It’s official: Pop music is getting sadder and more depressing

It’s not your imagination: pop music is getting slower, sadder and more depressing. In fact, 20% “less happy.”

Using machine learning and various weird algorithms, a new study of more than 500,000 songs by researchers at the University of California determined that things are much more depressing today than they were 30 years ago.

This adds to previous research that today’s song lyrics tend to dwell more on sadness, loneliness and social isolation.

From The Daily Mail:

Lead author Dr Natalia Komarova said: ‘The whole reason I started this study was because I was listening to the songs my teenage daughter played and thinking, what on earth has happened to music?’

The researchers looked at an average of around 600 charting and 16,000 non-charting songs a year from 1985 to 2015, graded under criteria such as happiness, sadness and ‘brightness’.

This can be worked out musically as, for example, sadder songs tend to be slower and sung in a minor key. On a scale from desperately sad to blissfully happy, songs fell by about 20 percent over the three decades.

A word of warning to songwriters, though: Research also says that happy songs climb higher on the charts.

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.

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