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. .