A study done on popular song lyrics indicates songs are expressing more anger and sadness and less joy.
Researchers at Lawrence Technological University in Michigan studied songs from the Billboard Hot 100 lists from the 1950s to 2016. Songs from the 1950s and from 1982 to 1984 reflected the least anger while those from the mid 1990s on reflected more.
Sadness, disgust, and fear also increased in song lyrics over time, but less sharply than did anger. Disgust increased gradually, but was lower in the early 1980s and higher in the mid and late 1990s. Popular music lyrics expressed more fear during the mid 1980s, and the fear decreased sharply in 1988. Another sharp increase in fear was observed in 1998 and 1999, with a sharp decrease in 2000.
The study also showed that joy was a dominant tone in popular music lyrics during the late 1950s, but it decreased over time and became much milder in the recent years. An exception was observed in the mid 1970s, when joy expressed in lyrics increased sharply.
Note that the songs analyzed were the most popular, in other words the ones consumers wanted to hear, not necessarily the ones songwriters most wanted to write.
The researchers didn’t seem to look at what was happening in the world duting the various time periods they mention. Did these events affect what people wanted to listen to? Below are some facts gleaned from a quick Internet search.
We’re all familiar with the “Happy Days” mood of the 1950s. Microsoft was started in 1975 and Margaret Thatcher was England’s Prime Minister.The period 1982 to 1984 was during the Reagan years. George H.W. Bush was elected in 1988. His son George W. Bush won the contested election in 2000.
Conversely, in 1998, Bill Clinton was denying his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
I wish the researchers would extend their analysis to the past two years. There seems to be a correlation between Republican regimes and more positive emotions. Or am I missing something? What do you think?