists being Joe-to-Joe instead of gatekeeper-to-Joe are going to reduce positivity and increase negativity, especially when cultural gatekeepers in the past were often aligned with the government and therefore had propaganda reasons for positivity. Surveys of happiness generally show that people’s self-reported happiness has been increasing in the US over the last few decades, so there is an interesting disparity of two data points to explore there.

If by cultural gatekeeper you mean album producers, there may be something. Not so long ago moms were worried about explicit lyrics.

That metafilter link is comedy gold, even if this raises an interesting point for further investigation. 'I wonder if pop music got sadder as country music got happier. A quick Google says yes.'

This also cries out for further examination. 'All you need is love. Love is all you need.

Think how many instances of "love" occur in The Beatles' All You Need is Love! The "love, love, love" chant and the repetitive titular chorus contain multitudes. It came out in 1967: Summer of Love, baby! But seriously, that song alone is enough to create an outlier year... and per the chart, 1967 posted among the highest love scores.'

Now on with the solid comedy gold hits.

'I guess that most of the career of Roy Orbison is an outlier and shouldn't be counted?'

'Happy pop songs are all alike; each unhappy pop song is unhappy in its own way.'

'But the Internet tells me that every single movie, TV show, song, book, or other cultural artifact Says Something Profound About Society and must be analyzed down to the smallest detail ad nauseam.'

And a bit of music for the listener to decide whether it is a happy or sad song. Altered Images - I Could Be Happy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfqPJp7Q7qE

"It came out in 1967: Summer of Love, baby! But seriously, that song alone is enough to create an outlier year... and per the chart, 1967 posted among the highest love scores.'"

Maybe, but love was, if not in the air, in many times back then.

According to Wikipedia, "The Summer of Love was a social phenomenon that occurred during the summer of 1967, when as many as 100,000 people, mostly young people sporting hippie fashions of dress and behavior, converged in San Francisco's neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury."

The Beatles did get into the spirit of this discussion with Baby's In Black:

"Oh, dear what can I do
Baby's in black
And I'm feeling blue...."

I was actually listening to the Vengaboys last night night and thought the same thing. What happened to the power pop up-beat beats like 'Boom Boom Boom' or 'We like to party'? Everything today is so deep and sad.

They went latin or portuguese. Did you listen to Terremoto or 3 to Tango?

Yeah but Americans never listened much to that stuff... when I think of American music in that era, it's mostly awful punk-pop and done ok rnb...

The vengabus is coming...😁

Could this reflect the dominance of women in today’s pop music? Also, an interesting follow up would measure if country music has moved in the opposite direction.

Plenty of women singing happy things in the 1980's:

When I Hear Music (It Makes Me Dance) - Debbie Deb
Let the Music Play - Shannon
I Wonder If I Take You Home - Lisa Lisa & The Cult Jam with Full Force
Take Me in Your Arms - Lil' Suzy
Together Forever - Lisette Melendez
Point of No Return - Expose
Tell it to My Heart - Taylor Dayne
Funky Little Beat - Connie
Two of Hearts - Stacey Q.
Set You Free - Planet Soul feat. Nadine Renee
Can You Feel the Beat? - Lisa Lisa & The Cult Jam
In a Dream (My Love) - Jossette
Catch Me (I'm Falling) - Pretty Poison
Head to Toe - Lisa Lisa & The Cult Jam
Honey to a Bee - Tina B.
Real Love - Lil' Johanna

One data point: the currently most celebrated musical artist's face is itself a minor chord, and is purportedly breaking the music world as a twenty-something who wears potato sacks for clothes and has positioned herself as a caricature of a goth/emo/anime character doing PSA's about self-harm.

FWIW, I personally trace the arc of minor chord dirges to the 1990's. (I'm looking at you Moby & David Gray). FFS even the happy songs sound sad when run through that formula.

