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Why Is Pop Music So Sh*t These Days?

A Deeper Look into the Steady Decline of Mainstream Pop Music

We've all thought it though, haven't we? Every time you put the radio on, you know exactly what to expect, even if you don't know any of the songs. It's always the same sh*t.

Okay so let’s say it’s 1998, would I be writing this same article about boy bands, Queen and Michael Jackson? It’s a possibility. Except that, dare I say it, the charts in the nineties (East 17 and Robbie Williams included, I guess) actually had at a little bit of depth to them. Even cheesy pop-music was distinct and rich in musical texture and diversity.

So why is it that now we are left with Justin Beiber, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj and all the other tripe that sounds exactly the same as the next guy? Seriously, what’s changed?

The fact is, the music that tends to rise to popularity at the moment, is the sh*t that sounds exactly like everything else that's already popular. We're living in an era of 'tinned music' and everybody's walking around, acting like it's perfectly normal. You may be wondering how this has come to be...

Well…

The human mind is keen on familiarity and repetition, we as human beings are sort of ‘comforted’ by recognising something familiar; something ‘safe’. So with that said, it seems modern day producers have tapped into our human fondness for familiarity, and used it to turn the cogs on the music industry’s biggest mainstream-money-making-machine. Tinned music.

In essence, Pop music has now been stripped down to it’s bare bones. It tends not to stray from a very simple formula these days: A repetitive 4/4 beat, a massively compressed bassline, a combination of synths and a few randomly selected samples here and there. Slap an attractive-ish singer on top (with a not-so-discrete dollop of auto-tune) and some (probably meaningless, nonsense) lyrics and BANG. You’ve got yourself a pop song, like every other current pop-song, that is probably going to sell and is very easy to replicate.

This has come about because of some very clever and rather talented writers and producers like Dr Luke and Max Martin, who, in the last ten years have written and produced for many, many massive names like: Katy Perry, Kesha, Pit Bull, Jessie J, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, One Direction, Miley Cyrus, Azealia Banks, and pretty much every recent pop-star that you can think of. So you'll notice lots of recurring motifs in popular music, from beats to sample sounds, chord progressions to vocal melodies, even lyrical content has become recycled garbage. Ever notice that pan-pipe samples seem to be the new thing ever since Justin Beiber’s “What Do You Mean” came out? Weird trend...

Now, for all you know, I could be totally making all this sh*t up, so here’s a little bit of factual information about it:

In 2012 The Spanish National Research Council ran an experiment to find out whether music was genuinly getting worse. They used a sample of 500,000 recordings from 1955 – 2010 and ran each song through some algorithms to test for ‘Harmonic Complexity’, ‘Loudness’ and ‘Timbre’ (which is essentially the depth and richness of a particular sound). What they found was that music now has much less diversity than it did in the past.

Generally speaking, the reason new pop music all sounds the same these days is because it kind of is

As well as this, there is evidence to suggest that what is known as ‘lyric intelligence’ (which is pretty much what it says on the tin) has dropped by a full grade. Who saw that coming? What with creative strokes of musical genius such as Nicki Minaj’s absolutely awe-inspiring lyrics: “You a stupid hoe, you a, you a stupid hoe”.

Okay, so I’ve said my bit but here’s the thing: Music is music, there are many different types and many different ways to make it. Some people like specific types and not others, and the reason why mainstream music is main stream is because it is popular. So whether you are or aren’t the type to stick on Capital and sing along to the sound of Katy Perry’s pseudo-teenage wailing, then hats off to you, I suppose.

Actually no, f*ck that, f*ck Katy Perry and especially f*ck formulated modern pan-pipe pop bullsh*t.

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Why Is Pop Music So Sh*t These Days?
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