New study says pop music getting louder, blander
Major Lazer performs at the 45th Festival d'ete de Quebec on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City, Wednesday, July 11, 2012. (Festival d'ete de Quebec / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Friday, July 27, 2012 2:11PM EDT
If you think today’s pop music is getting louder, you’re right. According to a new study from researchers in Spain, modern-day pop music is becoming louder and bland, featuring less variety in chords and melodies than in songs penned in the 1950s and 1960s.
In a paper published on July 26, 2012 in Scientific Reports, scientists working with the Spanish National Research Council revealed that pop music has become “intrinsically louder” over the last 50 years.
Researchers also reported that Western pop music has become increasingly homogenized, resulting tunes on the Billboard 100 and other top charts that sound very much the same.
The team led by artificial intelligence specialist Joan Serra carried out a computer analysis of approximately half a million pop, rock and hip-hop songs for this study that were written between 1955 and 2010.
To do this, the scientists used a huge and freely-available archive known as the Million Song Dataset, which breaks down the audio and lyrical content of songs into data that can be crunched.
With this data, Serra and his team studied certain patterns in contemporary pop music, such as pitch, timbre and loudness.
Remarkably, many of those patterns have “remained consistently stable for more than 50 years,’ the report claimed.
“We found evidence of a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse,” Serra told Reuters upon release of the study.
“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,” Serra added.
The new study also confirmed that today’s musical tracks are getting louder and credited sound engineers and producers for this trend. Both parties have been cranking up the volume at the recording stage, according to scientists’ findings.
Serra described this asthe first paper to properly measure today’s “Loudness War.” He defined this as a competition among music producers to release recordings with increased loudness, perhaps with the intent of attracting the interest of potential consumers.
The Spanish study described pop music “a key cultural expression that has captured listeners’ attention for ages.”
It also offered a recipe for musicians on the hunt for the next big hit.
According to this new data, old tunes that are re-recorded with increased loudness, simple chord progressions and different instruments can easily be made to sound new and fashionable in today’s marketplace.