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Pop Music: science says its getting louder, less complex, and more repetitive

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/articles/fb84bf19-29c9-4ed3-b6b6-953e8a083334

This is an older article from 2018 but it checks out.  It looks at technical changes in pop music over the last 50 years.

1.  Music growing sadder and slower

In a 2012 paper entitled Emotional Cues in American Popular Music: Five Decades of the Top 40, E. Glenn Schellenberg, and Christian von Scheve analysed two key elements in hit pop songs. Taking the biggest hits in the Billboard charts from 1950 to 2010, they charted a song's tempo - how fast the backbeat is - and whether it is in a major or minor key. the public taste is towards more minor key songs with a slow tempo, such as Naked by James Arthur. Even the major key pop songs have got slower, suggesting fun is becoming a scarcer commodity.

2. Music growing simpler and louder

This followed a similar study by a team from the Spanish National Research Council, lead by artificial intelligence specialist Joan Serrà, who examined nearly half a million pop songs over a similar period (in this case 1955-2010), and looked at their tonal, melodic and lyrical content. They concluded that pop has become melodically less complex, using fewer chord changes, and that pop recordings are mastered to sound consistently louder (and therefore less dynamic) at a rate of around one decibel every eight years.

Serra told Reuters: "We found evidence of a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse. In particular, we obtained numerical indicators that the diversity of transitions between note combinations - roughly speaking chords plus melodies - has consistently diminished in the last 50 years."

3. Music growing more antisocial and angry

A year before that, the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts published a report which looked at how the language of popular song has changed over the last 30 years. Researchers took a sample set of the Top 10 most popular songs in America from 1980 to 2007, and looked at how words are used to try and assess how pop fans used music to soundtrack their emotional state at the time. The report suggests that, "Simply tuning in to the most popular songs on the radio may provide people with increased understanding of their generation's current psychological characteristics."

They found that the use of the first-person singular pronouns (the word 'I') has increased steadily over time, suggesting that fans have become more interested in reflective first-person songs. This matches a decline in words that emphasis community and working together. They also noted a rise in antisocial and angry words, suggesting that pop hits are reflecting a growing sense of personal fury and social unrest. Accusations with which Eminem will be familiar.

4. Music not as good as it used to be

it's interesting to note the results of a 2014 poll conducted by Vanity Fair, in which 1,017 adults were asked a series of questions about their musical preferences.

When asked which decade has the worst music, their responses fanned out in broadly chronological order, with the 2010s getting 42% of the vote, the 2000s getting 15%, and the 1990s, 1980s and 1970s coming in fairly equally with 13%, 14% and 12%. This might lead a casual reader to conclude that the people polled were all of a certain age, but it seems to be an evenly held opinion. Of people aged 18-29, 39% voted for the 2010s, while the figure for the over 30s was 43%, which indicates most of the fun is in digging up old songs, rather than keeping up with the new.

5. Music lyrics are simpler and more repetitive

a sterling 2017 report by Daniel Morris on repetition in pop lyrics suggests that hit songs are getting closer and closer to a one-word lyric sheet.

The Lempel-Ziv algorithm is a lossless way to compress data, by taking out repetitions, and Morris used it as a tool to examine 15,000 songs from the Billboard Hot 100 from 1958 to 2014, reducing their lyrics down to their smallest size without losing any data, and comparing their relative sizes. He found two very interesting things. The first was that in every year of study, the songs that reached the Top 10 were more repetitive than their competition. The second is that pop has become more repetitive over time, as Morris points out: "2014 is the most repetitive year on record. An average song from this year compresses 22% more efficiently than one from 1960."

 

 

 

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Coincidentally, people's taste in "music" has deteriorated at the same pace. 

 

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There's a video on YouTube that breaks this down pretty well too. It's pretty interesting how much of a business and science they have turned music into.

I forget the whole thing, but the old 45 single really still has its footprint on music and radio and Publishing to this day. Even though they're long gone.

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31 minutes ago, riversco said:

 

Very interesting, thanks for posting.  :cheers:

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It's not just pop music. There are a lot of areas that are being simplified. Baseball is losing the nuances to the game. Power pitchers and homeruns, that's all the league wants. 

Basketball, just Jack up threes all day

Language is being simplified

We are moving away from creativity into a more binary way of thinking imo. There are analytics and formulas to tell us how to get these results. Instead of baseball execs and scouts figuring out a new way to play the game, they are probably just playing with different formals to identify power hitters and their potential success. 

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2 hours ago, Frozenbeernuts said:

It's not just pop music. There are a lot of areas that are being simplified. Baseball is losing the nuances to the game. Power pitchers and homeruns, that's all the league wants. 

Basketball, just Jack up threes all day

Language is being simplified

We are moving away from creativity into a more binary way of thinking imo. There are analytics and formulas to tell us how to get these results. Instead of baseball execs and scouts figuring out a new way to play the game, they are probably just playing with different formals to identify power hitters and their potential success. 

Its called making things simpler for mass consumption, maybe to help people or maybe just for profit.  People dislike it because they use their brain less or sometimes because being more efficient comes at the cost of building a community.

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in other words.....

 

IT'S CRAP MAN!!!

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3 hours ago, Frozenbeernuts said:

It's not just pop music. There are a lot of areas that are being simplified. Baseball is losing the nuances to the game. Power pitchers and homeruns, that's all the league wants. 

Basketball, just Jack up threes all day

Language is being simplified

We are moving away from creativity into a more binary way of thinking imo. There are analytics and formulas to tell us how to get these results. Instead of baseball execs and scouts figuring out a new way to play the game, they are probably just playing with different formals to identify power hitters and their potential success. 

Like using analytics to evaluate music? :dunno:

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Does anybody here listen to contemporary pop music? At the gym it’s all 3rd rate R&B, pop punk and bad country. 

Theres tons of great music today, you’re just not going to hear it on commercial radio.

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2 hours ago, MDC said:

Does anybody here listen to contemporary pop music? At the gym it’s all 3rd rate R&B, pop punk and bad country. 

Theres tons of great music today, you’re just not going to hear it on commercial radio.

I always hear people say there's tons of great 70s music, and then they list a bunch.  They say there's tons of great 80s music, then they list a bunch.  Same goes for the 80s and 90s.  But whenever I hear someone say there's tons of great music from the 00s and 10s, I have yet to see people actually list them. 

Also, to repeat what I said in the OP:

Of people aged 18-29, 39% voted for the 2010s as the worse decade for music.  A plurality.  That's not old people.  That's youngsters who went to high school in the 2010s that say the 2010s is the worst decade. 

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25 minutes ago, riversco said:

I always hear people say there's tons of great 70s music, and then they list a bunch.  They say there's tons of great 80s music, then they list a bunch.  Same goes for the 80s and 90s.  But whenever I hear someone say there's tons of great music from the 00s and 10s, I have yet to see people actually list them. 

Also, to repeat what I said in the OP:

Of people aged 18-29, 39% voted for the 2010s as the worse decade for music.  A plurality.  That's not old people.  That's youngsters who went to high school in the 2010s that say the 2010s is the worst decade. 

I think that’s probably nostalgia more than anything. I remember people talking about how much music sucked in the 90s too. 

Big difference today is there is so much more music available to people I think tastes have become a lot more specialized. 

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19 hours ago, frank said:

 

I actually had the 45 of this when I was a kid. 

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People from sub cultures dominate the popular music scene, so it only makes sense that it would be simple and loud. 

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9 hours ago, riversco said:

Its called making things simpler for mass consumption, maybe to help people or maybe just for profit.  People dislike it because they use their brain less or sometimes because being more efficient comes at the cost of building a community.

Not only mass consumption, but FOREIGN mass consumption. In movies and music, they want kids all over the world to buy it. Those kids don't understand English very well. So the lyrics or dialogue is dumbed down.

My students listen to music all the time between classes. Some Chinese. Some Korean. Some american. It's all pretty much the same. A DJ making very similar beats, and either some hot chicks or a dude saying yeah a lot. You can barely tell the difference.

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The only pop music that doesn't suck these days are the remakes. Which there are plenty. 

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7 hours ago, MDC said:

I think that’s probably nostalgia more than anything. I remember people talking about how much music sucked in the 90s too. 

 

I linked polling data.  I mean its not the greatest source sure but its something.  You are using anecdotal evidence which is one of the worst sources imaginable.  That shows poor judgement and I'm beginning to understand your struggles on this forum.

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It is noteworthy that if you look at Ticketmaster, a very large portion of the shows are nostalgia acts from decades past. 

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10 minutes ago, riversco said:

I linked polling data.  I mean its not the greatest source sure but its something.  You are using anecdotal evidence which is one of the worst sources imaginable.  That shows poor judgement and I'm beginning to understand your struggles on this forum.

I didn’t know we were having a debate. I was just throwing my opinion out there. People have always thought everything was better in their youth. That leads me to believe people in their teens / 20s will feel the same way about music in the 2000s 20 years from now. The market for music has changed a lot due to the Internet. 🤷🏻‍♂️ 

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Just now, MDC said:

I didn’t know we were having a debate. I was just throwing my opinion out there. People have always thought everything was better in their youth. That leads me to believe people in their teens / 20s will feel the same way about music in the 2000s 20 years from now. The market for music has changed a lot due to the Internet. 🤷🏻‍♂️ 

There is some truth to that. But most of our generation (mid to late 30s through mid 40s) would say the best music was long before they were born. Then the music of our youth. Then the crap now. 

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10 hours ago, MDC said:

I think that’s probably nostalgia more than anything. I remember people talking about how much music sucked in the 90s too. 

 

:wave:

There are only two good things about 90s music .... 1990 and 1991. 

Really, by the time I'd left for China in 2001, new music was in a statistical tie for last place on the "Things in the US That I'd Miss the Most" list with hijcaked planes crashing into buildings. I imagine I now hate SJWs more than both of those now though (punch in nose > cancer).

I couldn't tell you anything about 2000s or 2010s music, the 90s ruined music so badly that I ignored new music and now that I have to go out of my way to listen to some, that 90s inspired ban has never been lifted.

 

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