Modern Songs More 'Simple, Repetitive, Angry & Self-Obsessed'

2 April 2024 | 1:41 pm | Mary Varvaris

“Across all genres, lyrics had a tendency to become more simple and more repetitive.”'s Top 50 records of 2023's Top 50 records of 2023 (Source: Supplied)

According to a new report published by Nature Briefing, song lyrics have become more straightforward, angrier and more repetitive “in the last five decades”.

The study, conducted by European researchers, examined 12,000 English-written songs in various genres, including pop, country, hip-hop, and heavy metal, released between 1980 and 2020.

Senior study author Eva Zangerle, from Austria’s University of Innsbruck, claimed that the lyrics we’ve seen over the last five decades have held a “mirror to society”, outlining the sociopolitical and cultural events and beliefs held in the population.

Zangerle added, “What we have also been witnessing in the last 40 years is a drastic change in the music landscape – from how music is sold to how music is produced.

“Across all genres, lyrics had a tendency to become more simple and more repetitive.”

The study found that “happiness” and “brightness” in songs have trended downward, while bleaker subject matters, including “sadness,” have seen a slight upward trajectory.

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The report said lyrics have become simpler in multiple facets, including “vocabulary richness, readability, complexity, and the number of repeated lines.”

The results also found that rock music listeners tend to reach for music of the past and enjoy lyrics from older songs rather than seek out new music in the genre. On the other hand, country music listeners are more likely to explore lyrics in modern songs.

Zangerle also claimed that “Rap music has become more angry than the other genres”, adding that the genre tends to have the most repetitive songs due to having the most lines. Meanwhile, lyrics across all genres are now more self-obsessed, often featuring “me” and “mine” lyrics.

“The first 10-15 seconds are highly decisive for whether we skip the song or not,” Zangerle said, commenting on the modern-day music listener’s changing listening habits.

The emergence of streaming, mainly Spotify’s automatic shuffle function, could contribute to this statistic, with listeners more likely to skip to a song they’d rather listen to than wait for a song they dislike to end.

Zangerle believes that more straightforward song lyrics are “easier to memorise”, something that’s noticeable when listening to the radio.

You can read the full report here.

Last year, Dr Michael Bonshor from the University of Sheffield revealed the happiest song of all time.

Dr Bonshor found that the most uplifting songs contain a tempo of 137 beats per minute (bpm) and an ordinary verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure. However, an unpredictable element like a key change or a “seventh chord” makes human beings latch onto a song.

Dr Bonshor stated, “Alongside this, cheery songs usually have a strong 1-2-1-2 beat to them, so that you can dance along – and a short introduction means the song kicks off with a bang straight away, and there’s not a long build-up.”

The Music has the answer to the Happiest Song Of All Time here.