Pop songs, Top 40 songs, Billboard burners, the songs you hear on loop in an Uber, the whole ghastly parade of tunes that fill the space of a Grammy’s ceremony—they all share a common trait. They’re depressed, and quantifiably so. According to new research out of the University of California, pop music has grown increasingly sad and self-centered in the last 30 years. Researchers analyzed 500,000 songs released in Great Britain between 1985 and 2015 to spot trends in the type of music being produced and discovered that not only do the songs sound sad (we’re looking at you Sam Smith) but lyrically they’re depressed as hell.
“Popular music lyrics now include more words related to a focus on the self (e.g. singular first person pronouns), fewer words describing companionship and social contact (e.g. plural first person nouns), and more anti-social words (e.g. ‘hate,’ ‘kill,’ etc.),” say researchers, who suggest that, really, songwriters are just keeping up with the times. And these times, depressingly, are reflective of an increase in “loneliness, social isolation, and psychopathology.”
The rise of depressed pop music has also corresponded with an increase in songs that are more relaxed and danceable. As one of the researchers said to the Associated Press, “It looks like, while the overall mood is becoming less happy, people seem to want to forget it all and dance.” Would you mind turning down the volume?