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According to a June 2015 study by the music lyrics website Musixmatch into the 99 biggest-selling acts of all time, Eminem (USA, b. Marshall Mathers III) has the largest vocabulary, with 8,818 unique words used in the lyrics of his 100 lengthiest tracks.
The Top 10 in full:
1. Eminem (8,818 unique words);
2. Jay Z (6,899);
3. 2Pac (6,569);
4. Kanye West (5,069);
5. Bob Dylan (4,883);
6. The Black Eyed Peas (4,539);
7. Julio Iglesias (4,323);
8. Andrea Bocelli (4,306);
9. B'z (3,959);
10. Celine Dion (3,954).
Musixmatch were not granted permission to use the lyrics of six acts in the Top 100 biggest-selling artists of all time (The Beach Boys, Chicago, Def Leppard, The Doors, Journey and Bruce Springsteen), bringing the survey sample down to 93 acts.
The 93 acts analyzed came from 25 different genres/sub-genres of music and included ABBA, The Beatles, Beyoncé, Bon Jovi, Garth Brooks, Mariah Carey, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Aretha Franklin, Guns N' Roses, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, Bob Marley, Meat Loaf, George Michael, Nirvana, Katy Perry, Pink Floyd, The Police, Elvis Presley, Prince, Queen, Rihanna, The Rolling Stones, Britney Spears, Spice Girls, Rod Stewart, Taylor Swift, U2, The Who and Robbie Williams.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, due to the speed lyrics are delivered, all five acts listed in the hip-hop category were placed in the Top 6 of the study, with only Dylan preventing a total sweep of the Top 5.
Musixmatch also calculated that Eminem has an "N.W.I." (New Word Interval) of 11, meaning that, on average, each 11th word used across all 100 of the Eminem tracks analyzed is a word he has never previously used in one of his lyrics.
The average vocabulary size across all 93 acts is 2,677 words.
The three biggest-selling acts of all time - Elvis Presley (38th), Michael Jackson (42nd) and The Beatles (76th) - rank well down the list due to the "simplicity of their lyrics" which "breaks the barriers of geography, age, language...", according to Musixmatch.
Musixmatch: "To prevent the analysis from being skewed purely by the number of songs released, the vocabularies are compared across the 100 densest songs (by total number of words) that [the acts] have released. Only six of [the 93] musicians have released less than 100 songs, so it is a good threshold. Also, 100 songs comprises 8-10 albums of music, which would span at least 5-10 years of work. This should give a fair idea of the overall vocabulary of these musicians."
Musixmatch says the study "gives us a peek into the minds of different songwriters. Some tear your heart with just a few words while others paint an intricate picture with a thousand words."
Until recently, Eminem held the Guinness World Records title for the most words in a hit single - 1,560 words packed into his 2013 single "Rap God".