How does the economy affect popular music?

The lyrical content of Billboard No. 1 songs for each year from 1955 to 2003 was investigated across changes in U.S. social and economic conditions. Consistent with the environmental security hypothesis, popular song lyrics were predicted to have more meaningful themes and content when social and economic conditions were threatening. Trends for more meaningful, comforting, and romantic lyric ratings were observed in more threatening social and economic times. Using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count software, songs with more words per sentence, a focus on the future, and greater mention of social processes and intergroup themes were popular during threatening social and economic conditions. Limitations and possible implications are discussed.

Source: “The Language of Lyrics: An Analysis of Popular Billboard Songs Across Conditions of Social and Economic Threat” from Journal of Language and Social Psychology

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