Popular Music Is Getting Sadder And Angrier According To Science

February 8, 2019

Antonio Guillem | Dreamstime.com


A recent study published by the Journal of Popular Music Studies has found that popular music has become sadder, angrier, and more fearful as of late. Using IBM's Watson AI platform lyrics of songs from 1951 to 2016 were analyzed. Emotions from joy to disgust and everything in between were analyzed in the Billboard Hot 100 songs from those years and given a corresponding score (either 0 or 1). For example, The Village People's "YMCA" scored a 0.65 for happiness and a 0.11 for anger. A song like 2015's "Stay With Me" by Sam Smith scored only a 0.15 on the joy scale. Busta Rhymes' 2006 hit "Touch It" scored a 0.97 on the angry scale, which is honestly impressive.

Inside Science reports that computer scientist Liorr Shamir who conducted the study states that the Billboard Hot 100, which can be considered the most popular songs from each year, is a good reflection of the public's emotions at the time & the spikes in data reflect what was going on in the world at the time. Overall, sadness, anger, and fear became gradually more common in popular music with each passing decade. Shamir says music has shifted from purely being a source of entertainment in the mid-20th century to becoming something more emotional as time went on. From the rise in protest songs to the public's increase of interest in music's emotional intensity.

For more on the study head to Inside Science.