lyricfinder search logo

Find lyrics for any song - search by track or artist

Sad songs “less common since 2010”, finds study

Related Artists: Leonard Cohen

There are those songs that just sound sadder than others. Whether it’s some melancholy lyrics, a particular melodic choice or just the fact that it’s Thom Yorke singing it, some combinations are perfect for bringing you to tears, while others can make you jump for joy.

Exactly how this relationship works has been examined in a new study published by the Royal Society of Open Science. Entitled “the minor fall, the major lift” after lyrics in Leonard Cohen’s famous weep-fest “Hallelujah”, the study found major differences in how lyrics are combined with major or minor chords across different regions, genres and times.

The analysis of around 90,000 songs written in English rates 222 different words with a score of 1 – 9 that gauges their “emotional positivity” – love, for example, is rated at 9, while pain is rated at 1.

Their findings? Well, songs are getting less sad over time. Tunes with more negative vocabulary have been on the up from 1950 through to 2010 but, since the turn of the decade, have been on the decline.

Researchers also compared songs that were written in Asia, Australia, North America, Scandinavia and Western Europe to find where the world’s most miserable lyricists live.

Asian songs had the most positive lyric content, they found – perhaps thanks to PSY’s work over the past few years – while Scandinavian musicians were the most sombre – again, thanks to a strong tradition in death metal and gloomy electronic music – though this only reflects songs from both regions written in English.

When it came to analysing genre, the results were perhaps even less surprising: metal and punk songs rated as the least emotionally positive, while religious tunes and classic rock from the 1960s and 70s came through the most positive.

So, though times might be hard in the real world, it seems that at least compared to before 2010, song lyrics are getting happier.