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Comparing the language of albums nominated for the 2023 Grammys

Comparing the language of albums nominated for Grammys 2023

The 2023 Grammys are in the books. While Beyoncé winning a record-breaking 32nd award took the headlines, her drought in the album of the year category continued – with Harry Styles taking this year’s prize.

When looking at the nominees for this coveted award, we were struck by the range of genres and styles on the list. That got us thinking: Just how different are the lyrics within these albums? Is there a certain something that makes an album worthy of a Grammy?

To find out, we compared the topics, words, phrases, grammar and emotions of the nine English language albums on the list. The Grammys 2023 album of the year English language nominees were:

  • ABBA – Voyage
  • Adele – 30
  • Beyoncé – Renaissance
  • Brandi Carlile – In These Silent Days
  • Coldplay – Music of the Spheres
  • Harry Styles – Harry’s House
  • Kendrick Lamar – Mr Morale & The Big Steppers
  • Lizzo – Special
  • Mary J Blige – Good Morning Gorgeous

We wanted to compare the two albums which had the biggest number of variations. Rather than compare each album individually to find out, we turned to Relative Insight Heatmaps to quickly visualize what this comparison should be.

Using Heatmaps to identify comparison

Heatmaps offers a visual overview of the variations between multiple data sets. The tool gives insights professionals a top-line analysis of how similar or different text data sets are. This speeds up prioritization for competitor analysis and audience research, while also providing insights teams with a simple-to-understand visualization for text data storytelling.

In our Grammys 2023 example, you can see that the linguistic features present in the nine albums are broadly similar, despite their vastly different genres. While it’s unsurprising that Coldplay’s lyrics are comparable to Harry Styles’ award-winning album, it’s fascinating to see they’re also alike to lyrics from Lizzo, Mary J Blige and Kendrick Lamar. This could offer an indication that certain types of lyrical structures lead to Grammy nominations, or reflect that song lyrics from various genres are less different than they appear.

The Heatmaps visualization shows that the artist whose language was most dissimilar to other albums was Brandi Carlile – denoted by the lighter colors. Interestingly, despite Brandi and Kendrick Lamar being the most stylistically opposed, the software highlighted that was actually Beyoncé’s use of language which contained greater differences. This framed the next stage of our comparison.

Brandi Carlile deals in absolutes, calmly

A closer inspection of each album’s lyrics using Relative Insight Explore revealed the linguistic features which made them differ.

Brandi Carlile’s songs are more likely to state things definitively – with the singer dealing with subjects in black and white rather than shades of grey. Examples of this include her use of the word ‘always’, which appears 10.8x more. She’s also infinitely more likely to describe others as being ‘wrong’, which means the word doesn’t appear in Renaissance.

Throwin’ good after bad and I’ll always feel a little left behind but that lyin’ wind that calls your name will leave you flyin’ blind are you fantasizin’? You’re takin’ us for granted I know you’re bored you always say I’m heavy handed you got a beautiful mind and a soul of a coyote hunger drivin’ you mad.

However, despite this robustness, she expresses it using the language of calmness. Brandi is 23.9x more likely to use words related to being ‘calm’, including ‘gentle’, ‘softly’, ‘peace’ and ‘quiet’. While the music itself may lend itself to her signature relaxing style, it’s clear the the lyrics also contribute to this.

Mendin’ up your fences with my horses runnin’ wild, only broken horses know to run. I have ever so politely treaded softly for your grace, I have whispered through the tears and pleaded sweetly to your face, it is time to spit you out like lukewarm water from my mouth.”

Beyoncé expresses desire and takes action

As opposed to the tranquility of Brandi Carlile, Queen Bey’s music lends itself to taking action – which is reflected in the lyrics she uses. She’s 2.0x more likely to use base forms of lexical verbs which denote action, such as ‘come’, ‘let’s’ and ‘make’.

You know it’s Friday night and I’m ready to drive, throw me them keys, baby, let’s go.

She is also more likely to focus on desire – both hers and that of others. It manifests in her lyrics as the topic of ‘wanting’, which appears 2.4x times more. The word ‘want’ itself features 11.9x more, while the slang ‘wanna’ appears infinitely more.

Tell mama, that I do it for you the rider, always want you, I’ll be groupie for you. It may hurt at first ’cause I’m a make you work, put me first is what you need.

While it might be musical elements that makes you want to dance to Beyoncé, it’s also clear that her lyrics reinforce listeners feeling the need to do something.

Grammys 2023 comparison illustrates the power of heatmaps

When you want to glean insights from multiple sets of text data, particularly when conducting a competitor analysis or audience research, it can be tricky to know where to begin. Heatmaps offers you an efficient way to visualize commonalities and differences between data sets, allowing you to focus your efforts on fruitful comparisons.

When it comes to 2023 Grammy album of the year nominees, we wanted to find out which artists’ lyrics were most different. While Heatmaps quickly identified this as Beyoncé and Brandi Carlile, perhaps an equally interesting insight we uncovered was how similar many albums were, even between artists and bands which seem to have nothing in common.

This strategy is ideal for audience research, where you can identify which messaging will resonate with broader groups and which segments require more tailored comms (and use Explore to pinpoint what will resonate) through similarities and differences across groups. For competitor analysis, ascertaining which brands are similar to your own and using Explore to understand the smaller nuances between rivals with similar propositions is a time-honored strategy.

If you’re struggling to decipher where to begin when looking to understand consumers, customers or competitors, speak to our team now to see how Heatmaps can simplify your efforts.

Visualize differences between multiple text data sets