Study: Pop music has got sadder over 30 years, but remains upbeat and danceable
As Sir Elton John famously sung, “sad songs say so much” – and that seemed to sum up the findings of a new study from the University of California in Irvine.
In research published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, a survey of 500,000 songs released between 1985 and 2015 in the UK were divided into moods, with the results indicating pop has seen a downward trend in happy songs.
The study of lyrics concur that positive emotions are on a decline, and indicators of loneliness and social isolation are on the rise.
“‘Happiness’ is going down, ‘brightness’ is going down, ‘sadness’ is going up, and at the same time, the songs are becoming more ‘danceable’ and more ‘party-like,’” study co-author Natalia L. Komarova told The Associated Press.
However researchers stress that they are just talking about a trend, and upbeat dance tunes still dominate the charts.
“The public seems to prefer happier songs, even though more and more unhappy songs are being released each year,” the researchers stated.
Also emerging in the study was that pop and dance seem to be growing in popularity, while rock has been losing ground from the early 2000s.
Among the 2014 songs with low happiness were ‘Stay With Me’’ by Sam Smith, ‘Whispers’ by Passenger and ‘Unmissable’ by Gorgon City.
Some from 1985 with a high happiness bent include ‘Glory Days’ by Bruce Springsteen, ‘Freedom’ by Wham! and ‘Would I Lie to You?’ by Eurythmics.
The study is at odds with the current push to give female songwriters and performers greater prominence.
Researchers found that the frequency of male pop singers in the last 30 years has decreased.
“Successful songs are characterized by a larger percentage of female artists compared to all songs,” they said.