J Simens.com

What does tears, alcohol,and mama have in common?

My cowboy wears a Tom Nicks hat.

My cowboy wears a Tom Nicks hat.

These are the most used words in a USA “country” song. Did you know in the USA, Country music is the most advanced? It is if you are looking at reading levels.

The odds a Top 100 country song will refer to tears or crying are 1 in 3.23 The reference to alcohol is 1 in 5. The odds one of these songs will contain a reference to “Mama” are 1 in 7.14. The odds one will include a reference to the word “train” are 1 in 11.11, and the odds one will contain a reference to the word “prison” are 1 in 33.33.

I recently found another study that looked at songs that spent, at least, three weeks on the Billboard singles chart. The research used conventional measurements including the Flesh-Kincaid readability test, which considers the sentence, and word length as key factors. They looked at lyrics from 225 songs that topped the USA charts.

The sad news is the study found the average reading level was third grade – roughly eight years old in our educational system. They also discovered that the reading level has gone down in the last decade.

My music peeps might want to know how things ranked! Country music was the most advanced, with an average of 3.3, Hip-hop was last at 2.6 reading levels.

Maybe, way too many “yeah” and “oh” in quick succession in hip-hop.

Speaking of Alcohol

Why don’t you get a nice glass of beer and compare some of the highest songs to the lowest songs – and then tell me which one you’d rather have your child listen to or repeat the lyrics? The song that scored the highest, with a reading level of 5.8 was Country singer Blake Shelton’s “All about tonight”.

Shelton’s ode to hard partying, feel–good pills and red Gatorade might not be what I’d want my child to experience. I am not sure if “rocking all kinds of concoctions in our hands” is a phrase that I would have wanted my third grader to think about.

The second highest song was from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Dani California.” Chaos in California is never fun to think about when you have a daughter living there.

Songs near the bottom were, Maroon 5”s “Moves like Jagger” and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Let Me Hear You Scream.” If you are looking for a song that scored below a first grader’s reading level, you will need to listen to Three Days Grace “The Good Life”. I liked the chorus of this song: “All I want is a little of the good life. All I need is to have a good time. The good life.

Other bits of random information from the study:

  • Katy Perry had songs on both extremes – from the simple “Wide Awake” to the most complex “E.T.”
  • Smartest lyrics among pop artists – Mariah Carey
  • Smartest lyrics on hip-hop – Eminem

Changing my Music Standards

Will this study make me change my music habits? No. Will it make me wonder why songwriters have decided that they should be writing at an 8-year-old level? Yes. Does it worry me that our youth might get stuck in this level of reading achievement, as things around them remain so low. Yes. Am I super interested in seeing if other countries/languages have this same reading level in their music. Yes.


Notes: One study was done for SeatSmart – Andrew Powell-Morse. Methodology: made on findings based on reading complexity, not on metaphors, insightful observations or emotions expressed in the songs.

You can find more at: http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2009/11/1-in-5-country-music-songs-refers-to-alcohol/



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