A Study Found That The Lyrics Of Many No. 1 Songs Are At A Third-Grade Reading Level

Songs so simple even a third-grader can understand them.

Andrew Powell-Morse, a staffer at entertainment, sports, and ticket data blog SeatSmart, just compiled information on pop music lyrics over the past 10 years, and the results are pretty interesting. He found that most of the lyrics from popular songs over the last decade average at around a third-grade reading level. Powell-Morse analyzed 225 songs in four different music genres using the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test, which is used to determine how difficult a passage is to read and understand.



The Flesch-Kincaid test uses a formula that takes into account the number of words and syllables used in a passage and assigns a number based on a grade so it’s easy to understand. Basically, if a song gets a score of 4.2, that means your average fourth-grader would be able to comprehend it.

Powell-Morse only measured songs that spent at least three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard music charts. For genres, he looked at pop, country, rock, and R&B/hip-hop. After giving the songs punctuation, he plugged them into Readability-Score.com, which analyzes text.


Country music had the highest reading level of the genres, at 3.3 — which means your average third-grader can read and understand the lyrics.


The other genres’ reading level average was 2.9 for pop and rock, and 2.6 for R&B and hip-hop, all lower than a third-grade reading level.


The study also broke down the lyrics based on the artists’ genders. It showed that on average male artists say more words, but female artists had smarter things to say, with a higher reading level average.


Overall he found intelligence was declining over the past 10 years.