The Null Device

From "we" to "me"

Science blogger Ben Goldacre points us to an interesting psychology paper (unfortunately paywalled), analysing changes over the past few decades in the subject matter of popular song lyrics:
The current research fills this gap by testing the hypothesis that one cultural product—word use in popular song lyrics—changes over time in harmony with cultural changes in individualistic traits. Linguistic analyses of the most popular songs from 1980–2007 demonstrated changes in word use that mirror psychological change. Over time, use of words related to self-focus and antisocial behavior increased, whereas words related to other-focus, social interactions, and positive emotion decreased. These findings offer novel evidence regarding the need to investigate how changes in the tangible artifacts of the sociocultural environment can provide a window into understanding cultural changes in psychological processes.
Compare and contrast: Hypebot's analysis of 2010 commercial pop lyrics, coming up with an example of perfectly generic pop lyrics, circa 2010:
Oh baby, yeah, Imma rock your body hard—like damn
Chick I wanna know, cause I get around now—like bad
Love gonna stop, Imma rock your body hard—like damn
Had enough tonight, I wanna break the love—like bad
I wonder how much of this is actually emblematic of a deeper cultural shift towards short-term values. A world in which everything is a dynamic market of novelty and possibility, and "love" just means a temporary arrangement for mutually negotiated gratification.

There are 2 comments on "From "we" to "me"":

Posted by: Derek R Mon Apr 4 05:31:36 2011

Maybe Randroid thought patterns are infiltrating pop music. Finally, now the music can truly soar, without being held back by socialist lyrics!

Posted by: Slavoj Muzak Mon Apr 4 07:44:53 2011

And yet ironically, the victorious ascent of the ideology of individualism only masks the structural change whereby posthuman artifices like Auto-Tune become constitutive of contemporary musical identity. In his "Philosophy of History", Hegel said that men of action are but "unconscious instruments" of the men of thought. Now we see that the woman of thought, Ayn Rand, gives the Singularity a human face, acceptable to the final human oligarchs, even as they enable a takeover by the unconscious instruments of computation.

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