Over the past 30 years, there have been countless studies of hundreds of thousands of popular songs that have been proven to have a downward trend in happiness and an increase in sadness, as upbeat bands and artists gave way to more moody artists such as Sam Smith and Adele for example.
According to the journal Royal Society Open Science, research participants at the University of California viewed up to 500,000 songs released in the United Kingdom from 1985 to 2015, grouping them according to feel, and tone.
According to Natalia L. Komarova of The Associated Press, she states, “‘Happiness’ is going down, ‘brightness’ is going down, ‘sadness’ is going up… becoming more ‘danceable’ and more ‘party-like.”
Certainly, the researchers on board for this study Hint to the idea that this gradual decrease in the average happiness index doesn’t mean that all songs that were successful from 1985 to 2015 were all sad. What they were actually looking for, were trends in the compositions of the songs such as the acoustic properties and the mood that for the sounds that you hear in the songs.
Moreover, songs on the low happiness spectrum are “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith and “Unmissable” by Gorgon City to name a couple ( In 2014). In addition, some songs that came out in 1985 with a high happiness spectrum include “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen, and “Freedom” by Wham!
The shifts in moods of the musical components of the songs go hand in hand with other research that examined changes in librettos over the years. Upbeat emotions have decreased, and social isolation has been on the rise resultingly.
Subsequently, the study arose in a time when the music industry is dealing with conflictions of gender inequality as men dominate the artistry and songwriting world.