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Eva Rinaldi via Wikimedia

New study claims ‘popular music lyrics are dumb’

According to one data analyst, the complexity of lyrics in modern songs is at schoolchildren level

Every so often, an old man comes along to yell at a cloud and reminds everyone that things just ain't what they used to be. The latest crusader is data analyst Andrew Powell-Morse, who believes that popular music is getting stupider and stupider.

Using writing analysis tools such as the Flesch-Kincaid grade index, Powell-Morse has looked at songs in different genres that have spent time on the Billboard charts over the past ten years. The songs and artists are scored on a track's word count, the average reading level of the lyrics and how many syllables show up.

The great white snark concluded that country music is the most intelligent genre, based on the fact that it often includes reference to places such as Louisiana, Mississippi and Cincinatti, which are more difficult to say or spell than Compton.

As you can see from the above chart, Eminem is rated as the top hip-hop artist, with Beyoncé propping up the bottom. Power-Morse says "Is Kanye West talking a lot and not saying anything?" and decides that yes, he is.

Obviously you'll recognise this as chronic bullshit if you've ever listened to "New Slaves", Yeezy's analysis of a type of modern slavery and society's obsession with material wealth. It's a brilliant, smart song. I'd give it 9 out of 10, minimum.

Powell-Morse's data analysis also ranks Nickelback as the smartest lyricists of modern, mainstream rock, but then I think about this little gem from the band's 2013 single "Lullaby".

The Top Ten Smartest Songs Of The Last Ten Years also makes for dismal reading: the only decent song in there is "Diamonds" by Rihanna, with a word count of 382 and an average of four characters per word. Country artist Blake Shelton is up at the top of the league, followed by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers with "Dani California".

What the study fails to acknowledge is that simplicity doesn't correlate with stupidity. A song that can be understood by schoolchildren may well be sophisticated on account of its ability to communicate with ages across the spectrum. And there's nothing more boring than somebody complaining that popular culture is getting irredeemably worse and then having the temerity to present country music as the "smartest" genre.