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Mariah Carey Smartest of Pop Stars? New Lyric Study Says 'Yes'

by Ryan Book   Jun 24, 2015 08:17 AM EDT

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How much can you tell about someone based on the music they listen to? Well, if you believe one study from SeatSmart, you may come away thinking that everyone who listens to music is an idiot, based on the average reading level required to comprehend the lyrics of popular songs. The blog comprised its surprising findings by gathering every song from the last 10 years that has spent three or more weeks atop the pop, country, rock or hip-hop charts and then come up with an average reading level for each. The results are bad all around.

According to the study, the average reading ability required to understand the average song among the sample of 225 is third grade...and many fall far below. Some of the results may surprise you...such as that Mariah Carey was actually among the most intelligent lyricists sampled...with an average of a 3.95 reading level. Some of the data is less surprising...such as that Kesha's body of work requires an average reading level of 1.5.

How about overarching themes? The genre that was the most intelligent...was country. In fact, it was the only genre to require an average of more than 3. There are a few explanations. SeatSmart suggests that country benefits from featuring many polysyllabic words (such as "hillbilly" or "hallelujah"), and also that country performers are less likely to go on lengthy streaks of vocal interjections such as "yeah" or "yo."

How have things progressed over the years? They're getting worse. During 2005, the average hit song had an average reading level of 3.25, and now it's around 2.75. That might seem like a just slight bump, but when averaged out over dozens of songs...let's just say Bob Dylan can't be proud of our musical generation.

One more thing: In the rock genre, Nickelback came out on top. Ahead of Linkin Park, the Foo Fighters and everyone. So go ahead and laugh.

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