Isn't the GOP Lincoln and Reagan's party and proudly so. You know what? I doubt Lincon, the magnificent oratof, would support a president who speanks like a toddler and incidentally is a Neo-Confederate. Would Reagan support a wife-cheating, draft-dosging, tax-evading conman? I don't think so. For those reasons and more, I, a fourth-generation Republican voter, have decided: I will vote for America's Mayor. Mike gets things done!

Maybe society has become more used to the idea of people expressing their true feeling and so negative emotions such as sadness and anger are no loner as repressed as they once were.

Sadness and anger weren't repressed in 1967. Sorry to break it to you.

Oh right - 1967 the famous Summer of Sadness and Anger .

My friends and family don't even recognize me anymore. For decades, I have voted for a Republican straight-ticket. Well, not this year. I can not in good conscience support a lying conman. I wondered, is there a good, reliable, sensible Democrat I could vote for? Then, I flund out about Mike. He is everything our president is not. He is a self-made man, a man of honor, a philanthropist. He revolutionized New York and I know he can do the same for America. Mike gets things done!

China's 5-cent army working nights for Mike Bloomberg? How much more does mayor Mike pay?

This is an indication of lack of talent. For whatever reason the talent that is writing the songs that get heard is second rate. Art is about expressing or eliciting emotions. Negative emotions are easy to express and elicit. Same with sexual imagery.

But to express or elicit positive or uplifting emotions without it sounding treacly or fake or boring requires skill and exceptional ability.

Popular music is overwhelmingly music accompanied by words. Music without words is commonly understood to be an abstract art, with a few hackneyed conventions (drums=war, horns=mountains or the postal service).

Sure I agree, the problem is that music has gotten more "American" and less "British" in terms of focus on lyrics vs. production as I've described below...

The quality of human relations among the young has declined.

Does punk and, especially, post-punk gothic/ ambient of the 80's have something to do with this trend?

Lakshmi, it's said, sings for the underworld to hear. So snow itches infinitely small. 2x4

Here's my simplistic, probably false, explanation:

1. Musicians generally lean far to the left.
2. People on the far left were expecting a great socialist revolution in the near future.
3. The great socialist revolution keeps on not happening.
4. Musicians are getting increasingly pissed off and frustrated waiting for the great socialist revolution to finally happen.

i think you're onto something.

self loathing perhaps, as all the musical marxists pray each night to get their song placed in a car ad or gaming app

You are weirder than you used to be. Maybe because..

1. Libertarians generally lean far to the right.
2. People on the far right were expecting a great deregulatory nirvana in the near future.
3. Instead they got right wing authoritarianism.
4. Libertarians are getting increasingly pissed off and frustrated waiting for the great reductions in government power to finally happen.

1. Correct.
2. Correct.
3. False, Obama and Pelosi are in no way right wing.
4. True, but a bit heartened in the past couple of years. Expecting a good 5 more years as well, but libertarians don't write much music, so it won't show here.

I should not bury my lede. Hazel's caricature was a bit over the top, and so I provided a mirror image.

In fact, what the two caricatures should do together is reinforce the value of the middle and moderation.

We live in a country with a two party system, but more people are independent than in either party.

We are not a nation of true, traditional own the means of production socialists. Neither are we a nation of true, all roads should be privatized, libertarians.

The middle is more pragmatic than either extreme.

Oh yeah, I would have to say that the "right" is even more pissed off then the left, because while the left has only experienced creeping successes, the right has been slowly losing. So yeah, both ends of the spectrum pissed off and frustrated that things aren't going their way. In other words, the angriness is a symptom of our political polarization maybe. Although musicians - there just aren't that many right wing ones, be serious.

Libertarians on the other hand, our collective frustration is caused by the fact that we're contrarians and at some point we all decided that to be hip and ironic we were going to get out ahead of the pack and side with social conservatives in the culture wars. Because that was going to come back in style. Unfortunately, being a racist right-wing douche didn't actually come back in style so now we're stuck holding the bag, or in other words, our alliances with racist right-wing douche bags, even though they have become social suicide.

Meh, I don’t see much support from Cato for any of that nonsense.

