Mohs Scale Of Lyrical Hardness
Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness
is a sorting algorithm of, well, musical hardness; however, due to Lyrical Dissonance
, mere musical sound is not always enough to determine the actual hardness of a song.
This trope ranks songs (and to a lesser extent, albums, artists and bands in general) by the hardness/darkness/heaviness of their lyrics.
The name has a certain punny quality
to it. After all, this is Mohs' Scale
of Lyrical Hardness. Get it? Because of the musical scale?
- The song is an instrumental with no subtext, therefore having no message.
- 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.
- is silly at most, but all in good spirit. No one can be offended.
- can poke fun at something. Friendly kisses is pretty much the limit of sexuality that can be included.
- 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 as part of a romantic releationship, expressed in poetic metaphors and gets about as raunchy as "we were lost in the waves of night".
- 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.
- 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; direct mentions of sex, unless cleverly hidden, usually get a song at least this high on the list.
- can include straight out angst and/or heavy sadness. Swearing can get more frequent or heavy. Violence or self-harm might be mentioned in some detail; Pretty typical for political and protest songs. Sex is completely usually devoid of romance or love at this level.
- is likely war-themed. There is heavy angst, or heartbreaking sadness, but avoids direct mentions of suicide. Swearing starts to get explicit or frequent. Violence, self-harm can get mentioned with some detail, but not glorified. Described sex acts are demeaning to one or more of the participants, may involve prostitution or rape.
- 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 Gangsta 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, or the lyrics might express a serious wish to die.
- 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.
- 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.
Just as people provide YouTube
links for examples of the aforementioned sister trope, for this trope people ought to provide examples of lyrics from the songs in question which illustrate the tone of the lyrics.
The Mohs scales for musical hardness and lyrical hardness could be cross-referenced for extra value and impact.
Note, of course, that lower levels of hardness are not necessarily bad. Playing songs with a lot of violence and swears is downright inappropriate in many settings.
Also note that this scale applies to lyrical content, and not the content of a music video.
BTW: One can't 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 their Tracy Ullman days, had a scene where Marge sings it to Maggie, who imagines falling to her death and can't sleep.) And "The Kanteletar" is a collection of Finnish poems — including children's lullabies. One, ("Tutti Tutti Tumaistani"
) is a children's lullaby about a dead child.
Suggestion for parental guidance level comparability:
- G: 1-4
- PG: 5-6
- PG13: 7
- R: 8-9
- NC17: 10-11
open/close all folders
- Most any lullaby will rank 1-2 to get both the luller and the lullee in the proper mindset. But there are exceptions...
- The Beatles' "Good Day Sunshine" is almost absurdly cheery.
- The Hamster Dance.
- Rebecca Black's "Friday".
- "Simple Gifts" by Aaron Copland.
- Most Christmas carols.
- Sitcom and children's show themes, usually.
- "Close To You" by The Carpenters.
- The Cures' character songs from Smile Pretty Cure!.
- The Beatles: "All My Loving"
- Primal Scream: "Movin' On Up". Things were once bad, but the narrator has turned a new leaf and is now ecstatic about his life.
- Jefferson Airplane: "How Do You Feel" is very sweet and naive, but it implies that the admirer is shy.
- Pre - "Pet Sounds" Beach Boys, plus "Good Vibrations".
- Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio" is a silly song that the very PC might find culturally insensitive, but it harmless to most everyone.
- ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" would probably be a Level-1 were it not for the lines that acknowledge that the sky is not ALWAYS blue...
in the city
on the streets where once was pity
- ...And this kinda out-of-nowhere bit:
But soon comes Mister Night
Creepin' over, now his hand is on your shoulder
- "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and His Comets.
- "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley.
- "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFarrin is a warm shot of encouragement, and quite a popular choice for Soundtrack Dissonance.
- "Smile Song," "B.B.B.F.F." and "Love Is In Bloom" from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
- ABBA (Waterloo)
- The Beatles: "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
- The Doors' "Hello, I Love You" is ever-so-slightly suggestive, but mostly harmless.
- Pink Floyd's "See Emily Play".
- Lost Horizon's sophomore album "A Flame To The Ground Beneath" ranges between 3~5; all songs praise the power of the will of man, and encourages triumph over pain and hardship. The band isn't called Xanax for nothing.
- The Cure's happy songs, such as "Just Like Heaven" and "Friday I'm In Love".
- Ano Hana The Flower We Saw That Day's opening Aoi Shiori (Blue Bookmark). Full lyrics here.
- Emilie Autumn's first album, mostly.
- Kamelot: Serenade
- My Chemical Romance: Their straighter love songs ('The Only Hope For Me Is You', 'Summertime') hover around this level.
- The songs on The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds range from here through 5 for the most part. The whole album has a yearning quality to its lyrics.
