Published May 19, 2015Even though everyone seems to hate them for their meaty riffs and grunty lyrics, Western Canadian butt-rock band Nickelback actually have the "most sophisticated" lyrics in all of rock. This comes from a new Seatsmart study that analyzed the lyrics of over 225 chart-topping pop songs. Any song that stayed on top of the Billboard charts for over three weeks in the last decade made it into the study.
In the rock category, Nickelback came out as the smartest band, with Linkin Park in second place and Seether in third. Sorry, Dave Grohl fans, but the Foo Fighters fell into fourth place, just above Three Days Grace. What a wonderful list of rock bands.
As a brief aside, it's worth noting that there were no female-fronted rock bands on the list. "That means not a single lady stayed at the top of the charts for four or more weeks during the entire last 10 years," the study writes.
Here's a bit of an explanation by study author Andrew Powell-Morse on how this all worked:
I turned to the Readability Score. It uses writing analysis tools like the Flesch-Kincaid grade index and many others to create an average of the US reading level of a piece of text. I plugged in song lyrics (punctuation added by me, since most songs lack it altogether) and out of the machine popped out average grade level, word count, and other very interesting metrics.
All told, I analyzed 225 songs in 4 different datasets, resulting in 2,000+ individual data points. How'd I choose them? If they spent at least a few weeks (3+) at #1 on the Billboard charts for Pop, Country, Rock, and R&B/Hip-Hop for any given year, they made the list.
While the results are certainly enlightening, it's important to note that this data doesn't touch on the meaning of a song, the metaphors, how the words connect with the artist's personal story, etc. to create deeper meaning. These numbers are fun and interesting, so just enjoy them.
In the pop category, Mariah Carey came out with the most intelligent lyrics, closely followed by Adele. Justin Timberlake came in third place, though he had the most verbose lyrics with a word count hovering around 700 across his chart-topping hits. Ke$ha, meanwhile, bottomed out the list with the dumbest lyrics. No surprise there.
In addition, the study proved that in general, country music has the most intelligent lyrics. The country list was topped by Carrie Underwood, who was followed by Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley.
Keep in mind that the study is all relative — not a single artist in the study breaks the grade four reading level, hovering instead between grade two and three. Then again, do we really want our pop songs to feature tongue-twisting big words or complex concepts?
Read the full study here.