News From The Science Front

Pop music too loud and all sounds the same: official

(London, July 26, 2012)—(Reuters) Comforting news for anyone over the age of 35, scientists have worked out that modern pop music really is louder and does all sound the same.

Researchers in Spain used a huge archive known as the Million Song Dataset, which breaks down audio and lyrical content into data that can be crunched, to study pop songs from 1955 to 2010.

A team led by artificial intelligence specialist Joan Serra at the Spanish National Research Council ran music from the last 50 years through some complex algorithms and found that pop songs have become intrinsically louder and more bland in terms of the chords, melodies and types of sound used.

So, it’s official. I had my suspicions. Note that the period of the study began with 1955, the year of “Rock Around the Clock.” To read the whole story, go here.

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  1. Frank Roellinger says

    We needed artificial intelligence to tell us this? Fortunately, the great popular songs from prior to 1955 are still being performed and I’d bet they will far outlive the “modern pop music” analyzed here.

  2. Gary says

    Is it just a coincidence that Alec Wilder’s seminal book American Popular Song goes to 1950? I’m sure there were some great songs written after that, but by 1955 was he going to analyze the merits of the chord changes to “Rock around the Clock”?

  3. steve sherman says

    I remember when “Pachelbel’s Canon” was a kind of pop hit because it was a featured theme in some movie. Leopold Stokowski said of it that it’s about five minutes of music in which nothing happens. I don’t think the audience for pop music has the patience or attention span for the deeper stories told by music of substance.

    Nothing new about that.

    • David says

      Steve, You’ve identified the two qualities that can make a classical piece popular. It has to either have a lot of repetition or have been used in a movie. Pachelbel’s “Canon” has both. So does Ravel’s “Bolero”.