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Love and heartbreak are most common pop music subjects, UOC study finds

Report on Billboard number ones considers conceptualization of love over 7 decades

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21 February 2021 05:07 PM

by

ACN|Barcelona

A recent study of number ones from the Billboard magazine ranking, each year from and including 1946 to 2016, has been conducted by the Open University of Catalonia (UOC). It concludes that love and associated heartbreak is the single most discussed topic in popular music, being the principal theme in 52 out of the past 71 Billboard number ones.

Salvador Climent Roca, one of its authors, comments that “Looking at and analyzing [the discourse behind the lyrics of mass-hit songs] helps us in the study of large-scale social trends.” 

In its analysis of popular music, not only does the research expose that a large amount of us are drawn to songs about love, but also that the way that we perceive and discuss it has changed throughout recent history. 

75% of mass-hit love songs are about “romantic love”, with the remaining 25% being about “erotic love”, with songs becoming increasingly sensual and explicit in the 1970s and the most sexual lyrics concentrated in the period between 1977 and 1982. From 1996 to 2008 we can also see a boom in explicitly “sensual” songs. 

On a sadder note, the study highlights the overarching trend found in the music of the last thirty years is the prevalence of songs about heartbreak, with 14 out of the 15 most listened to songs between 1983 and 2016 having been written about it. 

Whilst it seems that our favorite songs will always be about love, it is, unfortunately, possible that we are now more heartbroken than we used to be.

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  • Catalan singer Rosalía performing at the Grammy Awards ceremony in January 2020 (by Reuters)

  • Catalan singer Rosalía performing at the Grammy Awards ceremony in January 2020 (by Reuters)