Texts and Shrugs and Rock and Roll
August 27, 2019 1:23 AM   Subscribe

Quartz analyzed the data, and this is a trend with legs. In the last week of December 2018, just eight of the 200 songs on Spotify’s top 200 streaming songs were either all uppercase or all lowercase. In 2019, more than 30 songs in a typical week have non-standard capitalization. The rise of all-lowercase and all-uppercase song titles [Quartz] posted by chavenet (18 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think there’s also a sociological explanation, that in a society that puts enormous stress on people, as well as bombarding us with bad news and worse prospects, it is increasingly common that caps locks is how we feel inside. All the time.
posted by Kattullus at 2:13 AM on August 27, 2019 [6 favorites]


Now we face the unforeseen consequences of all that revelry.
posted by misteraitch at 2:36 AM on August 27, 2019 [11 favorites]

Two thoughts... First, pop music is all about trends, right? So of course if something like this would start to spread. Not that long ago, you rarely if ever saw a song with "Feat. Random Larry" but now it's everywhere.

Second... Did anybody bother to ask some of the artists to get their reasons? Oh, of course not.
posted by jzb at 4:36 AM on August 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

I assume it's simply to make it more attention-getting and to make it more distinctive. At this point, modern pop has been an ongoing thing for almost sixty years (arbitrarily setting the early bounds at The Beatles). In that time, there have been tens of thousands of bands making hundreds of thousands of original songs.

At the same time there are, for the most part, only a finite number of band names and song titles available, and most of the short, catchy, good names have already been taken.

So a band names themselves "VVitches", which more or less reads like "Witches" but is still not the same band name as "Witches" or "The Witches" or whatever; lawsuit dodged. And, similarly, all-caps helps ensure your song named "SODAPOP" is distinguishable from the thousands of other songs also named "Soda Pop", "sodapop", "Sodapop", "SoDaPoP", etc.

And that Quartz article is poop for only tracking three-ish years of a subset of albums to determine a trend while ascribing a generational shift to it.
posted by ardgedee at 6:22 AM on August 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

My theory is that I feel like plenty of songs were in all-caps or all-lowercase on liner notes in decades past, but no one was encoding them into MP3 or MP4 metadata at the time they came out. Only later, when they started to be encoded into digital files, did people start to take seriously and literally the intent of the capitalization. Even then, a lot of capitalization of digital files is still automatically Title Case Even For Every Tiny Connecting Word And Such, despite the artists' intent or grammar. Then yeah, there's the SEO argument, with many bands embracing opportunities for SEO (with different spellings or capitalizations) and other bands rejecting it (with wholly normcore, un-Googleable names). Then there's V A P O R W A V E aesthetics.
posted by limeonaire at 6:26 AM on August 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

I don’t know much about song titles… But that’s one heck of a post title! Well done, chavenet.
posted by ecorrocio at 6:27 AM on August 27, 2019 [7 favorites]

As more and more of human communication happens by text instead of face-to-face or through voice, people are customizing text as a means of expression. I have a friend who only writes in lowercase. She has issues with asserting herself, with wanting to control how everyone sees her and wanting everything to look perfect, and wanting everyone to think she’s calm and happy always, and something about the all-lowercase makes her feel her words are being received exactly the way she wants, and that they look good too. I would judge but I have issues with using too many exclamation points and with always qualifying my own writing with “I think.” It’s interesting, though, that we can catch ourselves (and others can catch us) customizing and tailoring our words by text (editing ourselves, code switching) in a way we couldn’t in telephone conversations or in person.
posted by sallybrown at 7:16 AM on August 27, 2019

I aƨked my frieᴎd Ƨtaᴎ what he thought about thiƨ. He ƨaid it waƨ ᴎothing ᴎew.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 7:20 AM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Zayn Malik's Mind of Mine features such tracks as "PILLOWTALK," "iT's YoU," "INTERMISSION: fLoWer," "sHe," "dRuNk," "lUcOzAdE," "fOoL fOr YoU," and "MiNd Of MiNdd".
posted by Rock Steady at 7:21 AM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

My theory is that I feel like plenty of songs were in all-caps or all-lowercase on liner notes in decades past, but no one was encoding them into MP3 or MP4 metadata at the time they came out.

