Tag Archives: lyrics

What are the Words?

A few weeks ago I attended an online education conference. The keynote speaker shared some information that got me thinking. He said that the use of the word “Love” had been decreasing in music. He did not provide any reference for this information. I tried to find a source to collaborate what he said. I couldn’t, but it still got me thinking because I use pop culture in my classes to make connections for the students. So, I decided to do an unofficial analysis of the top three songs from 2020, 2010, 2000, 1990, 1980, 1970, 1960, and 1950 according to Billboard’s Year End Hot 100 chart. I thought the top three songs from the years listed would give a good snapshot of what was popular at that time.

I created word clouds from the lyrics of the top three songs for the year. The most used words are larger in size. Stop words were automatically deleted (this was a challenging decision because these words were used in titles, but using them cluttered the word clouds). I removed all words that only appeared once in the songs. I’ll start with the word cloud, list the top three songs, and then share my insight briefly. Again, this is an unofficial look at these songs, but it is worth thinking about. Let’s start with 1950.

1950

1 . “Goodnight Irene” by Gordon Jenkins & The Weavers

2 . “Mona Lisa”  by Nat King Cole

3 . “Third Man Theme” (Instrumental) by Anton Karas 

It is obvious that names are the most used words in this word cloud, especially since one of the songs was an instrumental. “Lovely” does appear in the list.

1960

1. “Theme from A Summer Place” by Percy Faith

2. “He’ll Have to Go” by Jim Reeves

3. “Cathy’s Clown” by The Everly Brothers

“Love” is a main word, but not the most used. The overall feel of the word cloud is about relationships. I find it interesting that we have a name again as a main word.

1970

1. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel

2. “(They Long to Be) Close to You” by The Carpenters

3. “American Woman” by The Guess Who

This word cloud is tough to get a general feel for because the top three songs are so different in theme and style. The word “love” does not show up in any form.

1980

1. “Call Me” by Blondie

2. “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” by Pink Floyd

3. “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John

Knowing the songs, I was surprised that the words “brick” or “wall” were not more prominent. But “love” appears as a main word again, even with such a diverse group of songs.

1990

1. “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips

2. “It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette

3. “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinéad O’Connor

These songs had a similar vibe, which actually made for a smaller word cloud. “Love” is present now in three out of five word clouds, four if you count “lovely” in the 1950 word cloud.

2000

1. “Breathe” by Faith Hill

2. “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas

3. “Maria Maria” by Santana featuring The Product G&B

“Love” makes it into the word cloud (I did not place it in the center). Funny how Santana owned the year 2000, his name is a prominent word in the word cloud, too.

2010

1. “Tik Tok” by Kesha

2. “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum

3. “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train

This word cloud is filled with a variety of words, but “love” is not one of them. The songs range in topic and style, which presents a mumbled visual. I did notice that there are now words like “drunk” and “party”. Not that these words have never been in a song before, but these are the top three songs for that year.

2020

1. “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd

2. “Circles” by Post Malone

3. “The Box” by Roddy Ricch

“Love” makes it into the word cloud, but what you don’t see in this visual may be of more importance. This is the first word cloud that I deleted derogatory terms and the F-word. 

This is an unofficial look at the lyrics of popular songs. It is by no means meant to make a blanket statement about music or our culture. But it is worth thinking about because words have power, and our kids are singing these songs, making TiKTok videos to them. Pop Culture delivers a message to our society. Songs are part of that message. What are your thoughts on what you see happening with lyrics over the decades?

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Change / Fate (A Turning 40 Post)

“Closer to the Edge” 30 Seconds to Mars
Can you imagine a time when the truth ran free?
The birth of a song, the death of a dream
Closer to the edge

This never ending story
Paid for with pride and fate
We all fall short of glory
Lost in ourselves

No, I’m not saying I’m sorry
One day maybe we’ll meet again
No, I’m not saying I’m sorry
One day maybe we’ll meet again

My students will not be surprised at my analysis of this song and its connection to life.  This song has been my summer song, not only because me and my second son dance to it in the kitchen, but it just hits a vibe with my life.  The line about the birth of a song but connected with a death of a dream reveals the cost of change.  Changes in our life hold both constructive and destructive powers.

Many people forget the lines “I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence:” from Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”. The rest of the poem deals with choosing the path less traveled, but these lines are ambiguous about the true benefit of that choice.

As my fortieth birthday approaches, I look back at all the roads I traveled.  And the ones I didn’t.  I have to wonder how I got here, did I make the right choices?  Was there truly any other paths to follow?   The question of Fate has no easy answer, I love when we cover the book The Natural and dissect the theme of fate presented in the story.  I try to let the students work with their own views of this complex idea.  Because I can not answer them, I can only live closer to the edge where the choices are to be made, knowing that each choice will open one door and close another.

As the video asks, Are you ready? I say bring on the next 40 years…

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