The Lyrics That Define Each Decade, Visualised

By Jamie Condliffe on at

Ever wondered what kind of lyrics define an era? In this visualisation, David Taylor looked for words in Billboard song titles that appeared during a given decade more than other decades and then charted them. The results are pretty interesting.

The chart shows the top five words most unique to that decade, stretching all the way back to the 1890s. The third column, keyness, shows how unique the word is to that decade, and then its usage over time is charted for the whole period. Here are some of Taylors most interesting findings:

The 2010s seem both more vulgar ("hell" and "fuck") and more inclusive ("we" instead of the "you", "ya" and "u" of the 1990s and 2000s).

You can track genres with the keywords: "Rag" (1910s), "Blues" (1920s), "Swing" (1930s), "Boogie", "Polka" (1940s), "Mambo" (1950s), "Twist" (1960s), "Disco" (1970s), "Rock" (1970s and 1980s). After that, people realized you don't have to actually name the genre in the song title, people can figure it out by listening. (N'Sync must not have gotten that memo for 2001's "Pop".)

Fun! Lots of the decades can be made into intelligible five-word sentences. For example: "Hell Yeah, We Die, Fuck!" (2010s). "Ya Breathe It Like U" (2000s), "You Get Up, U Thang" (1990s), "Don't Rock On Fire, Love" (1980s), "Sing, Moon, In A Swing" (1930s)

But anyway, you can explore the whole chart yourself. Do, it's pretty fun. [David Taylor via Flowing Data]