Over the last several years, pop music has been inundated by massive hits with one-word song titles: “Happy”, “Fancy”, “Rude”, “Problem”, “Jealous”, “Chandelier, “Hello”, and “Sorry” are just a few examples of this trend. We are in the era of the shrinking pop song title. The transition has taken place slow enough that you may not have noticed, but when you look back at the history of pop, the change is stark.
We analyzed Billboard Hot 100 song title data and discovered a steady upward trend in the number of one-word titles. Today, the probability of a one-word title is two and a half times greater than in the 1960s. The average number of words per song title has also declined substantially. The increasingly industrialized pop machine likes its song titles short, sweet and on brand.
Why might shorter song titles be better commercially? Mostly because they are easier to remember, particularly if they are repeated over and over in the song. The last thing the music industry wants is for you to love a song but be unable to remember its name when you go to stream or download the song. But it’s tough to forget “Hello” or “Happy” when Adele and Pharrell keep repeating the one-word title throughout the song.
The pop industrial complex is focused on making the consumption of its product as easy as possible, and that has meant making song titles ever more simple and memorable. Expect to hear a lot more one-word title hit songs with lyrics that will drill that title into your head.