Does Today Pop Music Convey Too Many Negative Emotions?

Does Today Pop Music Convey Too Many Negative Emotions?

Broken hearts and legitimate anger always create the most popular hits. From the song I Will Always Love You by singer Dolly Parton (later recorded by Whitney Houston) to Adele and Stay With Me’s Someone Like You by Sam Smith, there are more artists know how to turn their tears into gold mines. However, does music today convey deeper melancholy than past songs?

That was the conclusion of two recent analyzes after examining thousands of European and American hits in the past few decades. Since the 1980s, emotions such as depression and loneliness have become increasingly popular in the lyrics. Meanwhile, the songs contained a mood of pure joy, such as the Beatles’ All You Need is Love – hard to climb to high rankings on the charts. So what causes these changes? Does it simply reflect the change in the way people listen to music? Or does it show the implicit emotional circuits of society today?

First of all, let us look at the evidence. Lior Shamir at Lawrence Technical University collected the lyrics of 6,150 Billboard Hot 100 chart singles from 1951 to 2016 and analyzed them using algorithms. Pre-programmed software to identify language signs of different emotional states and personality traits including sadness, fear, disgust, joy and extrovert. And although computers will definitely miss some nuance if the lyrics are too complicated, technology reviews tend to agree with human judgment.

Then, each year, Shamir averages points and considers how they change over time. This has produced extremely impressive results. Specifically, anger and disgust in the lyrics almost doubled in the past 65 years while fear increased by more than 50%. Most notably, modern songs sound even more violent and scary than the punk genre when they were in the heyday. One reason can be given here is that the growing influence of rap has reflected social unrest and the plight of being stripped of similar rights to punk music. Meanwhile, the melancholy mood remained stable until the 1980s, then slowly escalated until the beginning of 2010, while the joy, feelings of confidence and openness gradually declined. .

The Changing Face of Pop Music

It is undeniable to admit that pop music is changing with the times. Despite the genre being around since the 1950’s and having iconic artists such as Prince, Madonna, and the Beatles set the scene – newer artists in 2018 are rising in popularity and changing the face of pop music due to their energetic personalities and unique ways they’re approaching their music.

Pop music doesn’t have a defined music genre it follows. Instead, it’s a term that is used in reference to some of the most popular hits that are featured globally. It can range from country, rock, or even hip-hop/RNB. However, in today’s time, pop music is constantly changing, and the artists are the main reason why.


Since around 2010, rising pop artists have begun to develop more unique quirks and personalities to promote themselves and their music. To put it simply, to have music be considered pop music, artists had to start thinking out of the box to have people drawn into their music, no matter the genre.

One of the first modern-day artists, Nicki Minaj, incorporated this idea fully, which incidentally lead to her overall success of having 16 of her singles, and featured songs, appearing on Billboard’s top 50 lists on multiple occasions. However, her main reason of success, other than her music, is derived from her personal uniqueness. She was known for her overall colourful style and her unapologetic behaviour of not meeting the norms. Though, she has not been the only artist who have done this. If you can recall, Lady Gaga has been known to incorporate the same behaviour, even going as far as to call her fans “Little Monsters”. While these acts may be seen as unimportant, popular pop artists have been doing this for years – the only difference is that modern artists are pushing the boundaries of adding their own unique flair.

Now in 2018, it is almost impossible to find a pop artist that doesn’t have their own unique personality. For example, Taylor Swift is known as the sweet singer who music is based off on her personal life, while Cardi B is known as the unapologetic women from the Bronx who has risen to success because of her outgoing personality that is shown through her lyrics.

While pop music will always have it classic roots that were set by great artists in the 1950’s through the 1980’s, the new wave of pop artists are changing the history of pop in a favourable way. While still giving their respects to the iconic pop legends that helped set the foundation of the genre many decades ago.

Social Media

When pop music was becoming popularized in the 1950’s, artists did not have social media to help promote their music and gain their followings. However, in more recent years, social media platforms have been used by artists to connect with their fans while showing their upcoming music as well. Some of the more popular social media platforms: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – are used by artists of all ages and genres, and it’s been shown on multiple occasions that this advancement in technology has affected pop music on a large scale. These platforms have helped artists generate exposure to show who they truly are, which is a known factor in how they became such well-known pop artists in the first place.

As of 2018, the numbers show that pop music is constantly changing and shows no signs of slowing down in the upcoming years. While more artists are being their unique and authentic selves and using social media platforms to promote themselves and their music – pop music is bound to become a concept that everyone, no matter the genre they prefer, can appreciate globally.