What do Eminem, Bob Dylan and Celine Dion all have in common?
According to a new study, the three superstars have among the top ten biggest vocabularies in music.
Varun Jewalikar and Nishant Verma studied the lyrics of the top 100-selling artists of all time for a new study for lyrics website Musixmatch, although some artists like The Doors and Bruce Springsteen were left out of the study because the site wasn’t authorized to use their lyrics.
“The aim is to compare the vocabulary size of these musicians,” the duo write in the intro to the study. “Some of them have released a lot more songs than the others because of the sheer longevity of their career and and how prolific they are.”
Unsurprisingly, the four most prolific wordsmiths are rappers. According to the findings, Eminem has the biggest vocabulary in music, with 8,818 unique words used across his 100 “densest” songs. After Eminem, it’s Jay-Z with 6,899 words, Tupac with 6,569 and and Kanye West with 6,059. Eminem also has the highest ratio of words to songs, at 1,018 words per song.
Bob Dylan rounds out the top five; the legendary singer-songwriter’s 100 lengthiest songs contained 4,883 unique words.
“Given how articulate and descriptive his songs are, it’s no wonder Bob Dylan ranks so highly,” the study says. “He also ranks at the top (#11) of the N.W.I. ranking (on average he uses a new word after writing 9 words).”
Perhaps the study’s biggest surprise was Celine Dion coming in at No. 10, with 3,954 unique words used.
“I had not expected a pop sensation like her to rank high since they rely on simplicity to get their message across,” the author says. “Also, she is the only one who ranks in the top 15 by vocabulary size as well as the total certified album sales.”
The study also compares the vocabulary sizes across genres and examines how some of the best-selling artists of all time, like the Beatles and Michael Jackson, have relatively unimpressive vocabularies.
The study’s authors concluded with a caveat:
This analysis should not be interpreted as saying that one musician is better than the other, it is just another insight into the work of these amazing artists. It gives us a peek into the minds of different songwriters, some tear your heart with just a few words while others paint an intricate picture with a thousand words.
Check out the rest of the study here.