Science: Pop music louder, blander than ever

There's less to salute these days.

There's less to salute these days.

A long vacation can expose you to many things — sun, surf, expensive fuel prices and lots of music on Ye Olde Car Radio.

Maybe I’m getting old, but modern music no longer rocks my world.

Back in the day, I remember waiting outside Adam’s Music City in Valdosta for an album — what my little brother called “giant black CDs” after he found a trove of them in the attic — for a copy of R.E.M.’s “Fables of the Reconstruction.”

Now, there’s very few record stores left, my phonograph has needed a new needle for a decade, and I’m not sure there’s much new music worth waiting in line for.

Science, it seems, agrees with my assessment.

Researchers in Spain broke down the musical and lyrical content of a million songs released between 1955 and 2010 and came to what my ears believe is a non-startling conclusion: recent music is “too loud and all sounds the same.”

Reuters reports “songs have become intrinsically louder and more bland in terms of the chords, melodies and types of sound used.”

Scientists offered some lame advice for bands looking to sound “new and fashionable” — re-record classic songs with louder volumes and simpler chord progressions.

Whatever happened to being original and using dynamics to create rock-n-roll fury?

Computers, that’s what.

Modern musicians overuse what is known as a compressor, which makes soft musical parts louder and louder parts softer. I’ve dabbled a bit in home recording, and it is instructive to look at the volume graph of a modern pop tune (say Green Day) with a classic (like The Beatles).

Strangely, consumers seem to be getting used to mediocrity. Nielsen reports music sales are up 6% this year.

But it’s not just new music people are buying. For the first time, older music now outsells new music.

Seattle Weekly says vintage rock is selling so well because it is cheaper, as little as $5.99 for a CD.

And maybe, just maybe, the old stuff just sounds better?

30 comments Add your comment

Michael D in Morristown, NJ

July 27th, 2012
11:55 am

I totally agree. If I hear or see one more video of ‘Call Me Maybe’ I think I’ll puke. Good point about compression, especially in mp3’s compared to vinyl. I wonder if the increased volume helps the Millenials with their lack of concentration on anything more than 30 seconds haha.

Tea

July 27th, 2012
12:13 pm

dude, sounds like you desperately need to expand your listening radar. There is interesting music out there if you open you ears and expend some effort. Hint: you certainly aren’t going to hear it on commercial radio.

Teresa

July 27th, 2012
12:56 pm

Apples and oranges? What you are calling “pop” we called “rock” and made a sharp distinction with pop. Pop was Neil Diamond, the Captain and Tenille, and Disco (shudder). Rock was played on FM stations with rogue DJs who played anything they wanted to play, including full albums sides of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. These days, the “rock” the kids are listening to isn’t played on the radio, it’s on the Internet. The current form of “pop” is more of a urban dance music in the tradition of Disco, so yes, it’s louder, because it’s dance music.

Child of the 70s

July 27th, 2012
3:47 pm

Atlanta radio is so, so bad and boring. When I hear an Allman Brothers song, which is rare, I nearly wreck my car. I miss Willis the Guard, Yetta Levitt, and Gary McKee, too.

http://www.adixiediary.com

Barbara Raby

July 27th, 2012
4:46 pm

Music and singing is so dull and boring and LOUD ..It’s trash and nothing becomes a classic or deserves the time of day….I listen to the OLD BLUES and TRUE rock and roll radio stations.Country ….REAL country like Texas Swing is the best …like George Strait……I don’t watch the Award Shows any more…..BORING!!!!!!! Like the music!!!!!! Here in Reno,Nv.,they changed our one and only Classical Station to ANOTHER …country station!!!!!!! they got so much flack…they had to change it back!!!!What happened to FEEL GOOD MUSIC that SOARED the SPIRIT? !!!!Where is HAPPY MUSIC that you just had to DANCE?!!!!!! Good LISTENING MUSIC that HUGGED THE BRAIN?!!!!! I ask ……WHERE is it?!!!!!!!!!!

Dirtybirdsin12

July 27th, 2012
8:49 pm

I think the problem is that there is significantly more music out there today than there was in the 60’s and 70’s. You can no longer count on your local DJ to bring you the best music available, especially with the FM stations in Atlanta today. With the watered down industry, of course it seems like music is no longer any good. Today you have to be proactive and intuitive to find music which suits your personal tastes. You can’t just compare Green Day to the Beatles and draw the conclusion that all of today’s artists are not as good as the artists you listened to in the 60’s and 70’s. Nostalgia also plays a large role in the way people perceive music from different eras. Take some time and use the resources available today and you will be sure to find plenty of artists recording excellent music.

Aaron

July 27th, 2012
9:25 pm

You can’t even consider anything that is played now music. Now it’s just hacks who only sound good after having their voiced processed through voice correctors and can’t play an instrument or write their own songs. But hey with stupid people you get stupid music.

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DeDe

July 27th, 2012
10:36 pm

I was just telling my friend that todays music is to boring. And Rap and HipHop remind me of Disco. Only 3 or 4 cords repeating. She said I sounded like our parents did when we were young. Ha, now I have vindication. Just can’t beat the 60’s, 70’s and some of the 80’s music.

Dirtybirdsin12

July 28th, 2012
10:47 am

Music is an art form, not a science. Yes, a lot of today’s music is awful. However, there are plenty of legit artists making excellent sounds. You just have to put more effort into finding what you want to hear than you did in the 60’s and early 70’s before the amount of music being produced watered down the average quality.

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