Morlock Elloi on Thu, 31 Jan 2019 17:28:55 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Peak Anger Rocks

Machine translation of a review (original at ).

The paper itself is paywalled at

Analysis of lyrics: The anger increases
January 28, 2019 Florian Rötzer

In the 1950s, the lyrics of pop songs in a US hit list were much better, according to a study

It is not a nice time, rather a gloomy one. The conflicts, the anger, the intolerance are increasing. Almost everywhere in recent years, parties have arisen or have prevailed that, under the presage of apocalyptic scenarios, are aggressively opposed to political liberalism and against minorities, pretending to speak for a delusely identical people. Fight is between the members of a society and against "strangers" announced, the hate level increases, even between states and blocs. The prevailing mood in the new Cold War is also reflected in a study in contemporary pop music, a study claims.

Kathleen Napier and Lior Shamir of the Lawrence Technological University of Michigan have tried, as they write in their contribution to the Journal of Popular Music Studies, to compare the lyrics of 2018 with those of earlier decades, including those of the Cold War War, where not different states have competed for geopolitical interests as now, but two blocks with two different economic models and political visions.

The scientists have lyrics of the Billboard Hot 100, a hit list in the United States, studied linguistically since the 1950s, in total there were over 6000 texts. Previously, the ranking of the songs was tracked by sales or replay on the radio, and in recent years streaming and social media have been included as well. The mood, which should be expressed in the texts, was assessed with an automatic feeling analysis, which evaluates words and phrases. The combination of all words and phrases then gives the mood of a song. The scientists then combined the top 100 songs of each year into an average. This can then be compared to the average moods over the years. It's more about the music that's best for the Americans, not the music itself. Was everything good in the 1950s?

After the analysis carried out in this way until the year 2016, the mood has long since gone down the drain. Somehow, anger or hatred has increased since the 1950s. But not completely continuous. Although the songs are the least angry in the 1950s - after the Second World War - there is still a brief break in the rise in rage between 1984 and 1986, until the mid-1990s - with the end of the Cold War, the Rising terrorism, the lack of alternatives of capitalism and the knowledge of its destructive consequences for the environment and society - the lyrics became more angry, more than before and with a peak in 2015.

According to the analysis, sadness, disgust and fear have also grown, but not as strong as anger. Fear, for example, increased during the mid-1980s and then declined sharply in 1988 as the tension of the blocks waned. However, there was another massive increase in fear in 1998 and 1999, perhaps as a result of bin Laden's declaration of war on the US, attacks on US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi and failed US attacks on targets in Sudan and Afghanistan , More interesting, perhaps, is that joy in the lyrics of the 1950s outweighed, but since then with a peak in the mid-1970s - less and less.

The scientists emphasize that, according to their analysis, in the 1950s, Americans favored - one could also say optimism - while now preferring sadness or anger. This is independent of what the musicians want to express but could well be in agreement with it. That would have to be examined separately. Of course, it remains unclear if the analysis has grasped the trend correctly, why anger has risen and the joy, ie a benevolent, trusting and expectant relationship to society, to one's own situation and to fellow human beings, has continued to decline. display

Perhaps people have resigned to change after the high expectations of the 1960s. Added to this is the lack of alternatives of capitalism, that is, the omission of the vision of another social organization. That another world is possible, believe less and less, while it is becoming increasingly clear that the world society despite contrary slogans and conventions, the nature and further destroys global warming, while the inequality in the rich and poor societies increases. No Future infuriates, the dance on the volcano is not happy, dystopias convince rather than utopias.

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