Pop Music Lyrics Are Related to the Proportion of Female Recording Artists: Analysis of the United Kingdom Weekly Top Five Song Lyrics, 1960–2015

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Abstract

Previous content analyses of pop music have considered the prevalence of misogynistic portrayals of interpersonal relationships but have used relatively small samples of music, and often neglected musician gender. Because cultural depictions create individuals’ musical identity, we expect the musical norms identified by previous content analyses to be reflected by lyrics produced by males and females. The lyrics of all 4,534 songs that have reached the United Kingdom’s top five singles sales chart between March 1960 and December 2015 were computer-analyzed to consider the association between 40 aspects of each and both the proportion of females who recorded each song and the gender of the vocalist. There were few associations between the lyrical content and vocalist gender. However, the proportion of all musicians who recorded each song who were female was associated positively with the lyrics containing words indicative of inspiration and variety and negatively with the lyrics containing different words, and words indicative of aggression, passivity, cooperation, diversity, insistence, embellishment, and activity. Songs recorded by a high proportion of female musicians described a wide range of subject matters in the context of abstract virtues, whereas songs recorded by a high proportion of male musicians were more likely to address stereotyped concepts of adolescent masculinity that were positively and negatively valanced.

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