Created By: Frank75 on December 20, 2010 Last Edited By: peccantis on February 3, 2012
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Mohs Scale Of Lyrical Hardness

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Snatched by peccantis. Looking to launch soon, please contribute constructive comments (in case you don't feel a hat is called for) or nicely elaborated examples.

Comments/ideas desired on the first half of the list.

Should this have another title? It's bee suggested this scale measures more lyrical heaviness or darkness than hardness.

Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness is a sorting algorithm of musical hardness; however, due to Lyrical Dissonance, mere musical sound is not always enough to determine the actual hardness of a song.

  1. is completely harmless, light and upbeat, and if anything, aims for an uplifting effect. It consists of sunshine and sugar. Life is beautiful and everyone's happy.
  2. is silly at most, but all in good spirit. No one can be offended.
  3. can poke fun at something. Friendly kisses is pretty much the limit of sexuality that can be included.
  4. is where optimism starts to noticeably fade. Life may be not all that great and fun, but it isn't still too bad either. If sex gets mentioned, it's in a side role, expressed in poetic metaphors and gets about as raunchy as "we were lost in the waves of night".
  5. is about the level of what an average adult experiences in their everyday life. There can be slight angst or sadness, or a little cussing on the milder side.
  6. gets a bit heavier; angst is still light, and the song is more sad than angsty. Cussing stays at a moderate level. Violence can be alluded to or mentioned, but this level leaves out the details.
  7. can include straight out angst and/or heavy sadness. Swearing can get more frequent or heavy. Violence might be mentioned in some detail; direct mentions of sex, unless cleverly hidden, usually get a song at least this high on the list. Pretty typical for political and protest songs.
  8. is likely war-themed. There is heavy angst, or heartbreaking sadness. Swearing starts to get explicit or frequent. Violence, self-harm or suicide can get mentioned with some detail, but not glorified.
  9. is where the song less tells about things and more immerses the listener in a dark world of hopelessness and cruelty. Rap songs of this level tend to describe and perhaps glorify crime (see Gansta Rap). Angst gets jarring, sadness is likely on guaranteed Tear Jerker level. Swearing is frequent, if not constant, and heavy. Violence gets into the realm of gore. Self-harm or suicide might get romanticised.
  10. is really ugly stuff; it might include pretty explicit hate messages. Angst approaches psychotic levels, sadness disgusting. Language can be filthy; violence gets very detailed and/or gets specific on the pleasure of hurting others or oneself. Might include straight-played romantic depiction of self-harm or suicide.
  11. just has to be Stealth Parody. We hope so. The lyrics do everything they ever can to make the listener feel depressed, offended, or disgusted.

Examples:

Children's Songs
  • Most any lullaby will rank 1-2 to get both the luller and the lullee in the proper mindset.
  • Liverpool Lullaby (or The Mucky Kid) is 5-6, as it talks pretty straight about poverty, Dad's alcholism and how the kid's going to "gerra belt from your Dad". Lyrics
  • Laula kukko ("Sing my rooster") is a Finnish children's song with lyrics up to 5 -- the narrator of the song asks farm animals to perform their duties, such as the rooster to sing, the hen to lay eggs, and the cow to yield milk. He also threats the animals with consequences if they don't; the hen will be put in a hot oven, the rooster will lose his head, and the cow will lose her bell.

Hard Rock
  • Ilona by Apulanta is either 6 or 8 depending on whether you get the suicide theme. In any case, it remains in the metaphor level.

Metal Music
  • Mindless Self Indulgence frequents the upper end of the scale, and occasionally lapses into 11 territory, especially with the song "Backmask Warning"
    Hey! All the people you love
    In a river of blood
    And don't forget the guns!
    (You're gonna need 'em to go kill yourself)
  • Nightwish usually ranges from 3-6 with their romantic, more or less vaguely melancholic themes; when they top that it's due to hopeless themes. Poet And The Pendulum is one of their darkest songs, a strong 7 if not an 8.

Rap Music
  • The Real Slim Shady by Eminem, 8 on the language scale

Rock Music

Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly
  • Emilie Autumn straddles 8 and 9, romanticising self-harm, and with angst songs about mental illness, rape, and death.
  • The Birthday Massacre falls squarely in the 6-9 range. Their lighter songs are about loneliness and break ups. Moving up, we have songs about extreme alienation and despair ("Broken", "Play Dead"), meaningless sex ("Promise Me", "Video Kid"), dysfunctional and possibly abusive relationships ("Falling Down", "Violet", "Two Hearts"), psychotic obsession ("Midnight", "Blue"), suicide and self-harm ("Under The Stairs") and outright murder ("Lover's End" and, of course "Happy Birthday", which is where their name comes from).

Other
  • Although it's not music, Grave of the Fireflies, a cute animated film known for its really really depressing story, would rank 9-10.
Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • December 20, 2010
    movie007
    I'm in favour of that idea. Also note, of course, that lower levels of hardness are not necessarily bad. After all, The Beatles have recorded a lot of Silly Love Songs.
  • January 7, 2011
    Frank75
    That's true.

    Now let's see whether we can find something for every level...