We’re winning in at least some areas over the long haul:
- almost 15% foreign born population and growing every year
- gay marriage
- trans rights
- lower taxes
- SALT deductions limited
- Citizens United

With a possible overturning of Chevron we’d be in a pretty reasonable place policy wise. And that looks possible

Your first bullet point is incompatible with gay rights and trans rights.

No, it’s not.

And I’m willing to bet on it with Caplan as intermediary.

$10,000 says both the foreign born population rises and gay marriage is not rolled back.

I don't think "percent foreign born" is a goal. It's "are people free to move around and work for/employ who they want?" that's the goal. We're losing on that, whatever the numbers are. I mean if you have 15% foreign born that's hardly comforting if they can't legally have jobs, even if they've lived here 20 years, is it?

We're also losing badly on international trade, and budget deficits.
The tax law was a mild win for making taxes more uniform, so I'll give you that.

And we're also winning on marijuana legalization.

Weren't Devo libertarian?

Mostly true, although I wouldn't necessarily characterize deregulation as "right wing".
The "Right Wing" has always meant more regulation of some things, less regulation of others. Sadly, only in a narrow view of history has "right wing" ever not meant authoritarian. We forgot them, but they were hiding in plain sight. :(

True, but I'm only in my early 50s, so since I can remember, right wing has been mostly deregulation, and left wing has been authoritarian. Since Reagan basically. Shout out to Carter for deregulation, but I don't really remember him much.

I believe this political compass is the most serious attempt at classification I have seen.

And I find it a bit more convincing than "I know you are, but what am I?" level rejoinder.

Yang more authoritarian/ less libertarian than Sanders?

Okay we can safely throw this in the garbage then.

Sure, Warren death center. That makes sense. Orwell would be proud.

OK, dead center. I'm sure I can read something into 'death'. I'll get back to ya.

So no studies then. And just a partial reading of this one.

As the page says, and I've reminded you in the past, the 0,0 origin is an attempt at a global median. Of course most US Democrats are to the right of it.

Justify Sanders being libertarian and Yang being authoritarian. Or, alternatively, don’t present a model that’s so obviously a failure in the basic metric of modeling something on a two dimensional axis spectrum.

Honestly this is a great example of Boomer Olds not understanding how math or econometric modeling works.

We get it, you’re easily confused and scared. You didn’t take basic math in college or high school and now we get to suffer your citations of idiots, charlatans, and journalists who never passed a high school calculus class. Yes we get it, you draft dodged to let your blue collar friends die, that doesn’t make you a pro-freedom individual. It makes you a coward. Coward who cannot do math.

I’ll bet right now, Caplan as intermediary, you never passed a Differential Equations class at a real University. I’ll put down $1,000 right now.

Let’s make a bet whether you have any clue as to the stuff you weigh in on.

I’m waiting.

That was a bad response, which is probably why you veered so quickly from an attempt at logic, to anger.

There is nothing in that 2 dimensional representation which says anyone "is" or is not "authoritarian."

It is about relative positions on a continuum. And maybe there are places where Yang is more rigid than Sanders, bumping him up 2 units on a +/- 10 point scale.

In context, they are saying there is a 10% of total range difference between Sanders and Yang.

And there is no sane reason to get angry and call names about that.

Tbh, their two axes may explain quite a lot of the variation and Yang may in fact be relatively close to that big cluster of conventional US politicians, in his substance, relative to Sanders being for more of an outlier.

But labeling that major axis as Authoritarian vs Libertarian, yeah, c'mon.

It may be more of a failure to describe their axes, rather than necessarily a failure of 2D axis to explain the variance.

Heh, it is possible to read your comment quite cynically.

It is possible that in the past we thought freedom and libertarianism were the antithesis of authoritarianism.

but as you say perhaps that freedom and libertarian binding has actually broken down.

Hazel Meade (Fairly Paraphrased?): "Like all markets, free consumer markets in culture are great, because consumers will choose stuff that they generally like, and they'll generally like stuff that is high quality"?

