Repetition and Popularity in Early Modern Songs

Alie Lassche, F.B. Karsdorp, Els Stronks

Research output: Chapter in book/volumeContribution to conference proceedingsScientificpeer-review


This study explores the relation between repetition and popularity in Dutch historical songs. Previous studies on song lyrics have shown that contemporary songs stand a greater chance of reaching #1 of the Billboard’s hit chart when their lyrics are more repetitive (Nunes, Ordanini, and Valsesia 2015; Alexander 1996; Ellis et al. 2015; Bradlow and Fader 2001). This preference for repetitive structures is a well-known cognitive bias (see e.g. Rubin 1995), yet little is known about whether similar preferences were at play in historical popular song lyrics. The current study aims to address this question by quantitatively modelling the relationship between popularity and various forms of repetition in the lyrics of a large-scale collection of historical songs and, subsequently, relating our findings to observations in the modern era. While we acknowledge the effect of musical repetition on a song’s popularity and the way this can affect our results, we focus in this study on textual repetition.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDH 2019: Proceedings of the 2019 Digital Humanities Conference
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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