The charts below show how often selected words appeared in Top 40 song lyrics from 1958 through 2006.
Love and loneliness
Total number of occurrences of the word: love
surf, surfer, surfing
References to women
baby includes some ‘baby’ references to men
ho, hoes only includes references to women
nigger, nigga, niggaz
The charts are based on work I did at The New York Times several years ago. The original print version of the graphic was never published.
Raw lyrics were provided by Top40db.net and included more than ten thousand Top 40 songs from the Billboard Hot 100 list since 1958, the year of the list’s inception. I edited the lyrics so that words in a chorus or refrain would be counted once for each repetition. Plurals and close variants were included in some counts (for example, pimp, pimps and pimping were grouped together).
Thanks to Todd Webb for generously providing access to the Top40db.net database.