Understanding Word Clouds Using Top 10 Songs from 1981 and 2012

Word clouds seem complex, but the explanation is simple: it’s a visual representation of the words in a given body of text. So if you used the word “business” the most number of times, “business” would be the biggest word in the word cloud.

The more times a word appears, the bigger it is in the cloud. Need an example? Using the combined lyrics from the top 10 songs of 1981, I created this word cloud:

Eureka CA writer creates a word cloud based on the lyrics from the top 10 songs of 1982.
Combine the lyrics from 1982’s top 10 songs for a love-heavy word cloud.

Surprise, surprise — Love was the most used word. But apparently in 1981, we also liked rain, kisses, the night and to celebrate. Who knew? While there was some diversity amongst the top 10  lyrics, it was obvious that some words were more heavily favored in 1981 than others. Now compare that to the current Billboard top 10 songs for this week in 2012:

2012 word cloud
Combined lyrics of the 2012 top 10 songs on the Billboard chart right now.

Notice the difference? Love is a contender, but what’s the big word? “Never.” Adele likely had something to do with that. After a full year of party music topping the charts, Adele along with Cee Lo Green broke the mold in 2011 and created great music that wasn’t about dancing the night away. They wanted revenge! And the rest of the pop songs seem to have followed suit. “Kill” and “hopeless” are almost as prevalent as “love” is in this lyrical set.

By just putting together the word clouds, I was able to visually see the popular themes for both January 2012 and all of 1982.

Simple put, word clouds are an easy, visual way to express the main ideas behind something, whether it is your book, your blog or your competition.  Next post, I’ll look at creative ways to use word clouds to your advantage.

By the way, I made these on Wordle.

Songs used for the list:

Top 10 songs from 1981 — “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes, “Endless Love” by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, “Lady” by Kenny Rogers, “(Just Like) Starting Over” by John Lennon, “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield, “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang, “Kiss on My List” by Daryl Hall and John Oates, “I Love a Rainy Night” by Eddie Rabbitt, “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton and “Keep On Loving You” by REO Speedwagon.

Top 10 songs from Week of Feb. 4, 2012 — “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele, “We Found Love” by Rihanna, “Good Feeling” by Flo Rida, “Turn Me On” by David Guetta, “The One that Got Away” by Katy Perry, “It Will Rain” by Bruno Mars, “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO, “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson, “Niggas in Paris” by Jay Z and Kanye West, “Domino” by Jessie J


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