Pop Music Is So Narcissistic These Days

Billboard charting songs, by one measure, are displaying a little more ego-centrism

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Well, look at that: "clear evidence of American society's increasing narcissism can be found in our best-selling popular songs." In a way, it's almost comforting that researchers are once again chiding us about pop music's lesser qualities. It seems like something that everyone would worry about long ago. You know, before Facebook turned out to be a driver of narcissism.

So, the study: According to Miller-McCune's Tom Jacobs, who parsed the findings, the researchers took a sample of Billboard's 10 songs in the U.S. from 1980 to 2007 and used a Word Count program to count how many first person pronouns like "we, use, our" and first person singular pronouns "I, me, mine" appeared in the song lyrics. They found that those communal words (we, us) declined over the 28 year sample period while the use of "I, me, mine" increased. Sadly, they also found that "terms depicting social interactions (talking, sharing) became less common, as did the use of words conveying positive emotions (love, nice, sweet)."

What does it all mean? Well, not a lot if you're trying to extrapolate the findings to say something about the entire American public. Counting up pronouns in Top Ten songs isn't exactly a sure-fire way to identify narcissism in the psyche, say, of punk rock fans. As Jacobs points out, the academics behind the study don't view music as the cause of narcissism, only as a reflection of a larger societal trend.

The findings do, though, shed some light on songwriting habits from the early 80's to the mid 00's. And it's sure make decent conversation, regardless of the conclusions drawn.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.