When someone says “literate songwriting,” I think of Dave Carter, Kool Keith, Mary Gauthier, Elvis Costello.
But let’s think about it more… literally, as songwriting that requires the listener to have some level of reading proficiency.
If we printed out the lyrics for 225 recent #1 songs on Billboard‘s Pop, Country, Rock, and Hip Hop charts, we’d see that the “texts” of modern popular songs now average between a 2nd and 3rd grade reading level — which is down from a 3rd-4th grade level a decade ago.
Yep. Data now proves that music is getting dumber. Well, the lyrics of chart-topping songs are getting dumber at least. Plenty of contemporary songwriters are penning literate lyrics, of course. And you can write great lyrics, spin an imaginative metaphor, and stir emotions without using big words. But still…
Of all the artists with #1 songs over the past 10 years, the awards for ‘most literate’ go to Maroon5, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blake Shelton, and Rihanna. Want to know which artists would flunk 3rd grade reading class? Check out the details of the study HERE.
So, how would YOUR lyrics measure up if they were being graded on vocab? Let me know in the comments below.
[Dictionary picture from Shutterstock.]