- 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.
- Liverpool Lullaby (or The Mucky Kid) is 5-6, as it talks pretty straight about poverty, Dad's alcoholism and how the kid's going to "gerra belt from your Dad". Lyrics
- Laula kukko ("Sing my rooster") is a Finnish children's song — 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.
- Black Sabbath's "N.I.B." is a song about the Devil falling in love and giving up his evil ways. It'd be a few levels lower if not for the Devil part, which makes it somewhat controversial.
- "Cardboard Castles" by Watsky is difficult to place. Some could argue that the swearing would bring this up to a 6, but the edited version could very easily be a 4. The video, which is not always happy but ends on a very optimistic note, seems to support the lighter interpretation.
- "This Day Aria" from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- "Ilona" by Apulanta, if you don't get the suicide theme
- ABBA (The Winner Takes It All).
- The Birthday Massacre falls squarely in the 6-9 range. Their lighter songs are about loneliness and break ups.
- The Beatles: "Eleanor Rigby"
- Blue Öyster Cult: "Don't Fear The Reaper" makes for a light 6.
- Joy Division comes in between a 6-8. The lyrics are hardly ever profane and quite cryptic, but they are depressing, angsty, and very bleak. Some of their more uptempo (but not upbeat) songs like "Transmission" qualify as 6, while the dirges off Closer are a solid 8 (the cryptic lyrics and lack of profanity keep their darker songs out of 9).
- Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon. Same goes for Wish You Were Here.
- Animals: "House of the Rising Sun". Dark story.
- The Offspring's "Gone Away" would be a high 6 or low 7—it's about grieving after a loved one's untimely death, but it leaves off the details.
- The Doors's lyrics average out at six, due to the angst and surrealism of their lyrics. For instance, "Break On Through" is an angsty, angry song that references drug use with "she gets high". But it's ultimately a song about breaking free of one's limitations and arriving at a better place.
- Most of The Cure's and The Smiths' oeuvre stands here - or up to 8.
- Nightwish: "Poet And The Pendulum" is one of their darkest songs, a strong 7 if not an 8.
- System of a Down
- Black Sabbath: "War Pigs" and most of their more famous songs.
- "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" by The Beatles (creepy considering the melody which is more indicative of a 2 or 3 song)
- 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.
- Kamelot varies, but generally hovers around a 6 or 7.
- The Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs" presents S&M in a creepy, somewhat depressing light.
- Rage Against The Machine is typically at either 7 or 8 on the scale. May push higher during songs with more profanity.
- Pink Floyd: Pretty much anything off Animals, The Wall or The Final Cut. Depressing, highly cynical stuff.
- Silverchair: Rarely includes bad language, but wrote a lot of songs about mental illness, unrequited love and extreme loneliness. The epitome of poignant.
- Simon & Garfunkel: Mostly sits around here. Lots of Lyrical Dissonance. Beautiful melodies and vocals. Exceedingly angtsy/depressing lyrics.
- Nirvana usually sits around here.
- "Gloomy Sunday": angst 6-8 depending on translation, the original being on this level
- Emilie Autumn straddles eight and nine (romanticising self-harm, angst songs about mental illness, rape, and death)
- "The Real Slim Shady" by Eminem, for the language
- Sabaton usually ranks around this level.
- The Beatles: "Happiness is a Warm Gun"
- Manipulate by Tribe 8
I just wanna slap around my girlfriend, I just wanna make her scream and yell
I just wanna tie her to the bedposts and call her nasty names like you evil bitch from hell
It's such a sin, I don't give a fuck what you think,
She loves me so when i do it, gets me high so I dont have to drink
- The Mariner's Revenge Song by the Decemberists
- "You Know You're Right" by Nirvana. May also go as high as a 9 when you consider that this was the last song the band recorded before the lead singer Ate His Gun.
Things have never been so swell
I have never failed to fail
- "X.Y.U." and "Tales of a Scorched Earth" by The Smashing Pumpkins. "X.Y.U." has been speculated to be about a number of things, including an abusive relationship, forced abortion, rape and murder. "Tales of a Scorched Earth" has a lot of swears and is outright nihilistic.
- "Bodies" by The Sex Pistols deals with a highly illegal and messy abortion. Alternately harsh and desperate. I think point of views switch around.
- Due to extremely high amounts of despair and an obvious—if not explicit—suicide theme, Metallica's "Fade To Black" belongs here. Same goes for "One".
- Pearl Jam: "Jeremy" is about a boy who shoots himself in front of his classroom, "Alive" is about a mother trying to seduce her son so she can vicariously make love to her dead husband, and "Once" is about a damaged guy who shoots people with a 16 gauge for no apparent reason.
- Iron Maiden and Metallica are usually here (even down to the war-themed songs mentioned atop the page).
