Hit songs today are “happier”, more danceable and more likely to be sung by women than songs that fail to make it to the charts, a study into 30 years of musical evolution revealed Wednesday.
“More and more unhappy songs are being released each year,” a research team from the University of California Irvine reported in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
Overall, they found that “happiness” and “brightness” in music has declined, “while ‘sadness’ increased in the last 30 years or so”.
But hit tunes defy the trend, and tend to be “much” happier than unsuccessful ones—think of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”.
The findings of the study, which analysed the “sound” characteristics of popular tracks but not their lyrics, echoed earlier research showing that “positive emotions” in music was dwindling, the team said.
A previous study covering 1980-2007 found that music lyrics have become more self-centred, with increased use of the words “me” and “I”, fewer social words such as “we”, and more anti-social ones such as “hate” and “kill”.
This trend in lyrics are in tune with overall increases in loneliness, social isolation, and mental disorders across society.
The new study, based on a massive data trawl of 500,000 songs released in Britain between 1985 and 2015, found that as “happy” music declined, so did the popularity of songs sung by men.
Read more: Happiness Makes Hit Songs: Study
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