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Study Proves Dads Right: Pop Music Louder, Less Organic

Written by Greg Moskovitch on November 27, 2013

Research undertaken by “music intelligence” company The Echo Nest, who source one trillion data points about 35 million songs to some of the world’s biggest digital music services, have uncovered some interesting facts about pop music today, namely that it’s louder and less organic than ever.

The company, who provide data to companies including MTV and Vevo, employed the skills of their in-house “data alchemist,” Glenn McDonald, who performed tests on the “5,000 hottest tracks from 1950 to 2013” to see how different attributes had changed over time, reports The Guardian.

McDonald’s results showed firstly, that pop music had maintained the same level of “happiness.” Measuring pop’s “valence” over time, The Echo Nest’s study found that regardless of decade or prominent styles, we like our pop music to be “on average, right in the middle of happy and sad.”

Pop music’s “acousticness” has declined steadily since the 50s, with synths and drum machines replacing live instrumentation, which comes as a surprise to few. “Popular music started out fairly acoustic in the ’50s. After that, its “acousticness” declined steadily,” explained The Echo Nest.

This of course means that music has become far less “organic” over time, with pop songs today more precise in terms of rhythm and melody, as well as sounding more artificial, a result of modern recording’s reliance on electronic tools like MIDI, ProTools, as well as drum and sampling machines.

Thanks to the likes of Rick Rubin and those of his ilk, music is indeed getting louder. “The loudness of the hotttest 5,000 songs each year increased very slowly from the ’50s through the ’80s, and then more rapidly and steadily, all the way to the present day,” said a blog post by The Echo Nest.

The increase in loudness is matched by an increase in “energy,” with pop’s energy levels plateauing in the 80s, then steadily increasing in the years since. However, The Echo Nest found that despite the changes in the way we like our jams, pop has maintained the same level of “danceability.”

The Echo Nest’s results seem to confirm everything our dads thought was true about today’s pop music — more plastic, less human — while providing patriarchs with the data points necessary to back up their arguments next time they chastise you for your Justin BieberNicki Minaj playlist.

(Via The Guardian)

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