Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Survey finds 47 per cent of young Britons search for them to understand what a song is about
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The Independent Culture

It's good news for the next budding Bob Dylan. Song lyrics are becoming the most effective medium for conveying social messages to young people, with more than a billion web searches each month seeking musical words of wisdom.

Today's pop charts might lack the protest songs of the 1960s. But artists happy to drop banal rhymes over thumping beats are missing a great opportunity to enlighten and even educate their fans.

"Lyrics" is one of the most top searched terms on Google. A survey by found 47 per cent of young Britons read lyrics, which is more than those who cited instant messaging, fiction, non-fiction, newspapers and blogs among their regular reading material.

A survey by musixmatch, used by 30 million people worldwide to discover lyrics on mobile and connected devices, has found that 51 per cent of users aged 15-27 searched lyrics to understand what the song was about.


Of the 6,000 users polled, 26 per cent said they searched lyrics because they like singing, 11 per cent because they are learning languages and 9 per cent searched so they could feel "closer to the artist".

Musixmatch said its most searched-for song lyric of 2014 was Pharrell's "Happy", a song with a message of unalloyed positivity.

The third most searched song lyric in the UK was "Royals" by teenager Lorde, a rejection of the champagne and fast cars materialistic values that the New Zealand singer feels her generation is being bombarded with. Ed Sheeran and George Ezra also feature in the top 10.

The power of meaningful words in a song should not be underestimated, said Max Ciociola, CEO and founder of musixmatch. "In a generation where song lyrics can be overlooked, their power to deliver a social message to their audience is more significant than ever," he said. "Lyrics are all about feelings, memories and emotions. They remind us about important moments and we all connect special songs to our lives. Our research demonstrates the inherent importance of a good lyric. Ed Sheeran and George Ezra are good examples of very popular searches as their lyrics touch people."

Musixmatch has launched an app which scans a user's music library and streaming playlists to retrieve and display lyrics. It claims to house the world's largest licensed lyrics catalogue, with nearly 10 million lyrics in 39 languages and two million daily users. This month Deezer became the first global music streaming service to integrate synchronised lyric streaming, enabling music fans to see the words of their favourite tracks in real time.

U2's "One" ("One life, with each other, sisters, brothers") was voted the nation's favourite lyric in a 2006 poll for VH1. It finished ahead of the Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" ("So you go, and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home, and you cry, and you want to die") with Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "Redemption Song" by Bob Marley and Coldplay's "Yellow" completing the top five.

Pharrell's "Happy" lyric echoes its relentlessly upbeat tune – "Because I'm happy, Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth". However, "Royals" delivers a much darker message: "But everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece. Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash. We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair. And we'll never be royals."

While songs with a political message topped the charts in the 1980s, many contemporary hitmakers have taken to heart the maxim about mixing entertainment with politics coined by the film producer Samuel L Goldwyn: "If you want to send a message, call Western Union."