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Reading levels are trending downward for song lyrics Image ©dollarphoto.com/Vanoa2

Dumb Song Lyrics Won’t Help Young Readers

Do you want to help your novice reader improve his or her ability? Don’t turn to popular song lyrics—unless the word “baby” is on your child’s weekly reading list. The word shows up in Justin Beiber’s hit song “Baby” more than 50 times.

Unfortunately, according to a new study from Andrew Powell-Morse, the lyrics you hear blaring out of your radio and music device are getting dumber—at least from a reading level perspective.

Ten years ago the songs on the Billboard charts averaged a reading level between third and fourth grade. Now a number one hit on the chart comes in between a second and third grade level with the trend still moving downward.

Data was collected from Country, Rock, Pop and R&B/Hip Hop songs to assess the overall trend of lyrics. In the analysis, men scored higher on the word count per song but women rated a higher average grade level suggesting they could carry on a more intelligent conversation even if they used less words.

Country songwriters appear to have the smarter lyrics at a 3.3 reading level while R&B/Hip hit the bottom of the list with a 2.6 average. The ratings may reflect Country songs use of bigger words like “Hallelujah, cigarettes, hillbilly and tacklebox”—and the lack of filler words like “oh” and “yeah” that don’t score very high on difficulty.

But the stats don’t always reflect the artists themselves. In the Hip Hop category Eminem scored the highest reading level with a 3.7 while Beyonce scraped by with a 2.25. Carrie Underwood topped the country charts with a 3.72 beating out Blake Shelton at 3.63, Brad Paisley at 3.54 and Kenny Chesney at 3.43. Nickleback led the Rock artists at 3.3 with Linkin Park coming in second at 3.2 and Seether taking third at 2.78. However it was Pop artists who had the widest margin. Mariah Carey proved to have the most intelligent lyrics with a whopping 3.95 average. Ke$ha scored only a 1.5 making her song lyrics accessible to most first graders.

Powell-Morse also lists the smartest songs of the last 10 years with Blake Shelton’s All About Tonight earning ad 5.8 score. Three Days Grace nabbed the dumbest song of the last decade with The Good Life scoring only a .8 average.