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The ideal David Bowie song, according to (Nick Troop's interpretation of) the output of Jamie Pennebaker's LIWC program, correlated with sales figures across Bowie's oeuvre:

This is a big step up (or down, depending on your perspective) from the typical "Experts solve mystery of ___'s success" story — Prof. Troop puts his theory into practice, and lets the public judge the results.

[Hat tip: Gordon Campbell]


  1. dr pepper said,

    August 27, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

    The lyrics seem like a typical bad translation of the ending theme to a japanamation show.

  2. Jean-Sébastien Girard said,

    August 27, 2009 @ 9:47 pm

    Oh, no, the lyrics are GENUINELY well translated. It's the convention about lyric content that is wholly different.

  3. Matt said,

    August 27, 2009 @ 10:26 pm

    I wonder if Troop actually tried to get David Bowie on-board to write the music for this. I think there's a serious chance that he would be enthusiastic about the project, since he has used aleatoric methods to create lyrics in the past (most notably in "Outside").

  4. Mark P said,

    August 27, 2009 @ 11:32 pm

    Hmm. Deep. Or something. I wonder how it would sound if Bowie actually performed it.

    The LIWC software seems quite reasonable in price. I should apply it to my reports at work. Maybe someone would actually read them if they had more positive emotion and fewer tables.

  5. Graeme said,

    August 28, 2009 @ 6:13 am

    Thank you. This is choice.

    Did the researcher allow for the fact that Bowie's brighter lyrics were likely couched in poppier tunes, and that the music might be the strongest determinant of pop chart success? There are plenty of dark lyrics in saccharine songs that have been huge hits: especially from 80s new romantic bands like Tears for Fears.

  6. Kilian Hekhuis said,

    August 28, 2009 @ 6:47 am

    I think this research was just an excuse to go public while singing, after being refused entrancy to the UK version of American idol :). That said, I wish I had a voice like that.

    @Matt: Afaik Bowie used that method way before Outside (I wouldn't be surprised if he already did that on Space Oddity / Man of word man of music, given the sometimes bizarre lyrics).

  7. Andy Hollandbeck said,

    August 28, 2009 @ 10:47 am

    It does sound like a bad translation. So just for fun, I put the first three lines of the song into Google translator and translated it to Chinese, and then translated it back to English. I don't know whether it's an improvement, but it certainly isn't any worse:

    Before translation:
    Buddy loves good loving : Calm and proud while peace wins
    Warmth and conversation : Heaven's energy and an elegant charm
    Truth wins – an adult love to win awards

    After translation:
    Friends Hobbies Hobbies: calm and peaceful feel proud of the victory of
    Warmth and conversation: Heaven's energy and charm
    Truth Victory – adults love to win prizes

    I certainly like the idea of being proud of the victory of warmth and conversation.

  8. Aaron Davies said,

    August 28, 2009 @ 1:19 pm

    reminds me of the song scott adams (the author of dilbert) created by soliciting random lyrics from readers of his blog: she amazed me

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