How the Titles of Popular Songs have Changed over the Last 60 Years

Cynthia Whissell


Billboard magazine has been keeping track of the 100 hottest (most popular) songs of the year since 1958. Lists of the Hot 100 titles from 1960 to 2019 (6001 titles) were used to study the way in which popular song titles changed over time. Based on significant polynomial regression trends and significant results from a discriminant function analysis, it is concluded that there were three main phases in titles (early, middle, and late) and that these phases differ in predictable manners in terms of stylistic features such as length, abstraction, activity, and the use of the word “love”. Early phase titles are longer, more concrete, more passive, and they do not use the word “love” often; middle phase titles are of medium length, more abstract, of medium activation, and use the word “love” frequently. Titles of the last phase are shorter, more concrete, more active, and do not often employ the word love. A possible factor contributing to these differences is the rise in popularity of rock and roll and hip-hop respectively and their different periods of ascendency.

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