Guitar on fire music

The odds of a hit song expressing anger, fear, or disgust all rose steadily and consistently over the decades, with spikes in angry lyrics in the early 1990s and mid-2010s.

Turn on the radio, and there's a good chance you'll be bombarded with angry outbursts. Voice after voice will express rage and resentment, often at high decibels.

The Rush Limbaugh Show? Well, sure. But the description also applies to most music programs playing today's hits.

An analysis of the most popular songs in the United States each year shows a gradual but profound shift in emotional tone from the early 1950s to the mid-2010s, with lyrics growing ever darker.

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"The results show a clear trend towards a more negative tone," write Kathleen Napier and Lior Shamir of Lawrence Technological University in Michigan. "Anger, disgust, sadness, and conscientiousness have increased significantly, while joy, confidence, and openness expressed in pop-song lyrics has declined."

Come on, baby, stoke my ire.

Tracing the trajectory of pop lyrics has become a mini-field in itself. A 2011 study showed how hit songs have come to reflect our increasing narcissism, while a paper published last year found that references to sex, drugs, and alcohol all rose steadily from the 1960s to the 2000s.