- Researchers say modern music has lost the ‘feelgood factor’
- Claim the only artist to have carried on the tradition of ‘pure pop’ is Lady Gaga
PUBLISHED:10:58 EST, 27 September 2012| UPDATED:11:00 EST, 27 September 2012
If you think pop music ain’t what it used to be, you may well be right.
Research shows that today’s songs are slower and sadder than those of the past.
And if this dreariness wasn’t depressing enough, they also last longer.
The researchers, who analysed more than 1,000 hits from 1965 to 2009, blame the loss of the feel-good factor on modern acts wanting to be seen as serious and complex – and on listeners who like to think they are more sophisticated.
Researchers say that modern pop music is sadder than slower than when the Beatles and Abba ruled the charts – but they admit Lady Gaga is the excetion.
As a result, unambiguously uplifting songs like the Beatles’ Help! or She Loves You are few and far between.
The researchers, from Canadian and German universities, analysed tempo and key of many of the biggest hits of the last 60 years.
In general, a fast tempo and major key makes for a happy song, while a slow beat and minor key denotes misery.
The analysis found the proportion of songs recorded in the minor key to have doubled, allowing sadder tones to predominate.
Modern pop songs also tend to be slower, with just 100 beats per minute, compared with the 116 of the 1960s, and the average duration of a recording has increased from just under three minutes to almost four minutes.
The study, from the University of Toronto and Free University of Berlin, also found mismatch of a minor key with a fast beat to have become more common.
This, said the researchers could be an attempt to appeal to an audience that thinks it is more sophisticated than those of the past.
They said that this change in tastes has left up-beat hits of the past such as Abba’s Waterloo sounding ‘naïve and slightly juvenile to contemporary ears’.
Swedish supergroup Abba were also named as one of the great purveyors of the best pop.
And modern, up-beat tunes recorded in the major key, such as Aqua’s Barbie Girl are often dismissed as being gimmicks.
However, there is at least one best-selling singer who has managed to buck the trend, by recording fast-paced songs in a major key or mode to critical and popular acclaim.
Writing in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, the researchers said: ‘Lady Gaga has somehow managed to transcend this association.
‘Her fast-tempo, major mode recordings such as Born This Way and Edge of Glory sound fresh while recalling or quoting popular music from an earlier time.’
The findings chime with research released earlier this year which concluded that today’s pop music is louder and blander than the hits of the 1950s and 1960s.
The computer analysis of almost half a million pop, rock and hip hop songs from 1955 to 2010, revealed today’s tracks to be louder, which researchers said is because sound engineers and producers are cranking up the volume at the recording stage.
The researchers singled out Lady Gaga as one of the few modern artists who can match classic pop.
As a result, if two tracks are turned up to the same volume level on a CD player home, the more recent will sound louder.
Apparently this is not due to better recording equipment, but is an attempt to make music that catches attention and is suitable for playing in noisy venues.
The Spanish study also found evidence that the chords used and the changes between them are simpler, leading to the production of music that is easy on the ear but contains little variety.
Researcher Martin Haro, of Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra University, said: ‘I think this is related to the role of music.
‘In the 1950s and 60s, music was more artistic and for getting messages across.
‘Now it’s about dancing and relaxing … with groups not so interested in experimenting.’
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