New research has shown that modern pop is, in fact, less varied, louder, and blander than the music of the 50’s and 60’s. According to this study, “Chords used and the changes between chords are simpler, leading to the production of music that is easy on the ear but contains little variety.”
Some seasoned music lovers will certainly smile and nod, knowingly, at the news that confirms their suspicion that popular music nowadays is all the same. But anyone with an open mind and a passion for music will know that this is a gross oversimplification. Researcher Martin Haro furthers this oversimplification by stating that, ‘Nowadays, it is more about relaxing, you don’t want to think about what the music is telling you.” But hasn’t this always been a function of music? The classical pieces of the 1400’s were trying to convey just as much (or just as little) as the latest from Deadmau5. And if one does want to think about what the music is telling them, there are plenty of thought-provoking and politically-charged songs by top artists like Jay-Z and Kanye for them to turn to.
Many factors have contributed to the decline in variety, including technology, the changing role of the musician, and the evolution of the listener. But the main culprit is likely technology. While it allows musicians to experiment with music and sound in ways never thought possible, it’s also used by producers who want to make the music louder. The thinking goes: the louder the music, the more people will hear it.
But, as the Guardian points out, music can only get so loud. Fiona Macrae notes that “Rather than making their music novel by simply making it louder, performers and composers have to find new types of music, and so this is how new musical styles come about.” Good advice indeed, but from Beethoven to the Beatles, and Gershwin to Gaga, the cry across the centuries is, as it has always been, “Crank it up and piss off your parents!”