Heavy Metal Lyrics Are the ‘Least Repetitive,’ Study Finds


Kirk Hammett of the metal band Metallica performing live.

Kirk Hammett of Metallica – A new study finds that heavy metal lyrics are the “least repetitive” – Author Anne Erickson, Photo via Ken Settle

Popular music has changed a lot over the years. That said, it shouldn’t be surprising that the lyrics of music have taken a dramatic turn over the past few decades. Now, a new study finds that music lyrics are “more repetitive” and “simpler” than ever before. However, heavy metal lyrics are the “least repetitive” of all musical genres, the study states.

Heavy Metal Lyrics Are More Complex Than Other Musical Genres

There’s a new study out about the lyrics of music from Scientific Reports (via Nature.com). In it, they state that “song lyrics have become simpler and more repetitive over the last five decades.”

In addition, some other key things have changed about song lyrics over the years. For one, music lyrics have also gotten angrier and more emotional, they found. For the study, researchers compared English-language rap, pop, country, rock and R&B tracks from the 1980s to 2020. They found the most recently released songs are more emotional and repetitive. “Likewise, the interplay between melody and lyrics is imperative as lyrics have been shown to influence the emotional valence of music; particularly, lyrics can enhance the negative emotion in angry and sad music,” they explain in the study.

How Genres Differ in Lyrics

The study notes that “lyrical differences between genres have been identified by Schedl in terms of repetitiveness.” They state that rhythm & blues (R&B) music currently has most repetitive lyrics, while heavy metal has the least repetitive lyrics. Moreover, for readability, rap music is the most difficult to comprehend, while punk and blues are easiest.

When it comes to pop music, those lyrics “have become simpler and easier to comprehend over time,” the study notes. When it comes to those angsty lyrics, they note that the emotions in music have become more “negative” over the past five decades, and the lyrics have become more personal and introspective. This totally makes sense. Introspective lyrics are some of the most common lyrics you’ll find in music today. So, I don’t see this as a negative, but just a shift.

The study also looked at which music fans are most open to listening to brand-new music. According to the report, rock fans mainly liked hearing lyrics from older songs. Meanwhile, country fans were more into new songs’ lyrics. It’s interesting to hear that rock fans prefer the older lyrics, and this makes sense, as classic rock is such a popular musical format. Also, fans of rap and R&B displayed the most interest in song lyrics, more than fans in any other genre.

Back to the fact that heavy metal lyrics are the most complex lyrics of any musical genre. As a metalhead, I love seeing this often underappreciated, and even shunned, genre gets some kudos for its complex lyrics. Add to that heavy metal’s difficult instrumentation, and you have a winning genre. If you’re new to the metal genre, Britannica.com has a good definition for heavy metal: “a genre of rock music that includes a group of related styles that are intense, virtuosic, and powerful,” they explain. Find 10 of heavy metal band Metallica’s greatest songs here.

Anne Erickson
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Posted by Anne Erickson | Metal, Music, Rock News