May 15, 2017

"Are Pop Lyrics Getting More Repetitive?"

"Colin Morris tests this hypothesis with data by analyzing the repetitiveness of a dataset of 15,000 songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1958 and 2017."


traditionalguy said...

Repeat that. said...

Sounds like Colin Moris needs to get out more.

urbane legend said...

Mr. Morris: thank you for making the obvious obvious.

Michael P said...

Toothbrush in the jaw jaw jaw toothbrush in the jaw?

Fogeys are always going to fogey, no matter the(ir) age.

Jake said...

Shouldn't it be repetitive? As it is popular music it's got to sound like what a large distribution of people already like in the first place.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

This discussion would not be complete without the Modern Love flowchart.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Michael P,

Jaw jaw jaw? What? That sounds like something out of The Fountainhead. Was that a real ad? Like brusha brusha brusha, new Ipana toothpaste?

GRW3 said...

A couple of years ago there was a hysterically funny mash up of country western memes on YouTube broken into segments: Love, Girls, Trucks, Beer, etc... In each segment they took a half a dozen, or so, phrases from the years most popular songs. It was revealing, not just the lyrics but the fact that, musically, they pretty much fit together.

Another study I saw, a few years back, showed how the number of different words in lyrics and chords in the music was trending.

Bay Area Guy said...

I don't know about the repetitive lyrics, but you can cover a lot of musical ground with 3 sub-genres: (1) finding the girl, (2) having the girl and (3) losing the girl.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The subject is kind of trivial, but if you follow the Althouse link to metafilter, then their link to The Pudding, the article has some really well-done interactive graphics.

I highly recommend it.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Ox said...

I suddenly have an urge to throw my hands in the air and wave 'em like I just don't care.

Etienne said...

Blue Ox said...I suddenly have an urge to throw my hands in the air and wave 'em like I just don't care.

Do you mean to say the blogger sucks and should get a job?

rp said...

Back in 2001 there was an article pointing out that Queen's songs were among the least repetitive -- which maybe accounts for why some of their 40+ year old songs are still quite popular today. [Certainly Bohemian Rhapsody is notable for not being repetitive. Another article somewhere noted that BoRap is one of the few songs where a good share of the population knows just about every word -- despite the lack of repetition.]

The Queen anomaly:
Melody repetition and the melody factor in Queen songs.
by Denes Pinter

Paddy O said...

I love a great deal of classical music, listen to it daily when I work. But don't like waltzes at all, they all sound the same to me. But I guess they have a good beat and are easy to dance to.

Mitch H. said...

It should be pointed out that lyrics have different purposes in different genres. Techno and electronica tend to use lyrics as just another rhythmic element. Fat Boy Slim's "Rockefeller Skank", for instance, is an almost Bach-like composition, where the lyrics are literally meaningless. On the other hand, modern country-pop is narrative-centric, and something like Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss's "Whiskey Lullaby" is carried by the story being told, and the word-play of how it's being told. This is probably why 'pure' rap and country-pop are clustered on the left of his graphs, and techno and dance music on the right.

Fernandinande said...

No-no, no, no, no-no-no, no, no-no, no, no-no
Na-no, no, na-no, no-no, na-no, no-no, no, no-no,

Rick Turley said...

Blue Ox said...

"I suddenly have an urge to throw my hands in the air and wave 'em like I just don't care."


Oh, make me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands said...

Speaking of country lyrics, this is a famous David Allan Coe song by Steve Goodman:

Well, a friend of mine named Steve Goodman wrote that song
And he told me it was the perfect country & western song
I wrote him back a letter and I told him it was
Not the perfect country & western song because he hadn't said anything at all about mama,
Or trains,
Or trucks,
Or prison,
Or getting' drunk
Well he sat down and wrote another verse to the song
And he sent it to me,
And after reading it,
I realized that my friend had written the perfect
Country & western song
And I felt obliged to include it on this album
The last verse goes like this here:

Well, I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison
And I went to pick her up in the rain
But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck
She got runned over by a damned old train

And I'll hang around as long as you will let me
And I never minded standing' in the rain
No, a' you don't have to call me darlin', darlin'
You never even call me
Well I wonder why you don't call me
Why don't you ever call me by my name

John Henry

The Cracker Emcee said...

