Scientists say song lyrics are getting angrier over time

For their research, Shamir and Napier used Tone Analyzer, a computational linguistic tool developed for IBM’s Watson question-answering computer …
Donald Bell/CNET

Feeling bummed? It should be easier than ever for you to find pop songs that match your dark mood.

A scientific analysis of pop music over the past 65 years found song lyrics have become “sadder” and “angrier.” Especially angrier.

A professor and grad student from Michigan’s Lawrence Technological University analyzed the lyrics of more than 6,000 songs that made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 between 1951 and 2016. Billboard charts are often used to identify trends and preferences of both artists and fans.

Computer science Professor Lior Shamir and computer scientist Kathleen Napier turned to a program that analyzed the sentiment of songs’ lyrics, looking for words or phrases it can associate with feelings. So, for example, sadness dominates the line “Turn around, even now and then I get a little bit lonely and you’re never coming ’round,” from Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler.

The team’s analysis includes terms like “Pearson correlation coefficients” that aren’t exactly music to my ears. But the bottom line, according to the research, is that anger, disgust, fear, sadness, tentativeness and conscientiousness have increased over time, while joy, analytics, confidence and openness have declined. The study was published in the Journal of Popular Music Studies.

No more ‘Happy happy, joy joy’

The study also found pop lyrics expressed more fear during the mid ’80s, and the fear decreased sharply in 1988 (which, for you history buffs who might be looking to speculate about the connection between lyrics and the cultural zeitgeist, is just before the Berlin Wall fell, ending the Cold War). Fearful lyrics surged again in 1998 and 1999, with a sharp decrease in 2000 (Y2K anyone?).

Songs with the highest anger scores include Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall from 1980, Tina Turner’s 1985 song Better Be Good To Me and Ne-Yo’s When You’re Mad from 2006.

Don’t blame the musicians for all the pouty faces though.

“The change in lyrics’ sentiments does not necessarily reflect what the musicians and songwriters wanted to express, but is more related to what music consumers wanted to listen to in each year,” Shamir says.

And that, of course, like fashion, varies with the times. People listened to music in the 1950s largely for fun and entertainment, so lyrics tended to express more joy and less anger, Shamir points out. During the mid to late 1960s and early 1970s music became a tool for social activism, so it makes sense those lyrics would reflect anger and disgust.

For their research, Shamir and Napier used Tone Analyzer, a computational linguistic tool developed for IBM’s Watson question-answering computer system. Watson, by the way, kicked off fears of robots taking all our jobs when it beat human opponents on the TV quiz show Jeopardy in 2011. Has anyone written a song about that yet?

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Having A Gas: This Week In Crypto Pop Culture, January 7-11

If you want to apply some mysticism to your cryptoeconomics, we’ve got you covered. ConsenSys design strategist Andrea Morales released version …

It’s Friday, January 11, everybody! If you’re like me, you’ve spent your week thinking back to your first pack of Pokémon cards in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the game’s US release. (My first pack had a hologram Machamp. I was hooked immediately.) But for those of you who may have been Digimon stans, ETHNews is here with a roundup of some of the lighter stories in the crypto and blockchain world in this week’s edition of Having A Gas.

What’s Your Sign?

Everyone handling this week’s shift into a new moon Capricorn phase alright? As a moon sign Sagittarius, it’s been a nightmare for me. As a sun sign Capricorn, my backbone, knees, and skin have never been better. As a rising Scorpio, well, we don’t have to get into that mess.

If you want to apply some mysticism to your cryptoeconomics, we’ve got you covered. ConsenSys design strategist Andrea Morales released version 1.0 of a cryptoeconomics tarot card set this week. The card set is an introduction to how developers design cryptoeconomic systems, and presents a tangible way for designers to think about the sustainability of the economy of their crypto systems.

The crypto community seems tailor-made for tarot card representation. Just look at the characters of the standard Major Arcana tarot set. The Magician … Ethereum has those. The Emperor … I think we know who that is. The Lovers … SpankChain offers a certain kind of love. The Fool … there might be too many of those to list.

Do You Even Lift, Bro?

A video posted on reddit this week showed two arm wrestlers, each with rubber bands keeping their phones attached to the backs of their hands. This isn’t your standard arm-wrestling match: The competitors each try to move their own phone’s front-facing camera over a QR code that, when scanned, transfers money from the loser’s account to the winner’s.

While the two wrestlers may or may not be wagering with virtual money, the video prompted some commenters in the Reddit thread to wonder if this type of competition could be a new use case for cryptocurrency.

Part of me doesn’t see this taking off as a use case, mostly because it seems to actually work.

Another part of me could see this becoming a popular trend. Being able to #hodl means you’re lifting, right? I can already see a #litf movement forming, where incredibly buff crypto traders challenge one another to arm-wrestling matches.

Talk about proof of strength.

The Great GWei in the Sky

This week, The Block published an article highlighting CoinAgenda’s Media Showcase, an event that hosted 15 crypto and blockchain startups, each looking for funding in the midst of a crypto winter. The event was held at Mike Tyson’s former Las Vegas mansion, which featured in the first “Hangover” movie.

While the tech startup crowd mingled, a Pink Floyd cover band played a “rousing rendition” of the band’s hit “Money,” according to The Block.

But this wasn’t your normal cover band. It featured Pink Floyd’s actual saxophonist, Scott Page. The band’s guitarist, Kenny Olson, moonlights as a member of Kid Rock’s band.

First: Oh, that sounds so utterly sad.

Second: Is your band a cover band if some of your musicians are members of original famous musical groups? Sounds more like a super group that’s too “over it” to write any originals.

Third: Wow, Pink Floyd is the perfect band for the crypto crowd when you think about it. A group of white men complaining about the government? And who could forget hits like “Comfortably Node?” Or their 1979 magnum opus “Another Brick in the Blockchain?”

Okay, those aren’t real song or album titles, but they did say “Money, it’s a gas” way before Ethereum came along. That’s got to count for something.

That’s it for Having A Gas. Join us next week, and remember, [insert clever catchphrase here].

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