- "Eaten From Inside" by Cannibal Corpse ditches the over-the-top graphic violence (there are a few violent references) and uses being eaten alive as a metaphor for anger and despair.
- Steely Dan's Do It Again. The lyrics are in the video's description. note
- 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.
- "Ilona" by Apulanta, if you get the suicide theme. In any case, it remains in the metaphor level.
- Although it's not music, Grave of the Fireflies would rank 9-10 for its sadness.
- The Birthday Massacre. 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).
- Kamelot: the Elizabeth trilogy, sometimes
- The Blue Öyster Cult's Golden Age of Leather uses Beach Boys style vocal harmonies and West Coast surfer rhythm (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 are about old Hell's Angels getting together for a last battle to the death, with a bit of gang-rape thrown in as an appetizer. The dissonance between the two creates something entirely other and shocking...
- 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.
- My Chemical Romance have some songs around this level...often set to a rather happy tune.
Stand up fuckin' tall, don't let them see your back!
And take my fuckin' hand, and never be afraid again. (This is the CHORUS.)
Well, let's go back to the middle of the day that started it all,
I can't begin to let you know just what I'm feeling,
And now the red ones make me fly, and the blue ones make me fall,
And I think I'll blow my brains against the ceiling.
Na na na na na na na, you run the company,
Na na na na na na na, fuck like a Kennedy,
Na na na na na na na, I think we'd rather be
Burning your information.
- The Holy Bible by Manic Street Preachers. Lyrical content includes prostitution, a cynical view of American Politics, the Holocaust and references to Self Harm. But that's just the beginning. The album contains songs that glorify Anorexia Nervosa, Suicide, and jokes that atrocities are okay as long as everything is politically correct. A prime example of Creator Breakdown.
I want to walk in the snow
And not leave a footprint
I want to walk in the snow
And not soil its purity
My vision's getting blurred
The hole in my life even stains the soil
My heart shrinks to barely a pulse
A tiny animal curled into a quarter circle
If you really care wash the feet of a beggar
I have crawled so far sideways
I recognise dim traces of creation
I wanna die, die in the summertime, I wanna die
in these plagued streets of pity you can buy anything
for 200 anyone can conceive a God on video
he's a boy, you want a girl so tear off his cock
tie his hair in bunches, fuck him, call him Rita if you want, if you want
- Teenage Whore by Hole
- Liz Phair's "Flower" isn't hateful, but it's pretty deliberately sexually explicit and not at all romantic. In it, she expresses her desire to "fuck you 'till your dick is blue." Ouch.
- The infamous "Frankie Teardrop" by Suicide. It's a straightforward tale about a young man who murders his wife and baby before committing suicide. Also, bloodcurdling screams. Set to minimalist, oppressive electronic music.
- Speaking of multiple murder, how about Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska"?
From the town of Lincoln, Nebraska with a sawed-off .410 on my lap
Through the badlands of Wyoming I killed everything in my path
I can't say that I'm sorry for the things that we done
At least for a little while sir me and her we had us some fun
- Monochromatic Stains by Dark Tranquillity. Depicts scene of murder, denial of murder, and possible psychosis.
This pile of ashes of a soul
Informant pokes abound
These sickly little fingers
Tread not the path of least restraint
Each piece of evidence a lie, a lie
The body, the face all items in place
I don't remember a thing
- "Bloodlands" by Cannibal Corpse. Desolate and creepy, but too atmospheric for an 8 and not graphic enough for a 10.
- Sound Horizon's Elysion album, in stark contrast to the light tone of the music itself. Subjects include decapitation, revenge killings, murder and implied suicide, incest, crucifixion, rape, yanderes, opening the gates of Abyss, waking up in Abyss, and a creepy masked man.
- GG Allin, if not 11.
- Nine Inch Nails' song "The Downward Spiral" fits nicely here. It seems to present suicide as a reasonable solution, albeit with a hint of sarcasm. Still, it's troubling. "Burn" from the deluxe edition of the same album also paints quite a bleak picture.
Something inside of me, has opened up it's eyes
Why did you put it there? Did you not realize
This thing inside of me, it screams the loudest sound
Sometimes I think I could
I'm gonna burn this whole world down!
- Electric Wizard's "We Hate You". Told from the point of view of a youth who's off to murder as many people as he can find with his father's gun. Plenty of songs are about this sort of thing, but the thing about "We Hate You" is that it's never made all that clear if having homicidal hatred towards everyone is necessarily a bad thing.
- Tool's "Prison Sex" is about the child abuse cycle. And we're not talking about verbal abuse, either...
