Music

The Most Common Lyrical Themes & Moods on Billboard’s Charts: Love Songs in the Lead

What did songs sound like, lyrically, on Billboard’s charts in 2023?

AI-powered hit song analytics platform ChartCipher has released its latest report, encompassing the Billboard Hot 100’s three weekly component charts – Streaming Songs, Radio Songs and Digital Song Sales – and spotlighting key findings about songs’ lyrical themes and moods on surveys dated Jan. 7 through Dec. 30, 2023.

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In October 2023, ChartCipher launched publicly, as announced jointly by MyPart and Hit Songs Deconstructed. The platform utilizes analytics from 10 of Billboard’s most prominent charts dating to the start of the 2000s: the Hot 100, Streaming Songs, Radio Songs, Digital Song Sales, Hot Country Songs, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Hot Dance/Electronic Songs, Hot Rock & Alternative Songs, Pop Airplay and Country Airplay.

Here are three takeaways from Chart Cipher’s newest findings about the lyrical makeup of chart hits, reflecting performance on Streaming Songs, Radio Songs and Digital Song Sales, during 2023.

Love Language

“In 2023, the theme of love was the most prominent across all three charts,” ChartCipher’s report notes. “The themes of lifestyle and partying/living it up were also relatively significant, though less so than love. Hooking up, inspiration/empowerment and introspection were the least prominent themes, with introspection being the least featured across all charts.”

Love was the leading theme last year on each of the surveys that contribute to the Hot 100, playing into 51% of entries on Radio Songs, 48% on Streaming Songs and 44% on Digital Song Sales.

Plus, over the past five years, love has loomed large in all three metrics, ranging between takes of 48% to 53% of titles on Streaming Songs, 48% to 51% on Radio Songs and 44% to 47% on Digital Song Sales.

Notable hits with a theme focused on love (whether good or bad or in between) in 2023, ChartCipher cites, included Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer,” The Weeknd and Ariana Grande’s “Die for You” and Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night.”

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The Party’s Not Over on Radio

While common, as noted above, hits about partying on the Streaming Songs chart “have been on a notable decline since 2019, dropping from 44% to 32% during the five-year period,” ChartCipher’s research reveals. Titles on Digital Song Sales “also experienced a decline in the theme, though to a much lesser extent, dropping from 32% to 27%.”

Conversely (and happily), radio played more party-hearty hits from 2022 to 2023, with such entries rising from shares of 30% to 35% on Radio Songs.

Among 2023 party anthems were David Guetta and Bebe Rexha’s “I’m Good (Blue)” and Jimin’s “Like Crazy.”

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We Don’t Mean to Be Cynical, But …

While love (in all its scope) represented the most common lyrical theme in 2023 on the Hot 100’s three component charts, “Cynicism emerged as the most prominent lyrical mood across all platforms, featured in approximately half of all songs,” ChartCipher reports. “It was followed by dramatic or detached moods, which varied by chart. Songs that evoked a happy mood accounted for just under one-third of songs across all formats.”

Streaming Songs, Common Lyrical Moods 2023, ChartCipher

(ChartCipher differentiates between songs’ themes and moods, with a theme defined as a song’s overarching lyrical concept, such as love, lifestyle or partying, while mood reflects a range of emotions conjured by a song’s lyrics, from sadness to happiness and more.)

Not to be further cynical, but Radio Songs hits increased in cynical lyrics from a 43% share in 2022 to 52% in 2023.

To end on a positive note, “Both Streaming Songs and Digital Song Sales experienced a peak in cynical-themed lyrics in 2021, followed by a subsequent drop in 2022,” ChartCipher notes. Cynicism on Streaming Songs continued a downward trajectory – such titles trended 63%, 59% and 52% in 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively – while entries on Digital Song Sales essentially stabilized.

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