72nd conference of the International Communication Association (ICA)


Meritocracy is a pervasive narrative in popular culture. Yet, its presence in music has received scarce attention. This study analyzes the presence and prevalence of meritocratic frames in popular lyrics by combining manual and network content analytic approaches. We analyzed the 200 most popular songs on Spotify in six individualistic countries from 2016 – 2019 (n = 4,117). We found a strong and variegated presence of meritocracy, with 24% of all songs having at least one reference to meritocratic frames. Meritocratic frames were found to be the most common in rap music but also in pop and rock. Network analysis confirmed these results by analyzing patterns of word co-occurrences. By combining manual and network analyses, we provide suggestions for future research on music and its audience effects.

72nd conference of the International Communication Association (ICA)
Paris, France
Luca Carbone
Empirical Social Scientist