I've come round full circle
My lamb and martyr, this will be over soon
You look so precious
- Slipknot has songs like Iowa (a Serial Killer's ode to his victim) and Disasterpiece:
I wanna slit your throat and fuck the wound
I wanna push my face in and feel the swoon
I wanna dig inside, find a little bit of me
Cuz the line gets crossed when you don't come clean
- Much of Dir En Grey's heavier material would be at around 10 or 11, especially songs from their post-Vulgar releases, which have lyrics that are simply too crazy to be listened to by any sane man.
- "Agitated Screams of Maggots", in particular, Crosses the Line Twice with the infamous "I'LL RAPE YOUR DAUGHTER ON YOUR GRAVE!''.
- Though most of The Offspring's tracks don't score very high on this scale, Beheaded is a high 10 or possibly a low 11, being a Murder Ballad about an Ax Crazy murderer who gleefully decapitates his victims:
Watch my girlfriend come to the door
Chop off her head, she falls to the floor
Watching my baby's jugular flow
Really makes my motor go
- Pretty much any Cannibal Corpse song goes here, with some exceptions.
- Anal Cunt
- Mindless Self Indulgence occasionally lapses into this 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)
- Frank Zappa arguably ranks here - from the merry pornofests such as "Dinah-Moe Hum" (six minutes dedicated to squicky describing sex with a prostitute and her sister), "Stick it out" (guy begs a robot to fuck him really hard… in German, no less) or "Keep it Greasey" (well…) to the jolly squickfests of "Magdalena" (father very vividly drools over his teenage daughter's tits, dreams of smearing her with mayo and caopectate… includes such gems as "I thought - oh my God, I gave my sperm to this thing!") or "Jewish Princess" ("who squeaks when she cums", among other things... and he demands her in a song stuffed with sounds that just might have been picked up from a Turkish porno). Even the parental guidance level comparability fits - nobody in his right mind would (or should) hand out albums like "Joe's Garage" or "Sheik Yerbouti" to a minor. Actually, many (most?) of his songs indeed are humorous/satirical/PC-fighting in nature.
- Nine Inch Nails' "Big Man With a Gun" is a satirical ditty about how great it feels to be a well-endowed rapist: "Held against your forehead, I'll make ya suck it! Maybe I'll put a hole in your head, y'know, just for the fuck of it!" Trent Reznor meant it as a social critique of misogynist, dominant masculinity (and partly as a Take That towards Gangsta Rap, about which he said "I enjoy it, but I could do without the degree of misogny and hatred of women and abuse." in a 1996 Spin interview), but he still got crap for it, even though it was satire.
- Interestingly, for all the controversy over The Downward Spiral's lyrics, it was a different song called "Just Do It" (a short song urging the listener to commit suicide, with the entire lyrics being "Just do it, nobody cares at all") that actually scared his co-producer Mark "Flood" Ellis into demanding that it be removed from the album, even though on the surface its lyrics are nowhere near as line-crossing as "Big Man with a Gun".
- There's an Australian Deathcore band called Thy Art Is Murder. Their most popular songs seem to be from the point of view of rapacious, homicidal, woman-hating psychopath. Songs include "Whore to a Chainsaw" (serial murder), "I'll Show You God" (murder-rape) and "Infinite Death" (serial murder-rape)("Lock up your daughters! Lock up your sluts!") They rival Anal Cunt in lyrical horribleness.
- Anthems from the French Revolution like Ah Ça Ira (below) or La Marseillaise (which calls for quenching the soil with blood). Basically death threats against counter-revolutionaries. Would have been a 10 if not sung by sans culotte that in many cases where armed.
Ah! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
aristocrats to the lamp-post
Ah! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
the aristocrats, we'll hang them!
If we don't hang them
We'll break them
If we don't break them
We'll burn them
Ah! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
- All Pigs Must Die by Death In June has explicitly hateful, if cryptic, lyrics, despite having very soft and mellow instrumentation. Also true for many other Neofolk songs.
All pigs must die
This ain't August '69
All pigs must die
7 & 7 - Sieg Heil - sublime!
- OFWGKTA frequently ranks here, especially their older material. Examples include the entirety of Earl Sweatshirt's mixtape Earl (which includes gratuitously articulate lyrics about murder, dismemberment, rape, necrophilia and blasphemy, along with homophobic slurs and references to Nazism and the KKK) and Tyler, the Creator songs like "French" and "Tron Cat" (which talk about sodomizing the Virgin Mary and raping a pregnant woman, respectively). Jasper Dolphin and Taco are also notable examples, who often rap about "punching bitches," kidnap, rape and treating girlfriends like sex slaves ("Real Bitch" and Tyler's "Bitch Suck Dick"). Thanks to Tyler you can add bestiality ("Tron Cat") and even implied pedophilia (the bridge section of "Fish") to Odd Future's arsenal of lyrical taboos.
- "Necropedophile" by Cannibal Corpse. Most songs in the "brutal Death Metal" genre fall here too.