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A New Study Shows Which Words in Music Have Stood the Test of Time

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(Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

(Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

By Annie Reuter

It’s safe to say a lot of songs over the past 50 years have something to do with money, love or sex. Sometimes even all three. And because of this, there tends to be a handful of words that you hear over and over and over again. But which of these familiar, perhaps overused words, have stood the test of time?

Nickolay Lamm, a Pittsburgh-based digital artist, addresses this question with his new project, “History of Love.”

Lamm collected data from each of Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 list starting from 1960 to 2013 and showcased his findings in colorful graphs. For example, the more red a graph is, the more often that word appears in the songs that made the year-end chart of that year.

Unsurprisingly, Lamm found that artists over the past 50 years have used the words “girls” and “girl” more often than the word “boys.” While the words “baby” and “kiss” have been used consistently throughout each decade, with “baby” being one of the most popular words used in music over the past five decades.

(Courtesy: Nickolay Lamm)(Courtesy: Nickolay Lamm)

Interestingly, Lamm has found that the word “sex” has been used more often in recent years, which is the same for the word “body” and more “foul” terms, which include any of George Carlin’s seven dirty words (and then some), all of which are not suitable for print. Looking at the chart, you can see that artists didn’t really start cursing in their music until the 1990s.

(Courtesy: Nickolay Lamm)(Courtesy: Nickolay Lamm)

Earlier this year, we at Radio.com decided to research a similar topic, specifically looking at the evolution of Bruce Springsteen‘s lyrics through word clouds.

Our research revealed that Springsteen has always loved the word “night” and he’s always written about “girls” and “boys” being “born” to “run” through “towns” and “cities” on empty “streets” and “roads” fueled by “dreams” that can split a “dark” “sky” in two like a “car” straddling the lanes of a “highway,” “engines” and “hearts” roaring like “thunder.”

Check out Springsteen’s lyrical evolution here. 

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