The debate about which genre of music is the best will likely never be answered. Different societal trends always lead to new genres and older ones continue to evolve and resurface with countless sub-genres and musicians in each category. While some people might be arguing about which musical genre requires the most talent or which has the most intelligent followers, the people at Musixmatch searched for something different: how large is the vocabulary in these different genres. Using a simplified data set and working with the songs available to them, they looked at 93 artists across 25 different genres. By comparing these artists, they offered some insight into the world of musical wordsmiths. Though this might not tell which genre is better, it does give some measurable insight into music.
This might be a surprise to some, but it really shouldn’t be that shocking when you consider one thing: hip hop uses a lot of slang. As a result, they are predisposed to using a colorful assortment of language. While some sticklers for the English language might dismiss some of these words as lacking in the wordsmith category, they still offer a diverse vocabulary. And, even if you don’t like it, the reality is that new words are created when they become used and some of these slang words are actually already in the dictionary while others are bound to show up there soon. By the numbers, the average vocabulary in hip hop ranked in at 1963, giving it the clear victory.
Beyond hip hop, you might expect something like folk or rock to take the silver. After all, both of these genres tend to deal with a wide range of emotions and different situations. While they did rank 3rd and 4th, respectively, the 2nd place prize actually belongs to heavy metal. With an average vocabulary of 1533, metal artists often look for new and creative ways to express themselves and there is no better way to accomplish this than becoming a wordsmith and using that vocabulary to create something beautiful. And yes, heavy metal is definitely beautiful.
As much as it might be fun to measure these sorts of things, pulling any concrete conclusion can be difficult. On one hand, you could infer that the simple lyrics in pop songs help to contribute to their popularity. After all, pop music is (not surprisingly) the most popular music genre. It makes sense it would have a smaller vocabulary, especially if it appeals to such a wide audience. On the other hand, Hip Hop has a very large following as well, but since many of those words are slang or just made up for the songs, it actually doesn’t confound the observation – people like hearing music that they understand.