The Sound of (Pop) Music: Too Loud, Too Much the Same

In case you've tuned out of Top 40 radio lately (and we wouldn't blame you if you did), we're happy to fill you in: all pop music sounds the same. And scientists have confirmed it.

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In case you’ve tuned out of Top 40 radio lately (and we wouldn’t blame you if you did), we’re happy to fill you in: all pop music sounds the same these days. And scientists have confirmed it.

A team of Spanish researchers specializing in artificial intelligence dug through the freely-available Million Song Dataset — in which algorithm-happy researchers from Columbia University turned a million hit songs from 1955 until 2010 into mineable data bits — to determine what the musical trends are in today’s most popular songs.

Their findings: Pop songs are louder and more “blah” than ever before.

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The combination of turning up the volume when recording the songs mixing with fewer varieties of notes and chords makes today’s musical appetite for creativity a shrinking lot. Joan Serra, who headed up the team of researchers at the Spanish National Research Council, told Reuters that you could call this trend a “homogenization” of today’s popular music. “In particular, we obtained numerical indicators that the diversity of transitions between note combinations — roughly speaking, chords plus melodies — have consistently diminished in the last 50 years.”

To further this sameness, our timbre — the term used to explain the same note sounding different on varying instruments — palette has also shrunk substantially, giving us an even greater reduction in the variety of sounds (and instruments) we hear, according to the evaluation released in the journal Scientific Reports.

By turning up the volume during recording, songs play back louder — even while set to the same volume on your personal device — than those recorded at a softer level in the studio. That marginal increase in volume has been anecdotally shared over the years, but the new findings establish that soft-playing songs now appear out of date, compared to what our ears have grown accustomed to hearing.

But even with the tricks of the trade applied, the continued trend toward a monochromatic-like sound of our pop culture makes listening to today’s tunes quite different from the past, but so similar to everything else in the now. So here’s a hint: if you’re looking to make the trendiest, most in-demand pop song – just crank up the volume and use those pleasant-sounding chords. You’ll have a hit in no time.

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25 comments
ShamsAci
ShamsAci

As per opinions of many people, most pop songs / music spread too much noise pollution around. However, pop music lovers can be requested to listen to their favorite pop songs etc. keeping their appliances’ volume moderately as low as possible so that 7 people out of 10 who are disturbed and distracted by the too high volume may feel some release and comfort.

  - A.R.Shams's Reflection

Shams Aci
Shams Aci

Hearing / listening to too loud voice, e.g. pop music etc. can be damage-some to  mainly hearing organ of the body besides other vital body organs including brain as per latest  research report  observation.

  -  A.R.Shams's Reflection  -  Press amp; Online Publications.

      http://arshamssreflection.blog...

BalanceZero
BalanceZero

You can't 'science' music.

Ask the people jamming to the guy drumming like no tomorrow next to the subway on plastic buckets.

It ain't something you measure,it's something you feel.

IVANIVONOVICH
IVANIVONOVICH

This is why I quit listening to "pop" music years ago.  Too many "covers" of other's past hits done so poorly, yet the "new" version is so popular... absolutely no variation in the tune from the next or the last one played. And you can't even understand the lyrics at times..And they used to complain about "Life is a Rock..." by - Reunion -as being unintelligible. Not to mention all of the music nowadays is written and produced b y the music companies themselves...Little or no originality what so ever...

Ben Neumann
Ben Neumann

"just crank up the volume and use those pleasant-sounding chords. You’ll have a hit in no time." agree with about half the article. new country (pop country) is included in this. there's over 10,000 songwriters in nashville sitting around fumbling with the same 1, 4, 5 chord patterns looking for those golden melodies. over 99% will never get any kind of hit. despite perceptions...it's not just that easy.  i live in nashville and see people trying all the time, by themselves and within the ever populated co-writes. many try to no avail for 5, 10 years...if ever.  heck even the artists can't write half the pop stuff they sing; it's fed from the talented writers who can make the songs.

Adam McGuire
Adam McGuire like.author.displayName 1 Like

Autotune plus I-IV-V-I chord progression plus 3-4 minutes long equals instant hit. Bonus points if song lyrics include "tonight," "sexy," or "party"

IVANIVONOVICH
IVANIVONOVICH

 Canned music, for the musically impaired. What more is there to say ?