"...and their music, it's just noise."

The upper strata of pop music has always been garbage. Generally, you have to dig to find gold.

madAsHell said...

At some point, lyrics will fade away entirely, and the video will be reduced to loud music, and dry humping dancers.

tcrosse said...

'Twas ever thus.

More substantive lyrics

rhhardin said...

Eating tater tots and pussy
Sucking Mountain Dew and tits
Kick my grandpa in his nutsack
Then I suck my boss' dick
Fuck my cousin in her asshole 'fore I finished on her tits
Then I shoot my neighbor's cat
I love that redneck shit

Mr. D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. D said...

The winner for repetitive lyrics.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

For the ultimate in repetition, I suggest "Nom nom nom nom nom nom nom." That's all there is. Granted, it's very short, and it's a cute video of animals munching stuff. Still ...

Wilbur said...

I listen to today's pop music on the radio occasionally, just to keep up. What I notice is less the repetition in lyrics, and rather how nearly every female singer sounds alike. And sounds crappy, too.

I quit listening to CW music 25 years ago, when it morphed into lousy pop music with a fake twang in the voices.

Here's comes a long post of some Dylan lyrics in 3,2, 1 ...

wildswan said...

The folk singers and Dylan were trying to get away from the restrictive repetition in Fifties music. I see the moon in June and sing you a love tune, Moooo, Mooooo, Moooo, Just how I love you in June in my love tune under the moon, Mooo, Mooo, Mooo I'm singing my June tune, loving you over the moon, under the moon, on the Mooo, Mooo, Mooon, June moon love tune.

If you're traveling the north country far
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Remember me to one who lives there
For she once was a true love of mine.

If you go when the snowflakes storm
When the rivers freeze and summer ends
Please see if she has a coat so warm
To keep her from the howlin' winds.

Please see if her hair hangs long
If it rolls and flows all down her breast
Please see for me if her hair's hanging long
For that's the way I remember her best.

I'm a-wonderin' if she remembers me at all
Many times I've often prayed
In the darkness of my night
In the brightness of my day.

So if you're travelin' the north country far
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was the true love of mine.

n.n said...

Traditionally, it's boys singing about girls singing about boys and responsibility.

In modern societies, it's redistributive change, retribributive change, elective dysfunction, progress.

Rick Turley said...

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

"For the ultimate in repetition, I suggest "Nom nom nom nom nom nom nom." That's all there is. Granted, it's very short, and it's a cute video of animals munching stuff. Still ..."

Close. But I'd vote for:


Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Point taken!

R.J. Chatt said...

Explains why when I check out contemporary music I usually cut it off half way through. Generally speaking, I prefer less repetition. From the past I love Ray Orbison and Billy Joel, two artists who were the least repetitive in their time. Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson were big repeaters, but I still liked them.

Why you tolerate something annoying in some people and not others is a topic for another day.

Earnest Prole said...
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Earnest Prole said...

Of course pop music is getting more repetitive. Our popular culture (music and movies) used to be made primarily for adults; now it is made primarily for children.

n.n said...

Modern culture is downstream of memes.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Modern culture is downstream of memes.

And memes are downstream from where society dumps its raw sewage.

sdharms said...

Good grief! is the Pope a Catholic?

SF said...

I thought the Queen lyrical repetitiveness by song chart was interesting for another reason. There is a not-quite-spoken assumption here that less repetitiveness is good, more repetitiveness is bad. But their least repetitive song, "Body Language", is easily in the bottom 25% of their output in terms of quality IMO, while their most, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", is pretty clearly one of their better songs (though definitely not one of their best IMO). In general, I don't see any relationship between quality of song and repetitiveness in their output.

And then there's something like Jon Hendricks' vocalese version of Miles Davis' Freddie Freeloader: It starts off fairly repetitive in the head, and then the solos gradually build up complexity until you hit Jon's John Coltrane solo at 4:30 which is a long, complex stream of consciousness both musically and lyrically, and then things ramp back down until the beginning is recapped at the end. It's using varying levels of complexity as part of the shape of the song, just as the original Miles Davis version did.