No Surprise, Sex Sells on Billboard Charts

Want to write the next No. 1 hit song? Better add some sizzle.

Sex sells, a new study by psychologists at the State University of New York in Albany found while examining popular song lyrics.

The study’s authors Dawn Hobbs and Gordon Gallup Jr. found that not only are messages about sexual relationships prevalent in the songs at the top of the charts but also that songs about sex simply sell better than other songs.

After a blog in The New York Times piqued our interest, obtained a copy of the study.

In it, the authors analyzed “reproductive messages” embedded in country, R&B and pop music by grouping them into 19 categories — from descriptions of body parts and the sex act to boasts of sexual prowess and mating strategies.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

The authors examined 174 songs that made it into the Top Ten in 2009 and found that 92 percent of the songs contained one or more reproductive messages, with an average of 10.49 reproductive phrases per song.

But the number and types of messages varied across genres. For the 57 country songs, there were a total of 340 reproductive messages, mostly about commitment, parenting, breakups and pledges of fidelity.

For the 59 pop songs, most of the 513 reproductive references concerned sex appeal, sexual reputation, hooking up and oaths of fidelity. Lady Gaga had the most pop songs, a total of five, with sexual references in 2009.

R&B songs contained the most references — a total of 973 — primarily about the singer’s sex appeal, the singer’s wealth as it relates to finding a mate, descriptions of erotic acts and a person’s status.

Look below for a list of some of the songs.


“Single Ladies” by Beyonce

“Turnin’ Me On” by Ker Hilson with Lil’ Wayne

“Birthday Sex” by Jeremih

“Turn My Swag On” by Soulja Boy

“I Need a Girl” by Trey Songz


“Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga

“Love Lockdown” by Kanye West

“I Know You Want Me” by Pitbull

“I Do Not Hookup” by Kelly Clarkson

“Womanizer” by Britney Spears


“Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum

“You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift

“Only You Can Love Me This Way” by Keith Urban

“Living for the Night” by George Strait

“Cowboy Cassanova” by Carrie Underwood

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