New Analysis Confirms & Refutes Stereotypes of Country Lyrics

It’s one of the most common criticisms of today’s mainstream country music: all the songs sound the same and say the same basic things. But is this true, or is it more of a stereotype? And are country lyrics improving as the mainstream continues to veer away from the Bro-Country era?

From the beginning of 2014 until the end of 2019, country music YouTuber Grady Smith maintained a database of every song that reached the Top 30 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart to help answer this question. Along with the artist, songwriter, and producer information, the database included every single lyric from every one of these Top 30 songs, and made all of this data searchable to be able to discover trends or corroborate criticisms, including the sameness of country lyrics. Consider this a word version of the Sir Mashalot mashup that went viral back in 2015 and proved how similar many mainstream country songs sounded, just with a much bigger data set.

Along with confirming and refuting certain mainstream country stereotypes, the analysis determined that the number of top songs charting in mainstream country music these days is decreasing, meaning we’re just getting less songs since it’s taking so long for singles to rise on the charts. Also not surprising, there were fewer songs from women represented over the time period, with Carrie Underwood being the only artist in the Top 15 for the amount of top charting songs during the period (she was 13th).

The analysis also proved how few hands are touching the songs that make it onto country radio. Ashley Gorley was a writer or co-writer on 44 songs in the data set, or 9% of all the Top 30 country songs over a 6-year period. On the producer side, Dan Huff had his hands in 60 of the songs, meaning 13% of tracks on country radio are all produced by the same guy. If nothing else, this speaks to the lack of diversity of individuals who have their hands in popular country music.

But what about country lyrics? Though most might guess that songs like “Truck” and “Beer” might be the most common, it’s actually words like “Yeah” and “Girl” that come out at the very top, with “Baby,” “Love” also being big players. “Truck” also appears, but has been decreasing since the height of the Bro-Country era when this study started until today. Same with “Tailgate.”

There are lots of interesting insights revealed in Grady Smith’s study and video into country lyrics, and let’s not give too many spoilers away in the preamble. But the study is worth highlighting as something that is likely to be referenced in the future as we regard mainstream songs and trends moving forward.

The bad news is yeah, much of country lyricism falls on banal crutch words. But it also might be improving, so there’s something to look forward to. Extrapolating and analyzing these things is helpful when trying to make convincing arguments for more diversity and substance in country lyricism.

See the full video below, or if you want to see the raw data from the study, CLICK HERE. To see an analysis of the data from Dana Gibbon, and take advantage of searchable options where you can see how many times a given word is referenced in popular country songs along with other searchable data points, CLICK HERE.

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