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It’s not just you: Science confirms pop music has gotten way more depressing

This study uses the IBM Watson Personality Insights API to determine which musicians exemplify which personality traits the most, and there are a lot of surprises about Kenny Chesney.

It’s not just you: Science confirms pop music has gotten way more depressing
[Photo: Edward Cisneros/Unsplash]

Music is one of the most expressive forms of art in existence. The landmark My Bloody Valentine album, Loveless, for instance, sounds genetically engineered to approximate what heartache feels like. But all musicians bake into their songs personality traits of some kind (with the possible exception of Ed Sheeran), and a new study has analyzed a huge crop of recent hitmakers for trends.

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Cloud Cover Music, a company that provides legal streaming solutions for businesses, used the IBM Watson Personality Insights API to determine which musicians exemplify which personality traits the most. The results are wide-ranging, with some being utterly obvious, but there are also a lot of surprises.

I mean, clearly Bruno Mars would have the most cheerful album with Unorthodox Jukebox, but who could have predicted that Modest Mouse wouldn’t have the most modest album in the game? (That would be Sam Smith’s The Thrill of It All.)

The interactive study lets users search by personality trait or by artist and get their minds blown with findings like these:

  • Most Orderly Album: Lil Wayne – Tha Block Is Hot
  • Most Cautiousness: Taylor Swift – 1989
  • Most Achievement-Striving – Kenny Chesney – All I Want for Christmas Is a Real Good Tan

With that last one, though, some of the honor was earned by the relatively small-scale achievement the album title indicates Kenny Chesney was striving for.

The biggest surprises of the study have less to do with individual artists than with sweeping trends. Apparently, music has gotten angrier overall in the past decade. Drake has served as a perfect bellwether for this trend, with each album after his debut getting progressively more angry. Meanwhile, pop music is similarly feeling the discord of the current era, while processing it a little differently. Pop enjoys the distinction of having, by far, the most depressing lyrics of all genres since 2008, with Demi Lovato taking the emo crown of Saddest Songs in 2018. (Fittingly, Lovato’s least depressed-sounding album is 2015’s Confident, true to its name.)

Anyone feeling bummed out by all the negativity in pop music, though, might want to consider heading down to the Florida-Georgia Line for a pick-me-up in the form of the Friendliest lyrics of 2018.

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Search for more music by personality to suit your mood here.

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