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Song lyrics are getting simpler, more repetitive: study

By Daniel Lawler

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Song lyrics are getting simpler, more repetitive: study

It doesn't matter as long it's viral, people attention span lately is really short anyway.


3 ( +5 / -2 )

It seems to be an accurate indicator of where we have come as a civilisation and species.

9 ( +13 / -4 )

Very true.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

I listen to songs with a story, not repeating and nausea the same.

That is why I love Hotel California ;) ( in fact it is one of rare song where the music is long and has no music exact repeat while some words repeat indeed but long story).

2 ( +5 / -3 )

So are movies

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I rate Chuck Berry as one of the greatest ever lyricists. No complicated words. Brown-eyed Handsome Man is a masterpiece of funny and witty lyrics about a serious subject.

As for people like Bob Dylan, I think maybe we live in more cynical times. People writing more ‘poetic’ or cryptic lyrics would come across as pretentious rather than prophetic. The 10 to 20-minute prog-rock epics we can do without anyway.

II remember Des’ree won a poll of worst lyrics ever for this:

I don’t want to see a ghost

It’s the sight I fear most

I’d rather have a piece of toast

I think Bon Jovi and Thin Lizzy got dishonorable mentions too.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Well one of my fave bands of all time - B52s put out meaning in simplicity - albeit with hypnotic beat and fun-fare.

Witness the lyrics of that 1979 wonder Planet Claire:

She came from Planet Claire

I knew she came from there

She drove a Plymouth Satellite

A-faster than the speed of light

Planet Claire has pink air

All the trees are red

No one ever dies there

No one has a head

Some say she's from Mars

Or one of the seven stars that shine after three-thirty in the morning

Well, she isn't!

She came from Planet Claire

She came from Planet Claire

She came from Planet Claire

45 years young!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

MoonrakerToday  08:41 am JST

It seems to be an accurate indicator of where we have come as a civilisation and species.

And where is that?

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

It's not just the words; the music has also become simpler, more repetitive and less meaningful.

Simple music can be enjoyable, depending on what you're trying to get out of it.

A simple song is better while driving but going for a walk, you might want to listen to something a bit richer and more involving.

I've been going back to the likes of Radiohead for when I want to really listen and my house mixes for BGM.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

I enjoy Dylan most days. I never tire of his lyrics.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Hurricane from Dylan is such a long song and difficult song to remember.

Recently, Sleaford Mods songs have some complicated lyrics.

Otherwise, yes, more simple than in the past and less political meaning in the lyrics

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Just take the descriptions of the lyrics and apply them more generally and you get: more repetitive, angrier, self-obsessed, disgusted, sad, more basic, less positive, less joyful, with those seeking other things, "looking back to a heyday," presumably when things were less like that. The difference seems to be that at one time there was a big artistic and experimental component to music with bands able to dictate more to record companies what they would make because the record companies were behind the curve but now everything is purely for commercial imperatives and lowest common denominators and totally controlled, except on the margins.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

from 1980 to 2020

Two of my favourite songs lyrically are from this period. "Scattered Black and Whites" is quite short and simple lyrics-wise. "童年" (Childhood) is a bit longer and more cheerful-sounding. Both make me feel nostalgia like no other song can, and for a childhood I didn't quite live. Elbow are still going strong, I believe, though I haven't listened to their more recent work yet.

Nothing wrong with simple, nothing wrong with complex, so long as they are done well.

II remember Des’ree won a poll of worst lyrics ever for this:

I don’t want to see a ghost

It’s the sight I fear most

I’d rather have a piece of toast

I think Bon Jovi and Thin Lizzy got dishonorable mentions too.

Crap songs can be a fun listen too, particularly if the artists sound like they had fun singing them. So while "Agadoo" and "Dr. Jones" are no lyrical masterpieces, they do make me smile when I hear them.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Rock has tumbled down the charts in recent decades, and this could suggest fans are increasingly looking back to the genre's heyday, rather than its present.

When was that heyday? Going back to the cynical point, I remember someone saying that the ‘coolest’ rock from a modern perspective would be the likes of the Beatles, Kinks, Stones and Who in the mid-sixties.

The rock god preening of Robert Plant or Roger Daltrey looks a bit cringeworthy now, all the occult stuff like Black Sabbath and later Iron Maiden looks a bit teenage, the prog-rock stuff is just pretentious, the hair bands are just silly, grunge was just angry navel-gazing etc.

From a lyrics point of view in rock, I’d say the Kinks were the best.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Shadows of the Rising SunToday  02:02 pm JST

wallaceToday  12:38 pm JST

I enjoy Dylan most days. I never tire of his lyrics.

Tried but have never been able to get past Dylan's droll singing. His lyricas are peotic, though.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

Tried but have never been able to get past Dylan's droll singing. His lyricas are peotic, though

Droll? Never heard it described like that.

