For many years, pop music sales have been declining. Record companies blame pirate and streaming sites, but I don’t think this is the whole story. I am a college educated musician, trained to listen, evaluate, and analyze any kind of music. I believe that the music industry is promoting homogenization of pop music and reducing the lyrics to the lowest common denominator.
A recent Smithsonian article explains how pop music has gotten worse by homogenizing the musical aspects of music such as:
- Less Timbre
Timber, the sound colors and textures, has less variety than before, which means that it all sounds the same.
- Pitch Content
There are actually fewer notes and chords being used in today’s pop music.
- Dynamic Range
The softness and loudness of the music is less varied. When recording today’s dynamics are compressed so that it is as loud as possible without distortion.
Declining Quality of the Lyrics
Lyrics have also changed over the years and become more narcissistic as in this NY Times article.
- Lyrics More Simple, Less Emotion
Lyrics today use less unique words (less variety of words). They also use a higher percentage of words to music only sections, and use less sentimental words such as “love” as reported in this study.
I think listening to pop music should stir emotions and memories of the past or create new emotional memories when first listened to. My wife and I love to listen to a 1980’s radio station. The other day “More Than a Feeling” by Boston came on and I had a flash back. I remembered my college years when a friend and I were driving home on a break in my 1974 Dodge Gold Duster and listening to the album “Boston” on the 8 track, screaming out the lyrics, and performing air guitar all the way home!
My Comparison to One of Today’s Pop Tunes
I decided to compare “More Than a Feeling” from 1976 to a hit from today. To be objective I chose a song with the same year end sales chart number for 2013. Ciara’s “Body Party” was the same at 83. Here is a sample of each songs lyrics; click for full lyrics. You be the judge:
“More Than a Feeling”
I looked out this morning and the sun was gone
Turned on some music to start my day
Then lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped away
It’s more than a feeling (More than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play (More than a feeling)
And I begin dreaming (More than a feeling)
‘Till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walkin’ away
Yeah, right there
No, right there
I was having fun
I hope you’re having fun too
My body is your party, baby
Nobody’s invited but you baby
I can do it slow now, tell me what you want
Baby put your phone down, you should turn it off
Cause tonight it’s going down, tell your boys it’s going down
We in the zone now, don’t stop
For further reading another article about pop music from this author:
Pop Music Studio and Live Performance Fakes: My Experience