Yesterday I saw “The Largest Vocabulary in Hip-Hop” and thought it’d be cool to do the same thing for classic rock artists. I tried to collect 35,0000 words ( same as the Hip-Hop article), but had to limit it to 17,000 (taken randomly) because I couldn’t get more lyrics for Led Zeppelin–they only have ~70 short songs on A-Z lyrics. Without further ado:
The Y axis has each artist’s average words per song, and the x axis has the # of unique words used. My first thought: How did Kiss manage to use so few words? When I was learning Spanish last year, I read you need to know ~ 2000 words just to converse on a basic level (about where the average rock band lands) and Kiss used less than 1,400! This makes sense to some degree–Kiss has a heavy metal style that focuses on instrumentals and raw energy. Whether you think Kiss’ lyrics are inarticulate or pithy, it’s impressive either way.
On the other end of the spectrum is Pink Floyd, they use the most unique words, which reflects their descriptive, dark lyrics. Unfortunately I could only get ~19,000 words for Pink Floyd, so it’s difficult to see where they would fit in with the rappers. We can extrapolate the percentage difference between unique words at 17,000 and 35,000 using Metallica as a model. The following graph shows the relationship between unique words and total words for Metallica:
Metallica increased their unique words from ~2,250 at 17,000 to ~3,500 at 34,990 (55%). If we compare Metallica to rappers, it places them somewhere in the 10% (just behind Drake). Metallica is a pretty typical band from this sample–the other artists would probably fall somewhere similar. The extrapolated percentage increase for Pink Floyd is ~4120, which is in the ~25% of rappers (just ahead of T.I.).
Key take away–classic rock artists generally do not use a robust vocabulary in their lyrics; they instead rely on awesome instrumentals, vocals, and energy. In my next blog post I’ll analyze in depth each artist’s lyrics!