A study of hundreds of thousands of popular songs over the past three decades has found a downward sonic trend in happiness and an increase in sadness, as the chirpy band Wham! gave way to the moody Sam Smith.
For the report in the journal Royal Society Open Science, researchers at the University of California at Irvine looked at 500,000 songs released in the UK between 1985 and 2015, and categorized them according to their mood. “‘Happiness’ is going down, ‘brightness’ is going down, ‘sadness’ is going up, and at the same time, the songs are becoming more ‘danceable’ and more ‘party-like,’” co-author Natalia L. Komarova told The Associated Press.
Of course, the researchers emphasize that a gradual decrease in the average “happiness” index does not mean that all successful songs in 1985 were happy and all successful songs in 2015 were sad. They were looking for average trends in the acoustic properties of the music and the moods describing the sounds.
One of the best albums I’ve ever owned is Chris Isaak’s “Forever Blue.” It’s good from end to end, but very depressing. I used to limit how much I listened to it as I went to bed because by the third day I would start becoming vaguely depressed.