    1. These lyrics are so harmless, you could let your little daughter listen to it. (And probably, anyone else will feel too old.)
    2. Silly Love Songs.
    3. Funny songs (no adult or political stuff)
    4. Songs along the line "life is good". Not great and all fun, but good.
    5. Songs about everyday life.
    6. Songs about sad themes (but more like "we broke up" - bigger problems should belong to a higher category, but it's hard to tell which one)
    7. Political and protest songs. (Maybe this one?)
    8. Songs about fighting and war.
    9. Songs about crime, like Gangsta Rap.
    10. Uh. That'd be really ugly stuff, like the worst Black Metal bands who spread neonazi propaganda and want to burn down churches.
    11. This just has to be Stealth Parody. We hope so.

    OK, we've got our scale from 1 to 11. Now we need examples...

  • January 7, 2011
    Chongomaster
    Well, System of a Down seem to be a 7. Also the difference between 9 and 10 seems to great.
  • January 7, 2011
    peccantis
    I'd like to see levels of angst, swearword frequency, and violence detail level added to the list, and romantizing of death/self destruction. For examples, I'd say Children Of Bodom comes to 8 or 9 with its murder promises, raining gore and general angry swearing -- it isn't nearly detailed enough to score 10 in any case.

    Suggestion for parental guidance level comparability:
  • January 7, 2011
    MorganWick
    This is probably more light/dark than soft/hard.
  • January 8, 2011
    peccantis
    ^ IMHO it's both.
  • January 8, 2011
    KTera
    So Anal Cunt would be an 11?
  • January 10, 2011
    Frank75
    Of course.

    @peccantis: Sure. Where would you put them?
  • January 25, 2011
    Frank75
    Bump?
  • January 25, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Laibach, a militaristic Slovenian band, is a firm 7
  • January 25, 2011
    RossN
    ABBA ranges from about 3 (Waterloo) to 6 (The Winner Takes It All).
  • January 25, 2011
    peccantis
    Suggestions for more qualifiers (can we have a table please?)
    1. harmless
    2. silly
    3. funny songs
    4. "life is good". Not great and all fun, but good.
    5. everyday life // slight angst or sadness // mild cusses, not many
    6. sad themes // angst: light - more sad than angsty // Gosh Darn It To Heck, maybe one or two non-heavy cusses // may mention violence or subtly imply murder/rape/suicide in passing, no details
    7. Political and protest songs. // includes angst, heavy sadness // some swear words // mentions violence, murder or similar with some detail; this is about as low as a song with rape more tha implied can get
    8. fighting and war // heavy angst, heartbreakingly sad // heavier terminology or more frequent easy stuff // includes violence // mentions self-harm or suicide // romantising self-harm or suicide
    9. crime, as in Gangsta Rap // jarring angst, unbearably sad (almost guaranteed Tear Jerker) // frequent heavy swearing // heavy violence // romantising self-harm or suicide
    10. really ugly stuff (...) like neonazi propaganda and [churchburning] // angst nearing psychotic levels, disgustingly sad // filthy language // detailed gore, urges violence // straight-played romantic depiction of self-harm or suicide
    11. This just has to be Stealth Parody. We hope so. // extreme crazy angst // consists of nothing but foul obscenities // detail-icious gore, glorified murder or rape // "suicide is the best thing ever"