Wastelander3
Wastelander3

pop music employs the same technique as tv/radio commercials that blast out the volume level of the current show. Just a cheap trick to get your attention and one up the last one. Listening to the radio is like walking through a carnival where every vendor wants your money from the ring toss. $20 worth of tickets for a beat up stuffed panda not unlike paying the same amount to listen to t-pain wax (auto-tuned) poetic for 45 minutes. For some people that's fun, so whatever. It's boring, it'll change.

Winston Kiva
Winston Kiva

Blame American Idol, which has reduced all aspiring pop stars to the role of supplicating servants bowing and scraping before the Kings and Queens (Paula, et.al).  All pop songs today that are not Ramp;B have that same happy-sappy shuffle, preening on about how bright the day is. As if to say "I'm bankable, and ready to appease my corporate sponsors." Pop music of all ages has had come with a degree of syrup, but pop music today carries not a shred of irony, political humor, or anything approaching an observation darker complaints about a boyfriend who plays too many video games. When that great diabetes-inducing leveler known as American Idol is finally off the air, music will be better. I promise. 

fmondana
fmondana

Listen to "Space Oddity" by Bowie. Then turn anything on by any pop music star today...

IVANIVONOVICH
IVANIVONOVICH

 There is no comparison to an original like Bowie.

John Szieche Davis
John Szieche Davis

I think there is an overall positive correlation between musical creativity (yes, even in pop) and elapsed time - it's just that there's probably been a weak downward trend since... maybe the late '80s/early '90s. Think of what pop music was like in the '50s, though: all 12-bar blues; all similar melodies and rhythms; all pretty much the same instrumentation; mostly similar lyrical themes. Even "Down" by Jay Sean is creative compared to that.

WayCoolJunior
WayCoolJunior

The atmosphere of pop music today puts me in mind of the late '50s and early 60's pop music when rock n' roll and soul were still fringe and the mainstream was very bland...  it's sort of waiting for the next big thing to come and change the direction of it.   

Organic Ant
Organic Ant

Has anyone seen the documentaries RiP! A Remix Manifesto and PressPausePlay? The first is quite controversial. You can watch both for free at http://www.lucidtree.com

KB_Corkless
KB_Corkless

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on the plutonium rock band "Disaster Area", loudest band in the galaxy: "Regular concert goers judge that the best sound balance is usually to be heard from within large concrete bunkers some thirty-seven miles away from the stage, whilst the musicians themselves play their instruments by remote control from within a heavily insulated spaceship which stays in orbit around the planet..."

MerryMarjie
MerryMarjie

I have never been a fan of cacophony and enjoy more melodious tunes than today's music emits, but I would never deny anyone the chance to listen to that which I consider soul-shattering and spirit-crushing. Each of us celebrates entertainment in different forms and in different ways. Someday, perhaps today's generation will catch a strain of Brahms or Bernstein or Copland and will be moved to consider such genius, instead of cogitating on the music and lyrics of trash-talking noisemakers.

IVANIVONOVICH
IVANIVONOVICH

 Or how about Strauss, Beethoven, Grieg, Wagner. Or even Emerson, Lake amp; Palmer, E.L.O. Manases , Pink Floyd ? Anything but "Rap"....Or "Country, or Opera...These last three are like finger nails on a chalk board...

Rachel McKnight
Rachel McKnight

You think people should listen to Wagner and not opera? Opera is the genre that Wagner is most well-known for. Almost everyone will recognize the theme from "Ride of the Valkyries," courtesy of Bugs Bunny.

IVANIVONOVICH
IVANIVONOVICH

 What I don't like about opera is the singing, especially in a different language. Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" does not have words to that portion. And the Loony Tunes, whereby a funny rendition, does not do the music much in the way of favors. Watching Bugs Bunny do the Ride of the Valkyries, is like listening to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture with out the bells and cannon.

Raymondqa
Raymondqa

 Joanne explained I'm shocked that a stay at home mom can get paid $6679 in 1 month on the internet. did you look this(Click on menu Home)

Don_Randall
Don_Randall

There's definitely a loudness conspiracy due to digital technology, but the melodies and chords used today haven't changed much since about 1930, or perhaps even before that. In fact, "loudness" was in vogue for many many years, but nowadays mastering engineers are starting to turn it down and rebuild dynamics into recordings, although you'd never know it listening to YouTube and iTunes productions. Even old recordings are digitally remastered to be loud, so as Frank Zappa said, "Turn it down!!!!!!!"

IVANIVONOVICH
IVANIVONOVICH

 There is one bright side to the "loud" music of today....Invest in hearing aid manufacturing companies... Big money as these persons get older, since they have been damaging their hearing for decades.