Science Proves Your Grandma Right About Pop Music

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Science Proves Your Grandma Right About Pop Music

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Modern pop is too loud and it all sounds the same.

Examining a set of pop music from 1955 (that's 5 years before the Beatles were formed in Liverpool, for context) until 2010, a group of researchers in Spain fed the songs into a sophisticated computer algorithm and concluded that musically, tunes have grown increasingly bland over the years.

"We found evidence of a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse," team lead and artificial intelligence specialist Joan Serra 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."

Not only have the chords and melodies grown simpler and less unique, but Serra's team discovered that there are fewer timbres in play these days, too. The timbre of a given pitch is, to put it simply, how it sounds - you can play the same Middle C on a piano, saxophone, theremin or sitar and it will sound differently on all of them; that is the note's timbre. According to Serra, the timbre palette is poorer now than it has ever been, meaning that there simply aren't as many different sounds in pop music as there used to be.

Your grumpy neighbor yelling at the kids to turn down their loud devil music might have a point, too. Serra's team found that the intrinsic loudness of songs - that is, how loud or soft a song sounds when the speakers are set to the same output - has increased over the years. According to Serra, this is the first concrete proof of the so-called "loudness war" in which record labels keep escalating the volume at which they set their music.

So yes, modern pop music is too loud, and it does all sound the same. Now get off my lawn.

Source: NBC

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tmande2nd:
Next on "News everyone already knows": Bears shit in woods!

Indeed. The Loudness War is nothing new or surprising. It's been going on for a while now and somehow I doubt that this is the 'first real concrete proof' of it. Doesn't seem like a hard thing to prove.

The whole spiel about the timbre pallete is something else though but honestly no less surprising. Most modern pop music seems to focus on vocals with laughably simple music behind it. Just listen to Adele's Someone Like You. It's just the same goddamn piano tune over and over again. It's like that all the time. Or even worse; electronic backing tracks. They're often even more simplistic.

I can't remember the last time I heard good sax in pop music...

I'm really glad that now there's actually scientific proof to support my arguments.

Take that, you boombox-blasting hooligans!!

Thank you thank you thank you Science! Of course the pop-loving sheep of the world are never going to understand this as it takes a modicum of free-thought to understand it.

Well this isn't surprising in the least. Interesting read though

There seems to be an unspoken rule that new bands need two guitars, a bass, and drums, with one of the guitars on vocals. It's kind of annoying really. Although thinking of it, my personal favorite bands (Harvey Danger, They Might Be Giants, Queen, Locust Street Taxi) all seem to break this mold. I don't think anyone can listen to Wine, Women, and Song or Birdhouse In Your Sould and say either one sounds like most modern popular music.

P.S. Thanks

What did you say? I can't hear, you're gonna have to speak louder.

Yay! My old-man-like hatred of modern music now has science to back it up. I love science.

Ahh, that feeling when scientific studies tell us exactly what we want to hear. All skepticism goes out the window.

and my favorite analogy stands up for pop music...

Bubble gum music. It all tastes the same and it tastes stale after a few minutes.

Too bad the only thing from pop music that has really lasted the test of time is the Beatles.

I no longer go to bars that under 30's frequent-- the music is simply too loud to enjoy a conversation with friends.

What? Nobody said it yet? Oh, come on!
Ok, I'll do it then...

Listening to Pop... For SCIENCE!

There!

tmande2nd:
Next on "News everyone already knows": Bears shit in woods!

I think this sums it up nicely.

I've been saying pop music is generic loud and becoming increasingly homogenized for years, and now science agrees with me. Thank you science, just thank you.

Cowabungaa:

tmande2nd:
Next on "News everyone already knows": Bears shit in woods!

Indeed. The Loudness War is nothing new or surprising. It's been going on for a while now and somehow I doubt that this is the 'first real concrete proof' of it. Doesn't seem like a hard thing to prove.

The whole spiel about the timbre pallete is something else though but honestly no less surprising. Most modern pop music seems to focus on vocals with laughably simple music behind it. Just listen to Adele's Someone Like You. It's just the same goddamn piano tune over and over again. It's like that all the time. Or even worse; electronic backing tracks. They're often even more simplistic.

The problem is when it comes to using completely digital backing tracks. I'm not talking about Synths, Trent Reznor, Gary Newman and The Chemical Brothers have proved that Synths used properly can produce works of genius. Im talking about Pro tools BEING the music. Everything is nearly Midi, even 90% of vocals are put through the ringer these days.

