Recessions are Good for Pop Music Lyrics

The recession is making us sick, and fat, and hungry, and ugly. But what is it doing to our pop music?

It's making the lyrics more thoughtful (via Ryan Avent):

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.

That sounds about right to me. "MMMBop" and "Summer Girls" could only have been written in the middle of one of the greatest economic expansions in American history.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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