When a Boy Meets a Girl

Let’s go find out all the things we want to talk about.

It was impressive to see how many times “Love” shows up in U2 lyrics.  And listening to U2 for so long, it feels like there are other themes that come up regularly.  Let’s start creating new variables and find out.  Oh the power of data – we get to create.
From the amount of data munging I did to fix possessives and contractions, I naturally noticed that there were many “I’ve”, “I’m”, etc in the lyrics.  It made me wonder how self focused Bono and the band really were.  To answer this, I created a new categorical variable called “Possessive.”

ME YOU US THEM
“me”, “my”, “mine”, “i”, “myself”, “self” “you”, “your”, “yours”, “yourself” “us”, “we”, “ours”, “friends”, “friend”, “family”, “everyone”, “everybody”, “son”, “sons”, “daughter”, “daughters”, “ours” “its”, “him”, “her”, “them”, “herself”, “himself”, “thee”, “their”, “themselves”, “stranger”, “strangers”, “somebody”, “someone”, “someone’s”, “people”, “italians”, “irish”, “hispanics”, “american”, “african”, “enemies”, “enemy”, “else’s”, “elses”, “bully”, “anyone”, “anybody”, “anyone’s”, “another”

Of the 37,227 words in the database, below is the distribution of those words based on a ‘possessive’ category.  

Possessive Num Words Pct Words Pct Possessive
Me 2,168 5.8% 37.6%
You 1,958 5.3% 34.0%
Them 1,288 3.5% 22.3%
Us 356 1.0% 6.2%
Subtotal 5,770 15.5% 100%
None 31,457 84.5%
Total 37,227 100%

Over time, there is an upward trend for possessive words, with the band’s last album, ‘Songs of Experience’, having the highest frequency of possessive words.  Although You and Me tend to be the largest categories for any one album, Achtung Baby and Pop have a strong “Them-ness” to them.

Because relationships and, as we know, love, are important themes to U2, I wondered how gender showed up in their lyrics, so I created a simple Male/Female variable.

MALE FEMALE
“man”, “man’s”, “men”, “boy”, “boys”, “dad”, “daddy”, “father”, “fathers”, “father’s”, “papa”, “brother”, “brothers”, “he”, “his”, “him”, “groom”, “son”, “mister”, “king”, “johnny”, “john”, “joe”, “jacob”, “jackson”, “jack”, “hank”, “guy” “woman”, “girl”, “girls”, “mom”, “mother”, “mother’s”, “mothers”, “sister”, “sisters”, “sister’s”, “wife”, “women”, “lady”, “she”, “her”, “hers”, “bride”, “daughter”, “daughters”, “landlady”, “mama”, “julie”, “julia”, “josephine”, “iris”, “auntie”

The frequency of gendered words was very small, barely 2% of the total database.  An interesting thing to point out, but pretty meaningless:  U2 seems to birth Males and Females at an inverse rate to the human population.  

Female 359 51%
Male 339 49%

Looking at gender is interesting when plotted across albums.  It isn’t so surprising that Boy and October are more ‘male’ dominant albums.  But the growth in gendered words for Zooropa and Pop is eye catching, as well as the switch in dominance from Male to Female.

Forcing the frequency into a percentage allows us to clearly see the changes in Gender across albums.  The numbers inside the bars represent the word count for each category.

Well, we certainly discovered what U2 likes to talk about, Love and Sex! Now we are talking Rock n Roll.
U2 Love and Logic

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s