In-Organic music production results in fewer natural overtones. In musical theory a vibrating string or blowing trumpet has a massive amount of natural harmonics and dynamics. Computers cannot match this.

Modern compression techniques bleach even more of the dynamics and sound out of the music. By the end of it all you have is bombastic sonic mud. Not even good songwriters can past this total homogenization. Throw in the lack of composition variation and its surprising we don't have the exact same song being made over and over and over and over and over and over..

Also its just shit. There is that.

This being said it really doesn't matter how loud music is or how similar/different it is to other music. What is more important is that it sounds /good/ or conveys the ideas/emotions the artist is trying to convey.

Aha!
Thank you Science. I swear, nowadays you can barely find any voice that has a unique quality to it in mainstream music. And that's not only in pop. That fucking boring, angsty Oasis vocal sound has infested so many bands, it just hurts to live.
And now that there probably won't be another The Wall tour ever, all is truly lost.

And not mentioned:

"...and it all sucks."

Scrumpmonkey:

The problem is when it comes to using completely digital backing tracks. I'm not talking about Synths, Trent Reznor, Gary Newman and The Chemical Brothers have proved that Synths used properly can produce works of genius. Im talking about Pro tools BEING the music. Everything is nearly Midi, even 90% of vocals are put through the ringer these days.

Oh believe me, one look at my Spotify playlists and you'd know I realized that. But those examples aren't exactly mainstream pop music. Nor are they really backing tracks. I was thinking more like Katy Perry-style electronic backing tracks.

Also its just shit. There is that.

At least it's easily ignored. Gods I love Spotify.

I wonder if this study was done with just European music. They really don't give enough details in even the NBC article.

Mortis Nuncius:
I can't remember the last time I heard good sax in pop music...

Clarence Clemons on Lady Gaga's 'Edge of Glory', just last year.

Round and a round the obvious bush,
The scientist chased the weasel,
The scientist asked "what's relevant now?"
"POP" goes the weasel!

Glad I avoid it like the plague

Cowabungaa:

tmande2nd:
Next on "News everyone already knows": Bears shit in woods!

Indeed. The Loudness War is nothing new or surprising. It's been going on for a while now and somehow I doubt that this is the 'first real concrete proof' of it. Doesn't seem like a hard thing to prove.

The whole spiel about the timbre pallete is something else though but honestly no less surprising. Most modern pop music seems to focus on vocals with laughably simple music behind it. Just listen to Adele's Someone Like You. It's just the same goddamn piano tune over and over again. It's like that all the time. Or even worse; electronic backing tracks. They're often even more simplistic.

I was just going to talk about that but you beat me too it. I just find it shameful because almost ALL producers do this know by default and it makes a lot of music sound shitty.

OT: Gramma isn't right any means, they think it all sounds the same because they have no interest in the music. The Loudness war didn't really start until the late 90s/early 2000s.

Triforceformer:
Ahh, that feeling when scientific studies tell us exactly what we want to hear. All skepticism goes out the window.

If I might ask, what is there to be skeptical about exactly?

Thanks I've just been saying this for 9 of my 21 years on this earth. Still interesting to have proof to back up my views.

This video succinctly explains what the Loudness War is, for those who don't know, or just want a good example of its effects.

After Metallica's last album being nearly all flat-line full volume, it's nice to go back to their Black Album, which had some of the best production of any metal album ever made.

If you want to at least partially fight back against the Loudness War, I recommend getting a music player that supports Replay Gain tags, and tag all of your music for Album Gain. I recommend Foobar2000. That way when you switch from a quiet album (like a recording of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony) to a loud album (like any rock album made in the past 5 years) you don't blow your speakers and your eardrums.

Now watch as every single wannabe hipster starts saying all music is generic when the study was done on pop music.

Hey. It's called "Pop" for a reason, rite?

Also, DUN GIVE da ol'grumpy people more ammunition!!

D:

YESSSSSSSS!

Now I finally have a scientific justification for hating that stuff!

Mortis Nuncius:
I can't remember the last time I heard good sax in pop music...

I don't think I really want to hear *any* kind of sax in my music. Gross!

Anywho, yeah. The results are pretty obvious to anyone who's listened to music in the last 20 years or so. Still, nice to have some hard data to back it up.

Shit, there goes my argument...

Yeah. Since the 50s, all songs require the same three chords. This is how mash ups work.

Science proved it!

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