Also Hazel Meade: "Angry, sad music is being made because musicians are generally Commies, and the market either does not balance this out by consumer preferences at all, or very much"?

Seems to me like a Libertarian, pro-market person would probably advance a position that this shift is market driven and represents a greater realization of diverse consumer preferences over time within increasingly sophisticated and competitive markets.

(Should such a person actually care about markets, rather than simply be positively disposed to them mostly as an instrument to undermine the status of much hated social groups, like blue-collar males, and erode much hated nationalism.)

indeed. put simply, a libertarian analysis would be that absent government intervention mandating sad music, we must assume that musicians are providing the style the consumers seek

Yeah, this is very interesting too me actually.
Why is it that musicians seem to almost uniformly lean to the far left?
I'm tempted to think that it has something to do with a kind of institutional culture within the music industry, much like in academia - the people in power in the music industry are leftists so you just can't make it in the industry if you are right wing. We all know that "Christian rock" and even neo-nazi punk exist, but these are niche markets - major radio stations tend not to play them, and they won't get signed on major labels. They have to have their own specialized labels.
But if Christian rock or right-wing music was actually popular, why wouldn't those niche labels make more money and get big?
Maybe there's something about right wing music that people find off-putting, or maybe socialism is more popular than it appears to be.
It is a mystery.

the left leaning thing is of course a fair generalization for most artists, painters, actors, writers, musicians, etc.

who tend to start out young and broke.

the music or movie business meanwhile is not known for letting scruples get in the way of making a buck.

but christian rock is without a doubt the work of the devil

Yeah the recording labels don't seem to care about anything except money. it's the artists themselves who always seem pretty left-leaning.

I don't get too much of the sense that musicians are that much more commonly or strongly left wing, than a control group with the same ethnic, age, class, education, etc. composition.

There are a fair few musicians I can immediately think of who are not always monolithically left in a doctrinaire fashion, (Kanye for Trump, Morrissey for Farage, Elvis for Nixon) even if only to troll middle class liberals. Pop musicians are rarely starched "civic" middle class conformists, or would not take their jobs, and don't have the politics that such people have. But I think you are overstating polarisation a bit and there is some variation there which is excluded.

Take a look at some of the most famous folk musicians - a genre you wouldn't think would be pretty left-wing - Bob Dylan, Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seeger - they're all pretty far to the left. Woodie Guthrie was a communist.

I mean, I kind of *would* expect a good number of people who favour a musical genre about the hardships and lives of working folk to end up left leaning? And more so if they're artistic upper-middle class hipster Silents and Boomers cosplaying as working folk?

Is this parody? Sometimes it is so hard to tell.

After beginning with a string of gutter balls, she evened out her backswing and stride, but caught between, stubbing her toe, she chucked one straight in the gutter. She tried to put spin on the ball, but it launched. The thud disturbed her enough to order a Red Stripe.
The attendant pressed Jane with her eyes, then opened one for herself. “Cheers.”
“I’m vegetarian,” Jane said, taking off her Burberry jacket and folding it over one arm. She took a drink and squashed the beer, the mash of stuffing, hash browns and apples.
“Let it travel down your throat.”
Jane’s eyes watered. “That’s strange, isn’t it?” she said.

Interesting - enjoyed the analysis of
Other questions that seem important:

- More uniformity post 2010? Interestingly, the past 8 years have all been 'above trend' for positive emotions, and generally higher than the prior decade. I can't find any other 8 year window that is above trend for such a long sequence. For those who believe in reversion to the mean: does this imply we will now getting 'more positive', and seeing a recovery in sentiment, or will music take a sharply negative turn soon?

- Visually, it appears that distribution around the mean is more densely packed post 2010 (except for the final observation of 'negative emotions') - why?

- Recession periods - for all recession periods except 2001, it appears top 100 songs were generally more positive - coincidence?- Using other cultural media, do we see similar patterns? Batman has surely gotten darker each successive reboot. If Twitter existed 40 years ago would it be as mean/angry as today? What about snide comments within MR blog commentary vs 40 years ago?