My theory is that most artists were not particularly consistent back in the old days of actual albums, in which the song titles would probably be written in 3 different places: on the CD/record, on the back of the case, and inside the booklet that goes in the front. The art direction between the 3 were generally not terribly consistent, and various capitalization strategies would be used between them. And that's not even talking singles, which would take the hit and give it's own art which for most artists wasn't necessarily consistent with the main album.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:35 AM on August 27, 2019 [6 favorites]

posted by riverlife at 8:58 AM on August 27, 2019

Just as an example Madonna's True Blue album 1986:
On cassette, on the back: all upper case: PAPPA DON'T PREACH
On album back: cursive, mostly lower case: pappa don't preach except for "L"s, so I think La isla bonita, Live to tell, and Love makes the world go round would be the correct capitalization.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:03 AM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Not music, but I feel like the floodgates for this sort of thing really opened when the title of David Fincher's second feature film flashed on the screen: SE7EN. Sticklers insist that the film is actually titled Se7en; others claim that the use of the numeral "7" in the title amounts to "creative typography," or that it's clearly just an allusion to a "V" turned over on its side and that calling the film anything but Seven is obviously anal and/or overly precious. More recently, there's a controversy over whether or not the ellipsis in the on-screen title of Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood is part of the correct title of that film. (Complication: the ellipsis is in a different spot on the posters, which bill the film as Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood.)

I have Strong Feelings about this and do try to preserve quirks of capitalization as they appear when writing about movies and music, but my resolve gets weaker all the time as non-standard spellings and typography proliferate and it becomes harder and harder to keep track. The_Vegetables is right on, too, about the fact that the way a song title is written wasn't always 100% consistent in the old days of packaged media. If the title of a Rolling Stones song is written differently on the back of the album than it is on the label of the 45 RPM single, which is definitive?

On a hunch, I just decided to check my gut by picking up the nearest CD case and looking at capitalization. Sure enough, on Mitski's Puberty 2 the title of track six is listed on the back cover as "I Bet On Losing Dogs" but it appears on the lyrics sheet inside as "I Bet on Losing Dogs." I love Mitski, but she's clearly not spending a lot of time thinking about capital letters. Granted, that's different from deciding to make the song title all caps or all lowercase or, hell, sentence case, as the French (and Pet Shop Boys) do. Come to think of it, Prince was deliberately pulling this kind of shit a long time ago with titles like "I Would Die 4 U."

I was kind of annoyed by the linguist who called initial caps for sentences a "non-functional" rule of grammar. Though she's not incorrect as far as grammar goes, I find initial caps immensely helpful for speed-reading or skimming blocks of text; much easier to pick out the combination of a sentence-ending period plus the following capital letter than it is the tiny period by itself. But I guess that's really a question of form over function.
posted by Mothlight at 9:04 AM on August 27, 2019 [6 favorites]

the letters of capital are no letters of mine. reeks of business, i don't see the need. upperclass text more like.
posted by Acid Communist at 9:33 AM on August 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is fIREHOSE erasure.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 11:34 AM on August 27, 2019 [4 favorites]

"INTERMISSION: fLoWer," "sHe," "dRuNk," "lUcOzAdE," "fOoL fOr YoU," and "MiNd Of MiNdd".

"INTERMISSION: Flower," "She," "Drunk," "Lucozade," "Fool for You," aNd "Mind of Mindd".
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:27 PM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yeah well SHXCXCHCXSH was doing it before it was cool.
posted by symbioid at 1:38 PM on August 27, 2019

I personally believe it's due to the advent of digital recording tracks. A demo recording will now have a filename on an artist's computer; and for organizational reasons that demo is quite likely to be all lowercase or ALL CAPS - something that a demo track on tape could not possibly be.
posted by solarion at 2:47 PM on August 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

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