It looks like emo music is back with a vengeance. A new study coming from Lawrence Technical University in Michigan finds that popular music has become increasingly sadder and angrier in recent decades.
Maybe this is proof that we’re all a little bit emo?
Kathleen Napier and Lior Shamir produced the study, derived from examining the lyrics of pop songs.
Their paper titled ‘Quantitative Sentiment Analysis of Lyrics in Popular Music’ states that the two students applied “digital humanities and data science approach to examine how lyrics changed between the 1950s and the more recent years [before] applying quantitative analysis to measure these changes.”
Woo! That’s a mouthful.
To break it down, the study took 6,000 that charted on the Billboard 100 between 1951 and 2016 and analyzed them using IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence platform.
OK, cool. So what does that mean?
Glad you asked!
Essentially, the program took the lyrics from each song and looked for words or phrases it could associate with emotions such as anger, fear, joy, disgust, and sadness. Songs were then given a sadness rating between zero and one.
Using this approach, the study found that the average scores in sadness for each song rose gradually over the decades, while the scores for joyfulness declined.
“During the 1950s the purpose of music was entertainment and fun, and I believe that is related to the more joyful and less angry lyrics,” Shamir tells SFGate. “During the late 1960s and early 1970s music also became a social and political tool, used to express and even advance social activism and political views.”
For example, the 1956 song “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino scored a 0.89 for joy. Sam Smith’s 2015 hit “Stay With Me” scored just a 0.15 for joy.
“The results show that anger, disgust, fear, sadness, and conscientiousness have increased significantly, while joy, confidence, and openness expressed in pop song lyrics have declined,” the paper concludes.
Do you think music has gotten even more emo and angry over time? Sound off in the comments below!