What I’m Reading: November 2018

Happy post-Thanksgiving everyone! Hope yours was lovely. I went mostly computer free so if you’ve emailed me or sent me something recently, I promise it’s not off my radar. I didn’t get much reading in, but I did get sent two interesting pop culture graphics that are worth a gander.

First up, a visual representation of how accurate “based on a true story” movies are. Shows not only how often it’s inaccurate, but where those inaccuracies take place and how inaccurate they are. For example, here’s Selma (the highest rated) vs Imitation Game (one of the lowest rated). Bright red means false, light red means false-ish, grey is unknown, light blue is true-ish, dark blue is true. :

Check out the actual site, as you can click on each bar to see exactly what the scene was that got the rating. I was interested to see what they called “unknown”, and it appears that those are mostly things like conversations between two characters who definitely spoke, and almost certainly about that topic, but no specific record of or reference to the conversation exists.

Next up, from John: Are pop lyrics getting more repetitive? Using the same algorithm used to compress digital photos in to smaller file sizes, this guy tries to measure how repetitive the lyrics in the Billboard Top 100 songs for the last few decades. Not only is this an interesting project, but he spells out his methodology, assumptions, the outliers and his step by step process REALLY nicely. He shows examples of songs ranked highly repetitive, why he chose to use a log scale for his axis, and how his algorithm would evaluate a regular paragraph of text. Seriously, if scientific papers in general had methodology sections this robust we wouldn’t have a replication crisis.

So what was the most repetitive song in the 15,000 he looked at? Around the World by Daft Punk. Considering that song is just the phrase “Around the World” repeated 100+ times, this makes sense. He breaks down the most repetitive songs by decade, which I thought might be of interest to folks here. Remember, these are only songs that made it to the Billboard Hot 100:

1960s top 3:

  • Chain of Fools (Part 1) – Jimmy Smith, 1968 (92% size reduction)
  • Jingo – Sanata, 1969  (85% size reduction)
  • Any Way You Want It – The Dave Clark Five, 1964 (83% reduction)

(Note to my Dad – You Really Got Me by the Kinks was #5 for the decade at 81%)

1970s top 3:

  • Let’s All Chant – The Michael Zager Band, 1978 (88% size reduction)
  • Keep it Comin’ Love – KC and the Sunshine Band, 1977 (87%)
  • Who’d She Coo? – Ohio Players, 1976 (86%

1980s top 3:

  • Pump Up the Jam – Technotronic, 1989 (85%)
  • Funkytown – Lipps Inc. 1980 (85%)
  • Got My Mind Set On You – George Harrison, 1987 (80%)

1990s top 3:

  • Around the World – Daft Punk, 1997 (98%)
  • The Rockafeller Skank – Fatboy Slim, 1998 (95%)
  • Send Me On My Way – Rusted Root, 1995 (85%)

2000s top 3:

  • Better Off Alone – Alice Deejay, 2000 (84%)
  • Thong Song – Sisqo, 2000 (81%)
  • Dance With Me – 112, 2001 (81%)

2010s top 3:

  • Get Low – Dillon Francis & DJ Snake, 2015 (90%)
  • Barbra Streisand – Duck Sauce, 2011 (89%)
  • Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano, 2017 (89%)

Overall, songs did get more repetitive, both overall and the top 10 from each year. In 1960 the average song on the Top 100 was 46% compressible, while in 2015 it was 56% compressible. Interestingly, the top 10 songs are always more repetitive than the rest of them by about 2-6% or so.

There’s also a lot of interesting breakdowns by artist. I learned that the Guess Who was particularly repetitive for the 70s, and that country is much less repetitive than pop music. Apparently this even applies within artists, as Taylor Swift showed a sharp rise in repetitive lyrics after she switched from country to pop.

Anyway, go check it out, the graphics are great!


One thought on “What I’m Reading: November 2018

  1. I’m seeing a dip in repetitiveness right after 9-11. My thought is that because pop music is cheerier, and the most popular tend to be even more repetitive – therefore maybe cheerier – there might have been less appetite for that for a few years.


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