back to start
Clocking in at an average of just over 220 words per song, Kiss could barely hold a proper conversation—according to the study, 2,000-word vocabs are required for basic speech. Kiss used less than 1,400.
bon jovi copy
Bon Jovi used the most words per song, but it seems like he used the some chongo terms over and over—he used less that 1,800 unique words in total.
AC/DC uses double and triple entendres to describe penises, so it's no surprise that they used roughly 220 words per song—less than Kiss—and their vocabs had roughly 1,800 unique words.
The Eagles might be considered one of the worst bands ever, but as rock vocabularies go, they're right in the middle of the pack: They had a 1,900 word vocabulary.
rolling stones copy
The rock gods would kill us for saying it, but the Rolling Stones—vocab-wise—ranked roughly on par with the Eagles.
Steven Tyler's a decent lyricist, and he ranked in the upper percentile of this list—he used roughly 220 words per song, less than Bon Jovi, but did good with them: Aerosmith uses roughly 2,000 unique words in their vocab.
U2 photographed by John Wright
U2 are similarly clustered in with Aerosmith—they use slightly over 2,000 unique words, and most of them are coded metaphors for Jesus.
Zep also has a similar vocab size to U2 and Aerosmith, though they surely pilfered most of their words from sci-fi and fantasy novels.
Metallica, who knew? Hetfield and co. had more than 2,200 unique words in their vocabulary, many of them ending in "....yyyyuh."
pink floyd copy
Pink Floyd, you magnificent weirdos. They used by far the least words per song—fewer than 140—but had a vocab of over 2,600 words. That's TI territories, boys.
Last summer, when data scientist Matt Daniels set out to map the vocabularies of rappers, he stumbled upon some staggering findings—like the fact that, in his sampling, 16 rappers had bigger vocabularies than Shakespeare. Still, any casual Def Jux fan could tell you that Aesop Rock was a creative wordsmith—but what kind of vocabulary do rock bands possess? Who should’ve had a place in your high school English classes?
That’s the question Brian Chesley hoped to answer. So he mirrored Daniels’ study, using 10 classic-rock bands—and using a 17,000-word pool for each band, he extrapolated how many unique words each troupe used. His findings were also illuminating: Kiss were by far the least articulate band, and, according to Chesley’s findings, barely used enough words to converse at a basic level. Pink Floyd, esoteric and spacey as they were, had the most varied vocab. And Metallica has a vocab size roughly equivalent to Drake. And, in general, classic rock musicians seem to have a more limited vocabulary than rappers—which, if you think about the verbosity of each genre, makes perfect sense.