Hip hop has the largest average vocabulary size followed by Heavy Metal

Last places taken by Pop and Electronic

By Varun Jewalikar and Federica Fragapane at Musixmatch

3rd December, 2015 (4 min read)

A few months ago, we conducted a study titled ‘The largest vocabulary in music’ (we suggest you to give it a quick read). The vocabularies of the 99 top selling musicians were studied. Now we look closer at comparing the average vocabulary sizes of popular genres.

There are a lot of genres out there. To simplify the study we consider the following 8 popular genres.

Genres selected for this study

The list of most searched artists for each genre is used to represent it. More details and definitions can be found in the analysis section of this page.

Overview of the data

Vocabulary sizes of popular genres

Hiphop at the top

It should be no surprise that hiphop is the genre with the highest average vocabulary. In our previous study, hiphop artists had dominated the overall vocabulary rankings. The lyrics are dense and lots of slang is used which gives rappers a big lead over other genres. Also, hiphop has the highest words per song and new words per song.


We expected a more poetry driven genre like Folk or Country to take the second place but were pleasantly surprised to find that it is actually Heavy Metal. A naive guess for this could be the myriad of complicated concepts heavy metal lyrics try to address which calls for using a lot of new words.

Avg. vocabulary size vs spotify followers for popular genres

The runners up

Folk and Rock come in at #3 and #4 respectively. The difference in the average vocabulary sizes for these two is around 31 words. They are followed closely by Country and Indie Rock at #5 and #6.

Last but not the least

Pop is ranked at #7. But it has the highest Spotify followers on average. The lyrical simplicity could be a major factor for its popularity.

Electronic music comes in last. Since it is predominantly instrumental, this should not be surprising. It also has the second highest Spotify following as compared to the other genres.


There is no direct correlation between the average vocabulary size and the popularity of a genre (average spotify followers).

It goes without saying that vocabulary size is just a number and it can’t quantify the beauty, complexity or profoundness of what a song conveys. It is an interesting metric to look at our favourite genres and artists in a new light.

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Analysis details

These are some of the issues encountered and respective choices taken for simplifying/reducing the scope of the study.

Representative artists for each genre

We use the lists of most searched artists for each genre to represent it. More details can be found in the analysis section of this page.

Ideally, we would want a crowdsourced list of artists for each genre (musicologists selecting representative artists for each genre). This would be quite a task in itself. Instead, we use the lists of most searched artists for each genre to represent it. These lists can be easily retrieved from Google.

Most googled artists

Google returns 51 artists for each genre. These lists are then cleaned (leaving indie rock with 50 artists since 'Sub Pop' is returned as an artist) and matched to the corresponding entries in the Musixmatch database.