- Dispersion in the 90's looks less severe than than 80's. Does anyone else think that Heavy Metal in 80's 'feels' pretty upbeat vs today? How does Warrant's 'Cherry Pie' score on this negative/positive scale? Vs Radiohead? How does 'beat it' score?

Would love to see an analysis that cross-compares music preference by strength of social network of listeners (minor vs major preferences, etc). Do listeners with stronger social support require different forms of music? Is musical 'commiserating' driven by lack of human support?

I have spotify, and my playlist is jam-packed with 'old favorites' from 20 years ago, with a few newer songs sprinkled in. New songs must now compete with my stockpile of old 'favorites'. Do listeners who 'anchor' in prior periods add songs that are more positive or negative than Bilboard top-100

The less said about Warrant the better, but you're right that 80s metal at least had some gleeful energy. I listen to a lot of current metal but it's really gotten gloomier and doomier -- just the album covers, usually either a foreboding forest or something with skulls, can send you into a depressive funk.

...And people were just talking here a few weeks ago about how youtube algos might feed into whatever direction you're already trending. So for example the best album I stumbled onto last week was called Requiem for Mankind, by Memoriam, with some kind of horrific funeral pyre on the cover. Not exactly We Can Work It Out.

Is "boogie" a positive or negative word?

My college roommate liked to play a song called "God Damn the Sun."

Now that I think about it ... She had a decidedly "But the sun is just going to die, so why?" attitude to going to class, even on test days. But she ultimately got a Ph.D and became a career scientist (yes, real science, for decades, not a brief tour before heading into HR or whatever) so her example strikes me as kind of undermining all the rah-rah, go-grrrls STEM nonsense. Or maybe not, because she was brilliant. Maybe you need that PR stuff when you're forcing ill-suited people into the roles you want for them.

The literal meaning of words that compose lyrics of songs do not express true meaning of the songs. For example, in King Diamond's songs which are perhaps among the most lyric-driven of metal, the lyrics have a layer of self consciousness that is aware of their own silly nature: For example, the lyrics of this concept album:https://www.metal-archives.com/albums/King_Diamond/%22Them%22/1068

More music now listened to alone?

Right, which equals less dancing and partying

Maybe...but at least in Europe, the radio always played more "party" songs then gloomy ones... American radio though always focused more on the lyrics, which is why it is "gloomier" IMO...

The modern world eschews tradition in all its forms, worshiping what appears novel at the moment. The present must be different than even the relatively recent past, thus "new" music must have qualities that seem unique to this era to satisfy the next generation. The new music will soon become old and those that enjoyed it will congregate in arenas to watch and listen to their geriatric idols. Mick Jagger, now 76 years old, will be touring this year. It would be interesting to know the average age of those in attendance at his concerts. Probably won't be many Billie Eillish fans, just as the Stones people aren't listening to Doris Day vinyls.

I'm curious as to whether a similar analysis of emo or black metal would threaten the universality of the 'Polyanna' principle.

Oh come on, this is utter rubbish. Sentiment analysis really is a nonsense. I'd bet any money that using their classification system, Hallelujah would mostly contribute to the 'positive emotions' chart.

I was curious if some songs aren't being counted that get significant radio time. My quick search brought me to: https://olitunes.com/much-music-need-sell-get-billboard-charts/

There are a few Billboard charts that are made up of data from different sources. Here’s how other charts are compiled:

Billboard’s Social 50 chart ranks the most active artists on the world’s leading social networking sites...

The Dance Club Songs chart is compiled from reports from a nationwide panel of club DJs, detailing the tracks that elicit the most audience response.
Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Songs chart combines airplay...

The Christian Hot AC/CHR, Christian Rock, Christian Soft AC and Christian AC Indicator charts are compiled from playlist reports that stations playing those genres of music submit online.

