According to a New Study, Even a Third Grader Can Understand the Lyrics to No. 1 Singles
A new study by Andrew Powell-Morse has basically confirmed that we've either gotten dumber, or are just less lyrically-inclined. When comparing polar opposite artists like Macklemore, Foo Fighters, Adele and Katy Perry to Chaucer and Ginsberg, somehow the same results are revealed: The lyrics of Billboard No.1 singles are incredibly dumbed down, so much so that even a third grader can fully understand them.
Powell-Morse took 225 songs that were at the top of Billboard's charts for three or more weeks and analyzed the reading levels of their lyrics for the last decade, and the results are, well, concerning. Lyrics for chart-topping songs in 2005 ranked at a third, bordering on a fourth grade level. Now, 10 years later, the reading level of Billboard No. 1 tracks averages as low as a second or third grade reading level, with a clearly documented downward trend, which you can view via the chart below:
Probably the most surprising part of it all is the per-genre analysis, which revealed that country music currently owns the highest average reading level at 3.3, followed by pop at 2.9, rock and roll at 2.9 and R&B/hip-hop at 2.6. This might be the last time you call country music "dumb."
Perhaps our favorite fact is that among the 225 songs analyzed, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Dani California” took the prize for smartest rock song with a 5.5., while Three Days Grace’s “The Good Life” clocked in at an underwhelming 0.8. You're not going to like this either, but Nickelback ranked higher than Foo Fighters.
You can check out the full results of the study (including several charts for each genre) here.