Country music has been called out before for having a lack of diversity in lyrics. Criticism for recycling themes in country songs is nothing new. Some look at is as a negative thing, while others see it as simply the essence of the genre.
Peter Lewis decided to get to the bottom of it and took on a huge undertaking. Lewis gathered every Billboard Country No. 1 hit from the last 50 years (skipping every 10 years) and analyzed the theme or message of the song.
As Lewis states on Medium, “What I learned is that there are four main types of country song, two sad types and two happy ones. After removing one instrumental track and a few novelty songs (mostly about truck drivers), the rest of the list fell into one of these four buckets …”
The four categories are “It’s All Over” (songs with a core theme of loss or regret), “It’s Not Working Out” (songs with a focus on frustration over a relationship), “Love and Devotion” (sappy love songs) and “The Right Way to Live” (songs with a a dominant theme of pride and homespun wisdom).
Lewis surmised that these four specific lyrical themes in country music have been repeated over the last 50 years. The chart also shows that over the last decade, country musicians and fans seem much more interested in “healthy relationships, motivational speeches and having a good time than sadness and misery.”
It’s also worth noting that country isn’t the only genre that recycles lyrical themes and topics. As Lewis points out, R&B might take the cake for that.