LINKING READING LEVELS TO LYRICS. . . TRUE OR FALSE?
A study published just yesterday claims that there is a correlation between reading levels and musical lyrics. The study, conducted by data analyst Andrew Powell-Morse, examined 225 songs that have topped pop, country, rock and R&B/hip-hop Billboard charts for three weeks or more. “I turned to the Readability Score,” said Powell-Morse, who used writing-analysis tools such as the Flesch-Kincaid index, a readability test to measure reading difficulty, to determine the average reading level of a section of text. He added: “I plugged in song lyrics – punctuation added by me, since most songs lack it altogether – and out of the machine popped out average grade level, word count and other very interesting metrics.”
The stunning finding: Powell-Morse found that 2014’s chart-toppers averaged at a second- to third-grade reading level in the U.S. Country music lyrics have the highest reading difficulty (3.3), followed by pop (2.9), rock (2.9), and R&B and hip-hop (2.6). Stated another way, here are the findings:
Average U.S. Reading Level by Grade:
Pop: 2.9 (tie)
Rock: 2.9 (tie)
R&B/Hip Hop: 2.6
What explains country’s higher ranking? According to Powell-Morse he found this:
There are a lot of reasons for this. Remember that I mentioned that word length plays a role? Well, Country is the only genre generally devoid of words like “oh” or “yeah” repeated 20 times in a row. Sorry everyone else, but if you say it in the song, it’s counted as a “lyric.”
But it’s also about the syllables. Country music is full of words like Hallelujah, cigarettes, hillbilly, and tacklebox. Add to that long place names like Cincinnati, Louisville, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and Country has a serious advantage over the competition.
The study is really worth a glance and you can find it here. http://www.seatsmart.com/blog/lyric-intelligence/ Check it out to see where your favorite artist ranked. Parents, it might not be a bad idea to read what your kids are listening to. This study is certainly food for thought. That is, if there is any thought left.