Most googled artists for each genre

Pop HipHop Folk HeavyMetal Rock Country IndieRock Electronic
Taylor Swift Jay Z Bob Dylan Metallica The Beatles Taylor Swift Arcade Fire Daft Punk
Rihanna Dr. Dre Pete Seeger Death The Rolling Stones George Strait The Strokes Avicii
Michael Jackson Drake Woody Guthrie Black Sabbath Pink Floyd Carrie Underwood Arctic Monkeys Calvin Harris
Beyoncé Sean Combs Joni Mitchell Megadeth Neil Young Johnny Cash Modest Mouse David Guetta
Nicki Minaj Eminem Neil Young Slayer Led Zeppelin Garth Brooks Death Cab for Cutie Deadmau5
Drake Kanye West Richard Thompson Iron Maiden Michael Jackson Luke Bryan Vampire Weekend Afrojack
Justin Bieber Lil Wayne The Weavers Judas Priest Aerosmith Willie Nelson Pixies Aphex Twin
Lady Gaga 50 Cent Art Garfunkel Pantera AC/DC Jason Aldean Pavement Skrillex
Madonna The Notorious B.I.G. Arlo Guthrie Anthrax Bob Dylan Kenny Chesney Neutral Milk Hotel Kraftwerk
Katy Perry Snoop Dogg The Kingston Trio Ozzy Osbourne Paul McCartney Tim McGraw Coldplay Zedd
Chris Brown Tupac Shakur Joan Baez Motörhead John Lennon Toby Keith The Black Keys Nicki Minaj
One Direction Nicki Minaj Odetta Slipknot Elvis Presley Brad Paisley Oasis DJ Snake
Ellie Goulding Nas Gordon Lightfoot Led Zeppelin Nirvana Dierks Bentley Belle & Sebastian Crystal Castles
Ed Sheeran Kendrick Lamar Lead Belly AC/DC Queen Blake Shelton Bon Iver Madonna
The Beatles T.I. Leonard Cohen Tool Black Sabbath Keith Urban Blur Major Lazer
Mariah Carey The Game Simon and Garfunkel Korn Bruce Springsteen Zac Brown Band Speedy Ortiz The Prodigy
Bruno Mars Beyoncé Doc Watson Dio Elton John Florida Georgia Line Florence and the Machine Disclosure
Maroon 5 Wiz Khalifa Phillip Phillips Deep Purple Guns N' Roses Hank Williams Interpol Ryuichi Sakamoto
Britney Spears Ice Cube Paul Kelly Mötley Crüe David Bowie Alan Jackson Spoon Thievery Corporation
Jason Derulo Ludacris Ben Howard Lamb of God Metallica Miranda Lambert MGMT Peace Orchestra
Demi Lovato Rick Ross Paul Simon Accept The Who Dolly Parton The Decemberists Émilie Simon
Elton John ASAP Rocky Judy Collins Van Halen The Doors Hank Williams, Jr. The New Pornographers Noto
Ariana Grande Chris Brown Seth Lakeman Scorpions Eric Clapton Lady Antebellum Sonic Youth Koop
Selena Gomez Busta Rhymes Bruce Springsteen System of a Down The Beach Boys Eric Church Sleater-Kinney Porter Robinson
Meghan Trainor Public Enemy Lee Hays Def Leppard Jimi Hendrix Gary Allan The Killers Knife Party
Justin Timberlake Run–D.M.C. Tom Paxton Kiss Deep Purple Kenny Rogers Foster the People Justice
Mark Ronson A Tribe Called Quest Harry Belafonte Disturbed The Allman Brothers Band Faith Hill Weezer Kanye West
Miley Cyrus Lil' Kim Peter, Paul and Mary As I Lay Dying Def Leppard Rascal Flatts TV on the Radio Ellie Goulding
Whitney Houston Outkast Mike Seeger Alice in Chains Alice Cooper Reba McEntire The Stone Roses Diplo
Celine Dion Rihanna Johnny Cash Venom Yes Darius Rucker Bright Eyes Moby
The Rolling Stones Wu-Tang Clan Yusuf Islam Helloween Pearl Jam The Band Perry The Kooks Galantis
Elvis Presley De La Soul Janis Ian Children of Bodom Kiss Randy Travis Low Dillon Francis
Adele Akon Dave Van Ronk Avenged Sevenfold Eagles Jake Owen Mumford & Sons Giorgio Moroder
Calvin Harris 2 Chainz Buffy Sainte-Marie Testament The Kinks Billy Currington Sufjan Stevens Jon Gooch
Cher N.W.A Nick Drake Morbid Angel Lou Reed Martina McBride Fun The Chemical Brothers
Sia LL Cool J Ramblin' Jack Elliott Manowar Madonna Brantley Gilbert St. Vincent Audien
Charli XCX Wale Eric Andersen Ronnie James Dio U2 Sam Hunt Wilco Kygo
Lana Del Rey Birdman June Tabor Alice Cooper Billy Joel Shania Twain Passion Pit Depeche Mode
Paul McCartney R. Kelly Harry Chapin Deftones Chuck Berry Chris Young Imagine Dragons Katy Perry
Christina Aguilera Meek Mill Townes Van Zandt Saxon Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Scotty McCreery Nero
Nick Jonas Kid Cudi John Prine Queensrÿche Cream Sara Evans The National Bebe Rexha
David Guetta Rakim Bellowhead Guns N' Roses Rush Little Big Town Yo La Tengo Tiësto
Flo Rida Big Daddy Kane Mississippi John Hurt Phil Anselmo Bon Jovi Eli Young Band Bastille AlunaGeorge
Kanye West Chief Keef Ben Harper Sepultura Alice in Chains Hunter Hayes Kings of Leon Steve Aoki
Lil Wayne Beastie Boys Devendra Banhart Mastodon Taylor Swift Vince Gill Cloud Nothings Taylor Swift
Kelly Clarkson Big Sean Bert Jansch Rush Robert Plant Kacey Musgraves Franz Ferdinand Enrique Iglesias
Fall Out Boy Mos Def Loudon Wainwright III Arch Enemy R.E.M. Waylon Jennings Local Natives Beyoncé
Wiz Khalifa Young Thug Jean Ritchie Skid Row Red Hot Chili Peppers Justin Moore Bombay Bicycle Club Iggy Azalea
Tove Lo KRS-One Pentangle Demon Hunter Mick Jagger Craig Morgan Dinosaur Jr Pharrell Williams
Lorde Chance the Rapper Hazel Dickens Queen Green Day Joe Nichols The Neighbourhood Radiohead
Walk the Moon Tyga Tommy Makem Dream Theater Rod Stewart Alabama The War on Drugs Hardwell

There are some issues with this approach. First being that only 51 artists are considered for each genre, which is an arbitrary number decided by Google. Also, some genre bending artists (Kanye West, Iggy Azalea, Beyoncé, Radiohead, Ellie Goulding,etc. ) appear in multiple genres, which might seem outright wrong (Kanye West classified as 'Electronic') but on closer inspection their songs do include musical elements of these other genres. We think these are small tradeoffs for the simplicity of this approach.

Disparity in catalogue sizes of artists

Some artists are very prolific (releasing more than an album every year) while some only release a few albums during their whole career. If we directly compare the vocabulary sizes of these artists the analysis will be skewed in favour of the more prolific artists. Instead we use the following definitions:

Vocabulary Size is the number of unique words used by an artist across the first 10000 words (or less) written by them.
Average vocabulary size of a genre is the average of vocabulary sizes for the artists of that genre.

Generally, the first 10000 words written by an artist covers their first 4 albums and is a good representation of their overall writing style.