What's The Recipe For A Hit Song? Lyrics About Reproduction

“My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hon.” - From ‘Baby Got Back’ by Sir Mix-A-Lot
“She's got me spendin'. Spendin' all your money on me, up on me, on me.” - From ‘My Humps’ by the Black Eyed Peas

Evolutionary psychologists believe that men and women have evolved fundamentally different mating strategies in order to maximize the chances of passing along their genes to future generations. It is theorized that men developed a tendency to pursue short-term sexual encounters with young and curvy women, whereas women developed a tendency to hold out for long-term relationships with reliable men who have the resources necessary to take care of them and any offspring they might produce [1]. There is a substantial amount of research supporting the idea that men and women are looking for different things in their mates and these preferences generally fall along the lines predicted by this theory; however, a recent set of studies suggests that these tendencies are so deeply ingrained that we may have even developed a preference for popular media that reinforces these sexual strategies.

In one of these studies, every song that made it into Billboard’s Top Ten lists for Pop, R&B, and Country in 2009 was analyzed for content [2]. A total of 174 songs were included, and the lyrics of each song were coded by two independent raters to determine the extent to which they revealed “reproductive messages” (e.g., references to genitalia, hook-ups, long-term relationships, money, etc.). Results indicated that fully 92% of the songs contained at least one such message. Although the vast majority of the songs in each genre contained reproductive themes, R&B songs had the most by far. However, the nature of the references differed significantly across musical categories. For instance, references to status, resources, and sex appeal were most common in R&B and pop music. In contrast, references to commitment and faithfulness were most common in country music.

Follow-up studies revealed that the most popular songs (i.e., those that went to #1) included the highest number of references to reproduction. Perhaps even more intriguing is that the researchers uncovered evidence that this is not a new trend. Reproduction references were common across all musical genres dating back several decades, and they were even evident in the most popular operas traced back hundreds of years.  

These results indicate that sex definitely sells in the world of music. But is it because we are truly driven to prefer songs that feature reproductive messages and reinforce our theorized mating strategies and preferences? Not necessarily. Perhaps people are drawn to these songs for reasons other than the lyrics (e.g., maybe it has something to do with the appearance and voice of the singers, or maybe the tempo of these songs is different). Plus, if we are driven to prefer media that contains evolutionary themes, why don't we also see people jamming to songs about finding food and water or fulfilling other basic needs? In short, we can’t say for sure why sexy songs are so popular—but whatever the reason, if you’re trying to write or record the next big hit, it might not hurt to throw in a reproductive message or ten. 

Want to learn more about The Psychology of Human Sexuality? Click here for a complete list of articles or like the Facebook page to get articles delivered to your newsfeed.

[1] Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (1993). Sexual Strategies Theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100, 204-232.

[2] Hobbs, D. R., & Gallup, G. G. (2011). Songs as a medium for embedded reproductive messages. Evolutionary Psychology, 9, 390-416.

Image Source: iStockphoto.com

You Might Also Like: