Crotchety old men seem to have won this argument.
Modern pop music is too loud and does sound all the same, just like angry old types have been saying for 70 years.
A team from Spain analyzed music from a 55 year period, using an archive known as the Million Song Dataset, and found that songs have indeed become both louder and more homogenized in terms of chords and melodies.
1955, the first year of their dataset, was the birth of rock and roll and saw the decline of the 'doo wop' chord progression (I-vi-IV-V). If you know your old songs, mentally compare "Earth Angel" by The Penguins from 1954 with Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" from 1955, which used the I-IV-V progression still common today. The set from 1955 to 2010 had 464,411 tunes and they used dynamical processes on complex networks to make the connections and find the statistical patterns.
"We found evidence of a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse," Joan Serra, first author of the research and artificial intelligence specialist at the Spanish National Research Council, told Reuters. "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."
And the 'loudness' war you thought has been happening is also not in your mind. Engineers really have been making it louder, because it sounds newer. I once asked an old recording engineer why some older music (Toto, Asia) still sounded new (assified, but new) while other songs of the period sounded like they were being played through a tube, and he said it was all dynamic range compression. Engineers discovered music was much 'hotter' the more it was compressed so it went from being a benefit, like in placing a maximum sound level so distortion does not happen or to give an instrument some sustain, to overused for effect and it leaves all the sound flat and just really, really loud.
(a) Examples of the density values and fits of the loudness variable x. (b) Empiric distribution medians. (c) Dynamic variability, expressed as absolute loudness differences between the first and third quartiles of x, |Q1 − Q3|.
If you want a similar assault for your eyeballs, watch "Transformers 2", where Michael Bay discovered color theory and that orange and teal are complementary, so when they are placed next to each other they give an image similar 'pop'. He then used it as the entire palette for the most difficult movie to watch of the last decade.
The Mona Lisa in a Michael Bay world. See how it pops? It also looks terrible. Credit: Todd Miro
Citation: Joan Serrà, Álvaro Corral, Marián Boguñá, Martín Haro&Josep Ll. Arcos, 'Measuring the Evolution of Contemporary Western Popular Music', Scientific Reports 2, Article number: 521 doi:10.1038/srep00521 (free to read)
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Almost One In Three US Adults Owns A Gun But Murder Rates Have Plummeted
- What May Be Missing From Quantum Computing - A Quantum Middle Man
- EWG's Little Site Of Horrors
- Head Start In The South Also Helped Create Future Civil Rights Leaders
- Predictive Coding Theory: How Our Brains Recognize Faces From Minimal Information
- The Missing Memristor Has NOT Been Found Published By Nature Group
- Why Horror Games Give Us The Fright We're Looking For
- "So from 20 times the gun linked murder rate of all other OECD countries down to 19.5 times? Still..."
- "Vegan parents investigated for neglect after baby son found severely malnourished - said they..."
- "Good news on two fronts.Although I get a kick out of insulting people now and then (OK, maybe a..."
- "Ugh, there are three paths I wish I could take this conversation now. History has taught me that..."
- "Ah I figured it out, they dropped the e in the title. Man that was really bothering me trying to..."
- Environmental attorneys and an oceanographer want EPA to declare CO2 a "toxic substance" like asbestos
- So you think you're a foodie
- Nobel Laureates dive into climate politics
- $4,200 and up: Millions of children's lives saved through government programs
- First trial of gene therapy for cystic fibrosis shows beneficial effect on lung function