Novel distribution methods have increased the competition in pop music. Used to be you got music through the radio, a CD collection, or live performances--all of which were presented limits on what you could listen to. Now everyone walks around with a computer in their pocket, and can listen to anything they want via YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, and other outlets.

Pop music has responded to this by increasing the amount of imitation (which in and of itself is pretty amazing, given how much of that was going on already). They're competing for fewer ears total, so if something works everyone tries to copy that success. If bitter-sweet sells, they'll make more of it.

Another consequence is that pop music cannot be used as a proxy for music in general. It was always intellectually lazy and reprehensible to do so, but not it's gotten far worse. The fact of the matter is that there's a lot more to music than "pop/rap/country". There's a wide and ever-expanding range of musical styles for someone to listen to, and any discussion of music that doesn't factor this into the equation is critically flawed.

Finally, lyrics are poetry. Attempting to interpret them in a word-by-word manner is missing the point.

I have to wonder if people who analyze music in this manner actually listen to music recreationally.

Listening to the songs my daughters listen to in the car: the point of peak emotion seems to be at the breaking up point or just at the point you realise the other person does not love you. I think that song writers have just done what they have always done: written songs about moments in life where people feel strong emotions. Just with greater precision.

I'd like to add "Blues's 'Woman'"'s testimony to the evidence. (Truly immortal Onion.)

Seems to coincide with the Boomer-led transformation of our culture from one of optimism and faith in liberty to one of indulgence in self-pity. The real question is what triggered this transformation --- spoiled by having the Greatest Generation as parents? --- and will this transformation be permanent? So far, Boomers seem to have transmitted their self-pity to their Millennial children, who assure us that they have never known prosperity. \eye-roll

Is "Don't Worry, Be Happy" neutral? What do they do with negations?

I always found McCartney's "Silly Love Songs" actually kinda melancholy.

Modern music isn't fun anymore. And how could it be? There is absolutely nothing fun about pressing play on your iPod and then singing over the top of "beats." I mean, it's more fun than sitting in a chair and drinking a glass of water, but compared to being part of a live music ensemble comprised of living, breathing human beings who make mistakes and play in the moment, it's an absolute bore.

The way the Boomers and Gen-Xers used to suck the fun out of music was by putting together a big list of rules you had to follow if you wanted to be cool. Anyone who broke the rules with intelligence was "pretentious" and anyone who broke the rules without intelligence was "trying too hard." Cool was just whatever the A&R guys said it was, these two dumb generations just lapped it up like propaganda.

The more people keep sucking the fun out of music, the more negative music will be.

I remember seeing a museum exhibition on art of the 1910s, and one of the oddities I noticed was how from 1910 to 1914, art became less idyllic, and more... urgent? Stressful? It looked like people were angrier, more worried, and it was being picked up in the art of the time.

Of course, it took WWI to release those tensions, so I've been looking for indicators like this.

Ok do this is one of my favourite topics...what I've noticed in the last 10 years or so is that US and British charts have become more similar to each other... before that they were quite different IMO, with British/ European music being more focused on the song production (sound, melody, beat etc.), While American songs were more focused on lyrics. My theory is that the reason for this was because European artists had to sell their products to people who spoke different languages, while in the US most people speak English (sort of 😁). I personally am much more inclined towards the British way of music, and think that British/European music from the 90s and early 2000s is vastly underrated in the US.
Anyway, since CA. 2004? There has been a decrease in the "happy" sounding music from the UK and Europe, and it became more bland in tone...
The last great era of this upbeat music was in the early 2000s in Europe, and it was called nu-disco... maybe there will be "new nu-disco" soon, since it was 20 years after the "old" disco...🤔 Currently the only good music seems to be Latin American anyway IMO...

Anyway, here are some early 2000s song from Europe for Americans who don't know what I'm talking about...






Also don't forget classics like these...

...or this classic?

Obviously if you're American, then you won't know this great music, since in the late 90s and early 2000s you listened to rubbish punk pop or just ok hip hop... let's face it the British are too " Chad" got you...

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