    Examples:
    • Gloomy Sunday angst 6-8 depending on translation, original being 8
    • The Real Slim Shady by Eminem, 8 on the language scale
    • Maxwell's Silver Hammer by Beatles, 7 on the violence scale (creepy considering the melody which is more indicative of a 2 or 3 song)
    • Ilona by Apulanta, 6 or 9 depending on whether you get the suicide theme
    • Although it's not music, Grave Of The Fireflies would rank 9-10 for its sadness.
  • April 10, 2011
    peccantis
    le bump
  • April 10, 2011
    neoYTPism
    I'm bumping this too
  • April 10, 2011
    Sceptre
    Emilie Autumn straddles eight and nine under peccantis's scale (romanticising self-harm, angst songs about mental illness, rape, and death)
  • April 10, 2011
    Ghilz
    Can we avoid Snowclones? Seriously?
  • April 11, 2011
    Frank75
    I'd think this one is justified. After all, Everythings Worse With Snowclones only says they're bad if the title is shoehorned. My point was: The current scale doesn't consider lyrics, and there are many songs with hard sounds but not that hard lyrics, or the other way round. Lyrical Dissonance, as I said.
  • August 21, 2011
    peccantis
    Will usurp if not claimed by OP.
  • August 21, 2011
    Taelor
    • The Birthday Massacre falls squarely in the 6-9 range. Their lighter songs are about loneliness and break ups. Moving up, we have songs about extreme alienation and despair ("Broken", "Play Dead"), meaningless sex ("Promise Me", "Video Kid"), dysfunctional and possibly abusive relationships ("Falling Down", "Violet", "Two Hearts"), psychotic obsession ("Midnight", "Blue"), suicide and self-harm ("Under The Stairs") and outright murder ("Lover's End" and, of course "Happy Birthday", which is where their name comes from).
  • August 21, 2011
    Shnakepup
    • Mindless Self Indulgence occasionally lapses into 11 territory, especially the song "Backmask Warning"
      Hey! All the people you love
      In a river of blood
      And don't forget the guns!
      (You're gonna need 'em to go kill yourself)
  • August 22, 2011
    Frank75
    Yeah, go ahead, peccantis.
  • August 22, 2011
    JohnDiFool
    GG Allin is an 11.
  • August 22, 2011
    peccantis
    ^please elaborate, I'm not willing to do the research for other people's examples.
  • August 22, 2011
    DameDesDouleurs
    • My Chemical Romance typically sticks to a 6-8 range in their first three albums, most lyrical content referencing death and violence, and arguably glorifying it according to their Hate Dumb. Some content may even warrant a 9, but the usual lack of language (minus the occasional Precision F Strike) knocks them down a peg. Their Lighter And Softer fourth album changes things. Its highest point is maybe a 6 for cussing alone, and a few love songs ("The Only Hope For Me Is You", "Summertime") are as low as a 2.
  • August 22, 2011
    SunnyV
    @Sceptre: Emilie Autumn's an interesting example, though, as her first album was mostly more like a four.
  • November 9, 2011
    fierystage
    Reviving since I think this is a good trope and deserves a launch. Not enough music tropes!
  • November 9, 2011
    Tzintzuntzan
    I'd dispute whether children's lullabies really rank at that end of the scale, given the likes of Rockabye Baby and the Kanteletar.
  • November 10, 2011
    peccantis
    ^ well you're more than welcome to elaborate on those, it cannot hurt to document the higher hardness lullabies either. I take you're not contesting the claim that typically children's lullabies feature that hardness?
  • November 13, 2011
    Tzintzuntzan
    I don't know if we can say that children's lullabies are typically on any side, because we don't have a big list of every lullaby ever to sift through. But Rockabye Baby is about a baby falling to (probable) death. (The Simpsons, in theeir Tracy Ullman days, had a scene where Marge sings it to Maggie, who imagines falling to her death and can't sleep.)

    The Kanteletar is a collection of Finnish poems -- including children's lullabies. One, "Tutti Tutti Tumaistani" (link at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3o6uLlgmtE) is a children's lullaby about a dead child.
  • November 13, 2011
    JohnDiFool
    GG Allin is a 10.
  • November 13, 2011
    Folamh3
    I'd suggest organizing the examples the same way as in Mohs Scale Of Rock And Metal Hardness. It becomes very hard to follow the linear progression of hardness/darkness when they're grouped according to genre. Also, just as people provide You Tube links for examples of the aforementioned trope, for this trope people ought to provide examples of lyrics from the songs in question which illustrate the tone of the lyrics.
  • November 21, 2011
    Frank75
    Bump.

    Lyrical hardness/darkness/heavyness - whatever would be the best term in English.
  • November 21, 2011
    nitrokitty
    • Sabaton usually ranks around an 8.
    • Kamelot varies, but generally hovers around a 6 or 7. Songs like Serenade drop down to a 4, while the Elizabeth trilogy can lapse into a 9 sometimes.
  • November 21, 2011
    Tuomas
    I think all these "Mohs Scale of X Hardness" titles are pretty awful, because they include the name of a scientist (Friedrich Mohs) who obviously had nothing to do with the scale. I guess Mohs Scale Of Science Fiction Hardness is too well established to change at this point, but please don't come up with new ones. It shouldn't be too hard to think of an original name for your scale.
  • November 21, 2011
    AgPrv
    The Mohs scales for musical hardness and lyrical hardness could be cross- referenced for extra value and impact. For instance, the Blue Oyster Cult's Golden Age of Leather uses Beach-Boys style vocal harmonies and West Coast surfer rhthym (scale two or three for musical hardness? Evokes sunny California beach days where everyone has a good time and all re alive at sunset?) But its lyrics must be up to nine on the lyrical hardness scale - it's about old Hell's Angels getting together for a last battle to the death, with a bit of gang-rape thrown in as an appetiser. The dissonance between the two creates something entirely other and shocking...
  • January 16, 2012
    Frank75
    Bump.
  • January 27, 2012
    rosebud64
    The Beatles were all over the place with this trope...

    "All My Loving"- 2

    "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"- 3

    "Eleanor Rigby"- 6

    "Happiness is a Warm Gun"- 8

  • January 28, 2012
    Rognik
    I don't really have anything to contribute to the trope itself, the name has a certain punny quality to it. After all, this is Moh's Scale of Lyrical Hardness. Get it? Because of the musical scale?
  • February 3, 2012
    Frank75
    OK, I'll start this after the weekend, unless someone gives me a good reason not to.

    It's supposed to be a sister trope to the Mohs Scale Of Rock And Metal Hardness, so I guess the snowclone is OK this time.
  • February 3, 2012
    fulltimeD
    re: LAIBACH example

    After re-reading the (altered?) scale, Laibach (the musical wing of a Slovene art collective which appropriates totalitarian imagery and themes for artistic purposes) appears not to be a 7, but to range from 8 to 11.
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