If music is a reflection of our present world, then it's official: We're living in dark times. According to a new study conducted by the University of California at Irvine, pop music has been on an emotional downward spiral over the past three decades, as The Associated Press points out. As culturally dominant pop music has become much sadder—think Beyoncé's Lemonade, SZA's CTRL, Charli XCX's Pop 2 mixtape, which actually features a song called "Tears," Selena Gomez's penchant for singing about breakups, and the Weeknd's ennui—the genre has become increasingly focused on loneliness and social isolation.
“‘Happiness’ is going down, ‘brightness’ is going down, ‘sadness’ is going up, and at the same time, the songs are becoming more ‘danceable’ and more ‘partylike,’” co-author Natalia L. Komarova told The Associated Press. “The public seems to prefer happier songs, even though more and more unhappy songs are being released each year.”
That doesn't mean pop music hasn't become more upbeat, tempo-wise, though. While it's become a clearer mirror of the social media dystopia we all live in, pop music has become easier to dance to. Part of that is no doubt due to the influx of electronic music and the slow death of guitar-centric music (which, the study confirmed, began losing favor in the early aughts). Another explanation, as offered by Komarova: "People seem to want to forget it all and dance."