His voice has changed a hell of a lot over the years but it was always distinctive. I liked that.

I quite liked his crooning on Nashville Skyline although the duet he did with Johnny Cash on that album sounded like a lawnmower singing with a B52 Bomber.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I am not sure most people can even handwrite a coherent paragraph anymore so not surprised.

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So are movies

Most movies for the general public these days (Spider-man, etc.) makes you wonder if it was written and directed by a bunch of people with ADHD, even the "jokes" became awfully boring. No wonder so many people commenting everywhere they'd give anything to be alive in the 80s/90s.

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The ironic one here is that many tunes by modern artists, inserted name of your choice, rap or RnB will be best), are credited to seven or eight people. Which may make sense if its the Wu Tan Clan and there are eight of them with one verse each, but doesn't when its just Lizzo or someone singing lines like "ooh baby ooh!"

Most dance music doesn't need lyrics. This applies even more so today with looping and sampling but is nothing new. Here's a fifty year old song with five words that would not be improved by adding more words to it.


4 ( +4 / -0 )

Popular music is well. could be defined by the cultural divide.

The lyrics either political, emotional characterization, complexity, artistic expression, the classical dramatic works, opera.

However before succumbing to Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Steve Wonder, to name but a few.

Poplar music is fun and when faced with the trials and tribulations of Karaoke,

Those lyrical masterpieces can get lost somewhat.....

Let me present Peter Kay.... Misheard Lyrics | Peter Kay: The Tour That Didn't Tour Tour



Just enjoy

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Interesing research. Perhaps every era has its vibe and frequency, perhaps people are not really into music like it was some 20-40 yrs ago so as long as the melody is up to your mood its fine.

I liked different kinds of music since early teenage yrs, from pop to rock\metal, then to jazz\blues then to jrock and pop :) however, if to compare those to mainstream Hollywood top chart singers song I guess i could say that a song of my fav jpop\jrock band\artist is much much interesting to listen both in regards to lyrics and melody vibe and style. and I always come back to them after some time. However, after listening I'm sorry by Bieber for hundredth time in a row I dont feel like listening to it anymore. strange!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

all the good words and notes have already been taken.

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I’m guessing most of the people commenting here used to spend much time consuming music years ago. It was a different world and entertainment choices were much fewer and we were all less busy. People nowadays don’t have the time or desire to read the liner notes and uncover the mysteries of their favorite bands. There are also more artists than at any time in history all competing for the same short attention spans. The lyrics have clearly been dumbed down, notably today’s rap music which is an embarrassment to the greats of the 90s.

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What this comes down to is a lack of demand and a lack of interest in taking the time sit down and write traditional songs. You need to write and compose, get each band member involved in writing or putting their parts together, practice over and over and over again, book gigs, get management input, promote the music to the various stations, producers choosing which song sounds best, give it airplay and hope for the best, while people enjoy and critique your new music, get ready for more promotions and start touring for a few months or up to a year, was and repeat when done. Most musicians of today don't want to take that route.

Make quick snappy hooks, bubblegum the crap out of it and make it as cute as possible and they will come, Asia have all of the cute bands and that is what resonates more with the youth of today. It os so much easier to copy, sample, use Protools, or LogicPro make music at home, back in the day we used to only use big studios to practice and record, nowadays you can do all of that while touring in your hotel room, AI has also made making music a lot easier.

When you listen to songs like Queen's-"Bohemian Rhapsody" or Rush-"The Camera Eye", Prince's "Wanna be your lover", you are not getting any of that these days, there are a few exceptions from Groups such as: Dirty Loops, Bruno Mars, Thundercat But these are the exceptions, everything become more simplified with today's technology and easier ways of recording, now with the new M2-M3 chip processor you can write and compose music on your iPad, you don't even need a PC anymore. The best decade without question for producing some of the greatest hits were in the 60's and the 80's without question, we will probably never see an era like that in our lifetime, this is the future and for us it may be appalling, but for the kids of today, they are quite content with caring more about their physical attributes over their musical abilities, and the beat goes on....

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

My daughter sings a hundred (or so it seems) J-Pop songs. Somehow she remembers all the lyrics. J-pop song = as many syllables as possible to a bar. On the other hand, when I listen to Floyd, say, I can listen for minutes at a time with no lyrics. I guess there's the difference: that's music.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Music follows the drug culture if you look at music. The correlation between music and the evolution of drug cultures has been significant since the 1920s. In the early 20th century, jazz music and the rise of prohibition in the US brought an environment where illicit drug use, mainly alcohol, became mixed with the rebellious spirit of the music scene. In the 1960s, the counterculture movement brought a surge in experimentation with psychedelic drugs like LSD and marijuana. Music played a big role in this movement, with artists like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and the Grateful Dead incorporating drug-inspired themes into their music, which popularized drug use among their followers. Going forward you have the 1980s and 1990s, the rise of EDM and the rave culture which brought about a new wave of drug experimentation, particularly with substances like MDMA ecstasy. The high-energy beats and immersive experiences of raves became synonymous with drug use. Today, we have various genres of music that continue to intersect with drug culture, from hip-hop's WEED references to substance use to the continued association of EDM with party drug use. The relationship between music and drug cultures is very complex, I think they reflect broader societal attitudes towards substance use and the ongoing evolution of musical genres and their associated subcultures. On another note music today is not well thought out all you need is a drum machine hit one note, and loop it with a drum machine and there you go. If you are strung out on a drug how could you think beside repeat the phrase over an over in a psyched out mind.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Would you ever get a modern artist coming out with something sublime like this?

We skipped the light fandango

Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor

I was feeling kind of seasick

The crowd called out for more

The room was humming harder

As the ceiling flew away

When we called out for another drink

The waiter brought a tray

Mind you, as I type this, I'm watching an AKB48 2012 concert boxset that I picked up from a charity shop. It all sounds quite profound when you can't understand the language.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Song lyrics have also become much more misogynistic.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I guess you couldn't drop an F-bomb or an N-word in a song in the old days so you had to use your brain.... Then there is K-pop, blah blah blah, or some other American pretty singer, repeating some warble, lip tremble or jaw shaking, repeating the same chorus as filler. Where are today's modern, The Boss, Queen, David Bowie, Whitney Houstons, Madonna? Even Lady Gaga seems to have disappeared. I can't help but wonder if today's singers seem to be more from Disney TV, or another TV talent show chasing ratings, building up fans as you go along, and competition, rather than the organic way. However, Adam Lambert is a great singer for Queen.

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It really just depends on the music you listen to. I listen to music that isn’t so repetitive. Mainstream music has always catered to the lowest common denominator so it’s not surprising that it’s often also simple.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Popular music also no more long intros before the vocals lyrics

It's so easy to skip to the next track on the queue nowadays (and the queue list being infinite) that people in a hurry who don't get into the song right away, they press the next button

0 ( +0 / -0 )

MoonrakerApr. 2  08:41 am JST

It seems to be an accurate indicator of where we have come as a civilization and species.

There are some songs with repetitive choruses that are still intelligent and enjoyable. And some songs are just plain silly but with catchy melodies that make it all worth the while. Examples are 'Chick-a-Boom (Don'cha Jes Luv It?'', 'I'm Too Sexy'', 'Love Removal Machine', 'Cheer Down', 'Admiral Halsey, Uncle Albert', 'Walk Like an Egyptian' and others.

Then there's some really rotten turgid crap where the repetition in lyrics is used as filler in a song that is wretchedly stupid and musically irritating and awesome in its flat out suckability. I refer you to 'Macarena', 'My Humps', 'Achy Breaky Heart' and other lowest common denominator delights.

It also depends on who you're listening to as well. I remember critics complaining about say Genesis 'selling out' in the 80s. Sure they hit the big leagues but they never surrendered their prog cred.

But most of all music should be fun. Most of it today IS manufactured, with repetitive elements, are simpler (minded) and just isn't FUN. The alt/indy world today is pretty much where I look for new music, there's some good serious artists there who deserve our time and patronage.

Of course I think time, impact, legacy also speaks volumes. In 2018 in an arena in my hometown Justin Tinkerbell had a sold out show with his simpleton crap music, but at an outdoor arena just nearby Joan Jett's show was also sold out. However 'simple' some of her songs may be, she has more cred and has a track record of over 40 years to prove it!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I like how Billie Eish and her bros Finneas have stepped out of the box of mainstream and write, compose and play/sing original music themselves that is hard to really categorize.

Sounds simple but is layered with textures and verve.

Cool stuff.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

browny1Apr. 3  06:46 pm JST

I like how Billie Eish and her bros Finneas have stepped out of the box of mainstream and write, compose and play/sing original music themselves that is hard to really categorize.

Sounds simple but is layered with textures and verve.

Cool stuff.

I like the complexities in music like that. In 1992 at my university I got to see the members of Genesis set up and program their gear for the songs - drum machine rhythms laced by Phil's slamming the electric and acoustic drums, Tony Banks programming the layered synth textures, Mike Rutherford fooling with the guitar synth, etc.

Even on a newly re-remastered Japanese CD I bought via Amazon of the Rolling Stones CD 'Steel Wheels' (which was originally recorded and mixed digitally back in 1989) reveals details and layers via earplugs that I couldn't hear before; such as in one song Mick Jagger is in the background yelping 'Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! ' ad infinitum, another track he just snarls in the background and in another song I heard an acoustic guitar that I didn't know was there before.

That's what I like hearing, it shows that great time and effort was made for it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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