A Breakdown of the Lyrical Content of Billboard's Top 20 Country Songs




Many people in the music business, including myself, take extreme pleasure in complaining about "the state of country music." The usual gripe is that all the songs on the radio sound the same, or that they're all about the same thing. In order to test the latter claim, I looked at the lyrics of the Top 20 Hot Country Songs (according to Billboard on Sept 10, 2013), and I examined the extent to which they are "the same." The results are after the jump. You can judge for yourself.

There are three things worth keeping in mind as you read. First, of the 18 performers on this chart, only one is a woman (excluding Pistol Annies, who are featured on Blake Shelton's "Boys 'Round Here"). Second, in the summer, country radio loves its summer songs, so the lyrical similarity may be spiked a bit by this. Third, there are a small number of songs on this chart that are very dissimilar to the others. I considered giving scores to songs based on their similarity versus dissimilarity, in effect, rewarding the most "original" songs. But the point here is not to give shame or praise to any single song, but rather to consider how similar they happen to be to one another. Moreover, judging a lyric's originality based on its relationship to 19 other songs would be ridiculous. All right. Here we go.

Top 20 Hot Country Songs (according to Billboard.com on Sept. 10, 2013)

1. Luke Bryan, "That's My Kind of Night"
2. Florida Georgia Line, "Cruise"
3. Florida Georgia Line, "Round Here"
4. Jason Aldean, "Night Train"
5. Thomas Rhett, "It Goes Like This"
6. Keith Urban, "Little Bit of Everything"
7. Tyler Farr, "Redneck Crazy"
8. Brett Eldredge, "Don't Ya"
9. Luke Bryan, "Crash My Party"
10. Billy Currington, "Hey Girl"
11. Easton Corbin, "All Over the Road"
12. Randy Houser, "Runnin' Outta Moonlight"
13. Blake Shelton, "Mine Would Be You"
14. Carrie Underwood, "See You Again"
15. Hunter Hayes, "I Want Crazy"
16. Blake Shelton (feat. Pistol Annies & Friends), "Boys 'Round Here"
17. Justin Moore, "Point at You"
18. Tim McGraw, "Southern Girl"
19. Darius Rucker, "Wagon Wheel"
20. Lee Brice, "Parking Lot Party"

My Analysis of the Similarity of the Lyrical Content:

* Out the 20 songs listed here, two have a title that includes the words "Round Here."

* Two songs are about working a county job and then going on a country date.

* A back road, a dirt road or an otherwise country-sounding road appears in four songs.

* It is made somewhat obvious in (at least) four songs that the narrator thinks of the country lifestyle as great, and that it is perhaps superior to other lifestyles.

* Six songs make reference to some body of water.

* Dancing occurs in four songs.

* Music being either listened to or sung is in the lyrics of 13 songs — five of those songs drop specific references.

* Marshall Tucker is referenced in two songs.

* Two songs suggest a preference for the song of the crickets.

* There are two songs in which a narrator is inspired to write a song about/for a girl.

* Five songs mention an article of clothing being worn by a woman.

* In nine songs, a narrator indicates a woman's specific body part — in four songs, that body part is sun tanned or sun burned.

* Kissing — or some form of the word "kiss" — appears in seven of the songs.

* Eleven songs indicate a past or present carnal desire for a woman.

* The number of songs in which a male narrator addresses a woman as "girl" is 14 — of those, two songs begin "Hey, girl" and one song begins with "Girl."

* Thirteen songs use the adjective "little."

* Three of these use "little" to describe either part of a woman or an entire woman.

* A narrator's romantic love for someone (as opposed to a physical attraction) is made somewhat obvious in six songs. (This is the most subjective claim.)

* Surprisingly, only three songs mention a tailgate — but seven songs have trucks.

* A Chevy appears in two of those songs. In "Redneck Crazy," the narrator drives a Silverado, but fails to give the brand name of the truck that belongs to the man who stole his woman. All we know is that it is "little."

* There are seven narrators who either long for a girl to ride shotgun, or are already lucky enough to have a girl riding shotgun.

* There are six songs in which a girl is taken, will be taken, or is desired to be taken to a very country-sounding location. (Not included in this count is "Little Bit of Everything," as it is debatable whether Keith Urban would like to dance by himself in a creek beneath a disco ball hung on an oak tree, or if he would like a girl to be present for the event, too.)

* Alcohol is mentioned or consumed in 12 songs.

* The word "country" occurs in six.

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