Radiohead’s Thom Yorke famously said that “the reason that people pirate, is they want access to good music. And they don’t get it because the radio is so shit.”
Well, the blame may not rest entirely on the radio stations – they may, in reality, truly have no choice in the quality of music they play. That’s because new research has confirmed that as the years have gone by, popular music has gotten worse and worse. Specifically, louder and less original, which is a longer way of saying it sucks.
The research comes from an AI specialist named Joan Serra at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). CSIC is the largest public institution of research in Spain, and the third largest in all of Europe – so let’s throw any arguments about legitimacy out the window.
Serra and the team used “complex algorithms” to process pop music from the last 55 years (1955-2010) – from Elvis to Lady Gaga. To do this, they used the Million Song Dataset, a “freely-available collection of audio features and metadata for a million contemporary popular music tracks,” whose purpose is to aid in research projects just like this one.
“We found evidence of a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse,” Serra told Reuters. “In particular, we obtained numerical indicators that the diversity of transitions between note combinations – roughly speaking chords plus melodies – has consistently diminished in the last 50 years.”
Translation: It’s all the bloody same.
Reuters says that the team also found that the “timbre palette” has gotten worse over the years.
Translation: The actual sounds are all the bloody same.
Not only is modern pop music swimming in a vomitous sea of sameness, but it’s also getting louder.
Now, when you’re having an argument with your 14-year-old cousin about her Bieber fever and his intrinsic talent, or how he’s fulfilling Kurt Cobain’s legacy or some shit, all you have to do is say that science has proven that he sucks.
Now, to be fair, one could make the argument that pop music has all been the same for the last half a century. Maybe the latest generation is worse, but in reality it really is all the same. For your consideration: