Can the Lyrics of a Song Predict Its Commercial Success?

SPOILER ALERT:  Yes.

First, let’s break song topics down by decade:

  • 1960s: Nostalgia, Pain, Rebellion
  • 1970s: Nostalgia, Rebellion, Jaded
  • 1980s: Loss, Aspiration, Confusion
  • 1990s: Loss, Inspiration, Escapism
  • 2000s: Inspiration, Pain, Desperation

Now take a look at this chart words used in lyrics through the years:

Common words in Hot 100 by decade

There’s more information coming, too, via a study schedule for publication in June in Journal of Advertising Research.    Further reading is available right now in Pacific Standard magazine.

(Pamela Chelin contributed to this article.)

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Can the Lyrics of a Song Predict Its Commercial Success?

  • March 21, 2014 at 1:38 pm
    Permalink

    Oh good! Just working on a song right now called “Baby Love Good Man Girl Night Time Boy”

    Reply

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