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Today's pop music really does all sound the same — and science can prove it

Illustration for article titled Todays pop music really does all sound the same — and science can prove it

Music snobs, take heed. Detailed analysis of songs produced between 1955 and 2010 confirms what you've always known in your heart to be true: modern pop music really has gotten louder, and it all sounds exactly the same. All aboard the train to smug-town!


Your vindication comes in the form of a peer-reviewed study, published in the latest issue of Scientific Reports, that finds pop songs have become "intrinsically louder" and have come to rely more on more on the same chords, melodies, and sound palettes.

"We found evidence of a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse," said artificial intelligence expert and musicologist Joan Serrà, who led the study, in an interview with 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."


So there you have it. Pop music really does all sound the same — except now you've got the cold, hard data to back it up. As the researchers point out in their study:

Some of the conclusions reported here have historically remained as conjectures, based on restricted resources, or rather framed under subjective, qualitative, and non-systematic premises. With the present work, we gain empirical evidence through a formal, quantitative, and systematic analysis of a large-scale music collection.

To be fair, Serrà and his colleagues discovered these patterns in contemporary Western popular music; the researchers were relying on samples collected from the Million Song Dataset, which, while certainly impressive, is a bit limited in global/cultural scope; but at least the researchers recognize this:

We encourage the development of further historical databases to be able to quantify the major transitions in the history of music, and to start looking at more subtle evolving characteristics of particular genres or artists, without forgetting the whole wealth of cultures and music styles present in the world.


The researchers' findings are published in the latest issue of Scientific Reports (no subscription required).

Top image via Shutterstock

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If anyone finds anything that sounds remotely like this, I'd call you a damn liar! A goddamn liar!