If you’ve ever felt that some songs sound the same, you may be right. While the names of artists, bands, and song titles differ, there are more similarities between song lyrics and genres than you might realize.
Here’s a look at the most characteristic words in different music genres over time, as well as a deeper look into lyrics from 2016. Would you bet on the most characteristic words? Keep reading to see if you would have won big with your karaoke club knowledge.
Bet You’ve Heard a Song Like This Before
Can a single word define a music genre? If so, the most characteristic word found in the song lyrics of each genre could just be that defining term. Disco and pop feel the “love.” Soul is all about “baby.” Meanwhile metal and punk are feeling “death” and the f-bomb respectively. Want to try your hand at writing song lyrics but feeling short on inspiration? Trying running the top 20 word list per genre together with a few tweaks. Who knows – you might just have a hit on your hands.
Hit Lyrics in Hit Songs
Every generation has it’s own distinctive music – but some words seem to endure. “Baby,” “yeah,” and “bop” have no doubt been prevalent words since the start of American rock-and-roll. Surprisingly, these words remain prominent today. Newer on the scene? “Kanye” (referring to superstar rapper Kanye West) and the word “jumpman,” which refers to an iconic logo used to promote Air Jordan sneakers. “Jumpman” is also a 2015 single by Canadian rapper Drake and American rapper Future.
Top 40 Countdown
You have Justin Bieber to thank for “baby” coming in at No. 5 out of the top 40 most frequently used lyrics in 2016. Bieber’s song “Love Yourself” uses the word “baby” six times. It also took the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s “Hot 100 Songs” list for 2016.
“Blackstar” had a high number of mentions as well, which speaks to the impact of David Bowie as a music icon. Although he passed away only two days after his last album was released on Jan. 8, the titular track uses the word “blackstar” 18 times (which is also titled “Blackstar”). Again, it’s repetition throughout the chorus and refrain – not necessarily having the biggest hit song of the year – that has led to these reigning lyrics.
2016 in Song
If you bet that a random song from 2016 had one word in it, here’s hoping you said “bam.” In fact, “bam” was the most common word used in lyrics from 2016. Why is it so “bam” characteristic? A vocal loop that runs through Kanye West’s hit song “Famous” mentions the word “bam” a whopping seven times.
Further, Drake’s song “Controlla” – Billboard’s No. 41 hottest song of 2016 – mentions “controlla” 20 times, earning it a larger spot in the word cloud. Drake is also responsible for other words showing up in the cloud, such as “jumpman.” While the song “Jumpman” was a collaboration between Drake and Future, the lyrics mention the title 35 times throughout the song.
If you’re looking for songs that feature profanity, don’t look toward Christian music, honky-tonk country, or dance-party disco. Instead, turn your attention toward hip-hop. Across all songs we examined, hip-hop had over four swear words per song. You may have also noticed that many of the 20 most common words used in this genre include profane words such as “s---,” “b----,” and “f-----’,” just to name a few. Punk, metal, and electronic genres also had quite a bit of profanity.
Beats and Beating the Odds
Did you win the bet? Are you truly tuned in to the most commonly used words in different genres and across songs of 2016, or was your gamble a little tone deaf? Keep in perfect harmony when it comes to betting with Latest Casino Bonuses.
For this project, we tapped into the database of song lyrics from SongMeanings.com to collect song lyrics from over 1 million songs. Segmenting these songs by genre, and “Hot 100” songs from Billboard throughout 2016, allowed us to determine the likelihood of various words appearing in hit songs, compared to the entire corpus of over 1 million songs. In addition, we calculated the likelihood of words appearing in various musical genres, compared to the entire lyric corpus. Click here for more information on text mining and log likelihood. Genres were grouped based on listed subgenres.
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