Saturday, December 7, 2019
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Study: Data Says This Is Radiohead’s “Most Depressing” Song

Radiohead is rock’s reigning kings of moodiness. Or, I guess, mood killers might be the way others describe the band’s sometimes myopic and “depressing” songs. These people are not completely wrong: Radiohead is one of the few musical acts who have produced multiple records that makes you want to hide away from the world and have a good cry.

But what if there was a way to quantify Radiohead’s “most depressing” song? Would that be something you want?

Well, that’s what Radiohead superfan Charlie Thompson did, trying to measure the band’s “most depressing” record for you. He did so by quantifying numerous factors, including valence as quantified by Spotify. Valence in this application means how sad a song “sounds.” It’s measured on a scale of 0.0 to 1.0, with “happier” songs having a higher score and “sadder” songs receiving a lower score.

Through just this dataset, “True Love Waits” and “We Suck Young Blood” were tied with a valence of 0.0378. But Thompson also tested a song’s lyrical content, using the lyrics website Genius. He measured how many sad words were contained in each song. This gave “High and Dry” the lead, as apparently singing “leave” 15 times in the chorus of a song is pretty sad!

Then Thompson used what he called his Gloom Index, which was able to combine these two factors, as well as a song’s “lyrical density.” The winner? (Or, I guess, loser?) That would be A Moon Shaped Pool closer “True Love Waits,” a track that literally took decades to see the true light (dark?).

This should make sense because out of Radiohead’s nine studio albums, A Moon Shaped Pool contains the lowest average gloom index overall. If you have listened to this record even once, this data should not surprise you.

Still, Thompson’s testing is a new fun way to consider Radiohead. Head over to his blog if you’re interested in checking out more of the data.


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